Friday, June 10, 2016

UnReal 2x01 Roundtable: "Who Run the Show? Girls!" [Contributors: Maddie, Jen, Meredith, Lizzie, Jen W., Chelsea]

The summer’s most addictive series returns and is packing even more of a punch than ever before. Welcome to our UnReal roundtables! After each episode, Maddie, Jen K. Mer, Jen. W, Lizzie, and Chelsea will share their thoughts on all the drama, OMG moments, and glorious sass this season. The season two premiere was a doozy in all the best ways. Without further adieu, let’s discuss everything that went down in “War.”

Rachel and Quinn teaming up was delightful. How did you like their new dynamic?

Maddie: My heart was filled with so much joy upon seeing these two back on my television screen. When working together, Quinn and Rachel are an unstoppable force of nature and I am enraptured every second of each scene they share. There still is a power struggle, which will be interesting to explore over the course of the season. But I also feel like Quinn sees Rachel as more of an equal. She respects Rachel a great deal, and that is why Quinn has given her the role of showrunner. She believes in Rachel, but will also hold her to a high standard and demand results. This is UnReal so I know their partnership won’t last very long, but right now they are the epitome of #LadiesSupportingLadies and I am loving every second of it.

Jen K.: I have mixed feelings. Rachel and Quinn are at their best when they are on the same team and supporting one another. However, Quinn pulled some pretty shady stuff with Rachel last year, and it’s sort of being glossed over. I agreed with a lot of what Jay said to Rachel: everything between Quinn and Rachel is okay because Rachel NEEDS it to be okay and that’s... concerning. It’s almost as if Rachel has committed herself to being the new Quinn, whether she wants to be that or not, simply because she tried to walk away last year and it didn’t work out. So, Rachel’s thinking is if she isn’t happy doing this, then she won’t be happy. Ever. I don’t think that equates to a totally healthy friendship with Quinn as a result, but ultimately these two women know and understand each other better than anyone.

Mer: I like it, obviously, because watching these women rely on and support each other, and act playful and fun, is entertaining and fantastic. But I also worry about the hold Quinn seems to have over Rachel, and the lengths Rachel is willing to go to try to emulate Quinn. I do think they care about each other, but I also think that it would take less than two seconds for either woman to totally throw the other over to benefit themselves. In the end — is Quinn supporting Rachel? Or the show? And is Rachel really growing and getting better — or just turning into an even more over-the-top Quinn?

Jen W.: Their dynamic is so great and peculiar to me. I have no doubt that these two women care for one another, but they certainly go about it in the oddest of ways from time to time (read: often). Neither one of them is sentimental enough to not take the other one down and that is absolutely necessary.

Lizzie: I love it and I’m afraid because there’s no way it’s going to last. There’s no drama if these two are buddy-buddy all season. So, I guess at some point we’re going to kiss goodbye to all the #LadiesSupportingLadies that Maddie talked about and we’re going to go cutthroat. Though I don’t think Quinn means to push Rachel down. I think Quinn likes Rachel and genuinely believes in her; it’s just that Quinn is looking out for number one, and Rachel has to do the same.

Chelsea: They’re soulmates. Disastrous, toxic soulmates. I love it because even though their relationship is toxic, they’re still healthier than anything they’re creating on that show. There is still going to be so much distrust with them because it’s the nature of their business and I feel like they’re going to play that up a lot more this season.

Rachel in power is simultaneously amazing and kind of scary. Can we talk about the scene of her guiding Madison through the interview with Chantal?

: This scene, y’all. I can’t even. Rachel’s internal conflict has been shoved in a box and pushed in the corner. This scene was a masterclass in acting, and I am once again in awe of Shiri Appleby. In one layer of the scene, there is Rachel, with the focus and intensity of a locked missile ready to destroy. It was powerful and it was bold. Moreover, there is the additional layer of Madison getting her first taste of this world — both the exhilaration and the darkness. Furthermore, the reactions of those in the control room were perfect foils to that of the audience. There was pride, fascination, horror, and pain. At this moment we got to see Rachel as a showrunner, and that she takes no prisoners. I feel like this scene set the course for the season. This show is upping their game and we are in for one crazy ride this season and there will always be ways for this show to shock us as an audience.

