I like this show.
That may seem like a thoughtless, uncritical statement, but I mean it in the way Gus and Mickey say it to each other at the end of episode five. I like this show. I don’t love it, and there’s a good chance I never actually will, but I enjoy spending time with it. There are moments where I find myself disliking certain characters (Gus in particular) more than I dislike, say, Tony Soprano, who is an actual murderer, but I keep coming back to them. There are so many riveting series that I adore, and yet when many of them release a season in bulk, I don’t breeze through them as quickly as I breeze through a season of Love. (I’ve watched the first six episodes of Season Two.)
I’m not building up to some brilliant insight as the reason I feel this way, either. Love is a strange, awkward show that often places its characters in uncomfortable or outright humiliating situations. And I don’t know why, but somehow it’s still a lot of fun to watch.
Except Randy. Anything with Randy pretty much sucks. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of moments where I find Gus annoying, and Mickey is certainly more obviously troubled. But these characters are flawed by design, and when the show is at its best, the two of them improve each other. Randy the unemployed barbarian, however, isn’t improved by Bertie, his scenes aren’t funny, his existence as a character feels unrealistic, and yet the show devotes an absurd amount of screen time to him. Maybe later in the season the reasons will for this will become apparent, but as things stand, when Randy comes on, my attention starts to wander. I get that he’s supposed to be sort of a mirror of Mickey, but for whatever reason, something just isn’t clicking there.
That being said, this season is a large improvement over the previous one. Many Netflix or other streaming service original series tend to consist of episodes that are meant to be watched in a clump. This causes most of the episodes to exist to serve the larger narrative rather than form individual memorable installments. In other words, to draw on The Sopranos yet again, we’ll never get a “Pine Barrens” type of episode from many of these series, in which the content is self-contained and more in service of the theme than the overarching story. While more serialized storytelling is currently the norm, there’s a good reason “Pine Barrens” is my favorite episode of The Sopranos. Shows like Jessica Jones or The Man in the High Castle tend to miss opportunities for this type of storytelling.
This season, Love is an exception to that. In almost all of the six episodes I’ve seen, there is a mini-story that furthers the plot. Episode one is all about escaping the apartment complex while it’s on lockdown, and episode four is about the experience the characters have on shrooms. Aside from the magic episode in the first season, I don’t recall the show ever having done this before. As a result, the storytelling feels less like a mess of information being dropped on the audience, and more like a series of coherent chapters in an evolving story. It’s also a lot more fun this way.
The biggest reason I started watching Love is Gillian Jacobs, because Community is one of my all-time favorite shows. But even as a fan of her earlier work, I’ve been consistently impressed with her versatility and vulnerability in this role. Paul Rust is pretty great, but I get the sense he’s more or less playing himself, as one of the creators of the show. Jacobs, on the other hand, takes a difficult, troubled character, and plays her so earnestly that even when Mickey is at her worst, she’s relatable. Instead of hating the character for her flaws, I find myself rooting for her to overcome them. This is quite an accomplishment, because for most audiences, frustrating characters can ruin a show. In this case, Mickey improves it.
Also, I would like to state for the record that I think a series about Calista Flockhart as a park ranger detective sounds hilarious and amazing.
I’ll probably check in with this one again when I’ve finished the season, but what did everyone else think of Love? Does anyone actually like Randy? Am I totally off-base about Mickey and she’s actually the worst?