Jen K.: There really aren’t words for that scene. It was the epitome of fascinating and disturbing all at once. It really encapsulates the draw of reality television. Reality television is like a car crash. You want to look away, but you find yourself being pulled in — fascinated by what’s going on. The need to know is very powerful. I think Rachel understands the psychology of reality television extremely well and it makes her a master manipulator. Madison’s reaction at the end really shocked me. She made herself sick, but then said it was awesome. There’s a power that comes from creating reality and it’s one both Rachel and Quinn are addicted to. It’s almost like watching Baby Rachel being born in Madison, which is very disturbing as well. I think the scene proves there are no limits to what Rachel will do this season, so we’re in for a very interesting ride.

Mer: I sent Jen W. a message that said “this show is so amazing and gross” during that scene. It truly was the epitome of what this show is. That scene was enthralling. I could not look away... and yet I wanted to, because it was horrifying at the same time. The one area that Rachel, in my opinion, excels over Quinn always is in manipulation. Rachel is a master manipulator. She reads people in a split second and then has the power to make or break them. And in this scene she did it to both Madison and Chantal.

Jen W.: Mer’s reaction was precisely what I thought as I watched. Can I just say, I hope to watch Madison become a mini Rachel. Yes. I want it. Rachel is going to be the source of her own destruction in the end. The woman’s a ticking time bomb, but a wonderful one to watch!

Lizzie: Rachel is just as scary as Quinn — even more so, in a way, because we know Rachel realizes that what she’s doing is wrong. Quinn, I’m still not sure feels one iota of remorse. But Rachel does and she still goes through with it, which is refreshing especially considering TV tends to portray women like these delicate flowers who can’t and/or won’t do whatever it takes. Rachel and Quinn will do whatever it takes. And that’s exciting.

Chelsea: Is it weird that I felt proud watching Rachel mentor Madison and get the two of them on the path to being the next Quinn/Rachel? It was thrilling and terrifying to see the two of them work together to get that interview and scare the life out of the rest of the crew.

While the differences in Rachel are more apparent, there are some subtle changes to Quinn. Is Quinn as unflappable as she appears on the surface? Also, since when did she become the voice of reason?

Maddie: Quinn was made to be the one in charge, and she knows it. It's one of the things that I love about this character. There was a lightness to her in the beginning of the episode because the rightful King sat on her throne. (I'm pretty sure the show gave her that last name so we can make those sort of puns.) This allowed her the perspective to be Rachel’s voice of reason. She doesn't feel the burden to prove herself like Rachel does. However, Chet did get to her a little. She needed to be in control of everything more for her own peace of mind than in a lack of belief in Rachel's abilities.

Jen K.: I didn’t see her as unflappable, but rather a better delegator. She let Rachel take the wheel, so to speak. ... Until Chet declared war. Then Quinn immediately jumped back in. I think when Quinn feels threatened, she needs to be in control. So, the very fact that she took over for Rachel shows that Chet got to her. I also think Rachel is so fully committed to making a good show, Quinn doesn’t need to push her as much this year. So it feels like Quinn is being more measured as a result.

Mer: Quinn is not unflappable at all. But I do think that being a bit separate from the day-to-day running of the show allows her to tone down her Quinn-ness a bit in order to be that voice of reason. But Chet ruffled her feathers, and I think that will continue to happen. She knows how to regroup quickly, get her bearings, and turn a situation around. But she’s not totally made of steel.

Jen W.: For me, Quinn’s greatest strength is that her vulnerability lies right beneath the surface of her HBIC status. I said it before, but it holds true. She’s not completely cold, she’s not infallible, she’s not totally heartless. She’s on a mission to get stuff done. Period.

Lizzie: I think Quinn is happier, more content, and more secure, and that’s where the difference comes from. Before, whether she wanted to admit it or not, the dynamics with Chet were bringing her down. She was putting too much on him — she was making him responsible for her happiness. Now Quinn is the only person who’s responsible for her own happiness, and that feels good.

Chelsea: I agree with Lizzie. Quinn is so much more secure in who she is as a person and having her out of a romantic relationship with Chet only made her stronger. She doesn’t have to serve him and manipulate their relationship for the show anymore. She can have her happiness and the show in a healthier way this season. Rachel has a while to go before she gets to that level but I believe she can get there. 

What are your first impressions of Darius and Romeo? How do you think Darius is going to fare in this craziness?

Maddie: I genuinely like Darius. We only got to see a little of him, but I highly enjoyed the few scenes we got. How he’ll do in this world? I don’t have the slightest clue. I feel like I need to see more of him to determine whether he is willing to play the game and how good he is at it. Last season, we started knowing that Adam was a jerk and so we weren’t rooting for him to make it through the season unscathed. Darius, on the other hand, seems like he is actually a decent person, and thus I want him not to lose his soul in the process.

I was initially intrigued by Romeo’s dynamic with Rachel, but now that he is working with Chet I am very much wary of him as a character. He could cause some real trouble. It's a new dynamic to have someone from outside of the show have their voice in the ear of the suitor. This makes things much less predictable.

Jen K.: I’m a little on the fence about the Darius/Romeo pairing. I liked them both, but I’m not particularly emotionally invested yet in either. Darius seems like a good guy, but I wasn’t overly impressed how easily Chet swayed Darius/Romeo to his side. Chet is just so completely ridiculous to me that anyone who throws in with him is just as ridiculous. I think Romeo brings an X factor to the whole dynamic. He obviously holds a lot of sway with Darius, so it’ll be interesting to see who Darius listens to.

Mer: I’m not sure. I need more from them. I think Darius is smart, and so is Romeo. They aren’t going to be as easily manipulated as Adam was. And I think when they pick up even further on the power struggle between Chet and Quinn/Rachel, they may end up using it to their advantage. That said, I like them so far, mostly. I really like the show addressing the race issue head on, and not at all shying away from it.

Jen W.: BJ Britt is dreamy. Am I supposed to contribute more than that at the moment? I enjoyed the fact that the writers went there with the reality of difference between black/white behavior. I can’t wait to see how that plays out this season.

Lizzie: For now, it seems like Darius won’t play the game as much as Adam, but they all start out that way. I think he’ll do it because he knows he has to if he wants to rehabilitate his image. Just being on the show won’t be enough; he needs the fairy-tale ending for it to work out. Romeo, on the other hand? I’m wary of him. He seems willing to do whatever it takes, and teaming up with Chet — ugh, that’s the lowest of the low in my book.

Chelsea: I’m excited to see what Darius does this season and the dynamic he’s bringing to the show. Darius is a good guy and he’s about to go down a dark path with Rachel and Quinn trying to manipulate him. He’s not an outright jerk compared to Adam. I’m curious to see how Romeo/Chet works out.

Rachel’s conversation with Ruby was really interesting. Do you think reality TV can truly bring about social change?

Maddie: Without a doubt, reality television does have a cultural impact. Of course Rachel heavily hyperbolized, but even in our lowbrow television there is influence. Before I had left my small town in middle-of-nowhere Texas, my main exposure to gay people was through contestants on Survivor and Project Runway. The message of The Bachelor franchise is a perfect fantasy of what love looks like, and the message works. We all make sarcastic commentary about it, but visit any college campus and you will know that there is a vast multitude of people who buy into what they are selling. Currently, their message dictates that it can not be attained by people of color. They can try and some may even get close, but they aren’t desirable enough to get the guy and not likeable enough to garner enough audience sympathy to then become the Bachelorette. Would it solve our nuanced, complex, and painful history of race relations in this country? Not in the slightest. However, UnReal is not inaccurate in the fact that there would be a sizeable cultural impact is such a show did have a suitor/bachelor that was a man of color as well as the women of color on the show receiving more screentime and positive representation.

Jen K.: Sure. I think it can shine a light on issues and circumstances people otherwise wouldn’t come into contact with or experience for themselves. Stories — be it books, TV or movies — can be a wonderful vehicle for social change. Do I think reality television changes the world to the level Rachel needs to believe it does? No. At the end of the day, she’s making a soapy television show and it is what it is.

Mer: It can, and I think Rachel believes (and really, really wants to believe) that it can. She likes to tell herself she has an endgame that is more than just producing trashy TV. Casting Darius feels, to Rachel, like a pivotal moment not only for her career, but for the “history of television.” So that speech to Ruby was as much about Rachel convincing herself as much as it was about convincing the other woman. But yes. We all know TV can bring about social change — in more ways than one!

Jen W.: Television doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s an important and relevant media and directly affects how we see the world around us. It matters. Does reality TV? For Rachel, because she has a goal. But I think it’s more entertaining than enlightening.

Lizzie: Yes, I think it can. It probably won’t change the world, but that’s fine... it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is make us think, present us with situations and/or people we’ve never seen before. It has to make us connect with them. And, just by doing that, it opens up pereceptions. That’s not a small thing.

Chelsea: Of course I think TV can bring about social change. There’s no way people can deny that. Do I think it can bring out social change on a Bachelor-style show? Hard to say, since it’s never been done. Other reality TV has progressed change in the world, from The Real World to American Idol. Is Rachel completely manipulating and playing up what she can and will actually do on the show? Yes. Of course she is; it’s her job. 

What are your thoughts on the “new” Chet and Jeremy?

Maddie: I think it's really interesting how the new versions of Chet and Jeremy bring about a discussion of toxic masculinity. Especially considering the similar rhetoric that they used to refer to their behavior last year. I still loathe both of their characters, though. Chet clearly has bought into the idea that he can blame his problems, which were brought on by his incompetence and general awfulness, on women. Likewise, Jeremy confirmed my theory that he is a Nice Guy™ only when women cater to his needs. Otherwise, his attitude and behavior is as unattractive and gross as his new beard. As a woman online, I see Jeremys in comment threads on a daily basis.

Jen K.: Chet continues to be the absolute worst. Every time he comes on screen, I just groan. The things Rachel and Quinn do can be extremely unlikable, but then there’s Chet. He’s always unlikeable to me, so I suppose Rachel and Quinn benefit from my extreme dislike of him. Jeremy just bugs me now. I can’t really remember why I ever liked him and Rachel together. I don’t understand why Jeremy feels he has the right to destroy Rachel’s life. Nobody forced him to cheat on his fiancee. Those were all your choices, bro. Own them. I find his righteous indignation so beyond hypocritical. And his entire “Rachel will commit suicide” speech was super dark and scary. There’s a level of hate here with Jeremy that goes beyond normal ex-boyfriend stuff. He feels unhinged to me and therefore extremely dangerous to Rachel. Mostly I just want him to pack up and go away.

Mer: Jeremy needs to become a little more layered to be worthwhile this season. Last season, I saw more to him. So far in episode one, his sole purpose is to bother Rachel. I’d like to see more there from him. Chet is the worst. And will likely continue to be the worst. And I wonder if at any point he’ll remember that this (Quinn) was a person he was supposed to love. But the end result of Chet and Jeremy sucking so much is that one of the major themes this season seems to be sexism in the media industry — which then translates into women in positions of power and how they handle it. And for that, I am very excited.

Jen W.: Jeremy now annoys me. He went from mildly interesting and somewhat worthy of pity to being a total creep. And thin, misogynist Chet is still the woooooooooooorst.

Lizzie: I suspected it for a while, but now it’ll turn out that Adam really WAS the best of the guys last season. Ugh. Chet is human garbage, and the fact that he can’t take any of the blame upon himself but has to turn it all toward Quinn is infuriating, if not surprising. Jeremy, however, is almost worse. We always knew Chet was a jerk, but Jeremy tricked us for a while. And now he wants to be a man baby and cry about how much Rachel hurt him, all while trying to sabotage her? Give me a break. You’re the lowest of the lows, Jeremy.

Chelsea: Like I said in the season one roundtable, Chet is the actual worst but at least he brings viable drama to the show. I can’t wait to see him and Quinn fight this season and I want her to destroy him. Jeremy is just a little douche-canoe and needs to let go of the man-pain. HE LITERALLY CHEATED, TOO. LET IT GO, BRO!

What moment made you laugh the most? I seriously want to make a T-shirt with some of these lines.

Maddie: Most of these I can’t say on this site. Mainly, everything that Quinn said this episode was pure gold. Constance Zimmer was on fire, and it was a joy to watch. One of my particular favorites was the sheer deadpan response to Chet’s idiocy in: “Not even one part of that was accurate.”

Jen K.: If Quinn was talking, I was laughing. Everything she said was spot-on GOLD.

Mer: “He totally tans his balls.” I was on the floor.

Jen W.: “Wifeys, bitches, and sluts, oh my!” I live for Quinn’s one-liners.

Lizzie: Quinn has some awesome lines these episode, from “He’s not black, he’s only football black” to “And I’m the Queen of the Fairies...” She was, without a doubt, the one that had me laughing all episode.

Chelsea: The tattoos. Hands down, my favorite moment that killed me. Love it.

Which of the contestants are you most intrigued by/pulling for?

Maddie: I am seriously pulling for Ruby, and am compelled to see what compromise she is okay with to get far in the competition. I think Chantal is the wild card here. Honestly, I'm just waiting for someone to slap Beth Anne... hard. What I am really looking to see is if we get a contestant that is a precious cinnamon roll. Having Faith last season was a good balance to all the cynicism and darkness.

Jen K.: The white supremacist and African American debutante should make for some seriously interesting TV. I’m cringing thinking of it already. Hot Rachel concerns me. I think she might take the nickname too literally. We could have a “Single White Female” situation here. All and all everybody feels like a trainwreck waiting to happen — just how I like my UnReal. Bring it!

Mer: Ruby! Chantal, too. And Yael. She seems like there’s more to her than just being “Hot Rachel.”

Jen W.: The girls. Can’t wait to see how they interact. And I’m really hoping they go full throttle with the chick in the Dixie flag bikini.

Lizzie: No attachments yet, since I don’t know enough. I like Ruby, but I also don’t want her around this toxic mess too long. So far, I’m still waiting to be convinced.

Chelsea: Not sure yet. I will need more time with them to see how their dynamics flesh out. 

Is Rachel really ready to run this show on her own?

Maddie: Initially, it totally seems like she is. Is she a little overzealous right now? Maybe. On the other hand, Rachel is just as much a force of nature as Quinn. However, and this is one the things I love about Shiri’s performance, the tempest of her own personal demons is swirling beneath the surface. I am in love with Showrunner Rachel, but I am also bracing myself for the winds to change and the storm to blow on through.

Jen K.: When she fired Jeremy’s focus guy, that was the moment I knew she was ready. She knew she couldn’t fire Jeremy, but she still found a way to get the upper hand and lay the proverbial smackdown on their misogynistic, sexist crap. It was such a Quinn move, and it really felt like Rachel had moved up to the big leagues. That’s why it was so disappointing to have Quinn snatch control back, because I think Rachel is ready. How far Rachel is willing to go however is always a big unknown. Rachel has a conscience, no matter how much she tries not to, and it impacts her on a deeper level than it does Quinn. That’s always the question — how far will Rachel go and can she live with the consequences?

Mer: She’s ready. But what will she have to compromise in order to do it in a way that gets her show made? What I mean is — the network wants ratings. And deep down, Rachel wants to make a difference. I believe she can do both those things, absolutely. But can she do both those things at the same time? That’s what it is. And, moreover, she needs the buy-in of her staff, and as we saw in the premiere. Right now, that’s her biggest problem. Forget Chet, Jeremy, and all the rest of it. Rachel needs to remember where she came from, and who she needs in order to make this show a success (in both the ways she wants to).

Jen W.: Rachel’s ready, but she’s going to have to remember what they all did to get there. Is that going to weigh on her mental state of well-being? Absolutely. And I’m excited to see where that journey takes us.

Lizzie: Yes and no, in that she is more than capable, but the problem is that she still has a heart, and apparently that doesn’t go well with the running of her show. But a functioning Rachel would be kind of boring, wouldn’t it? We’ll take this version. 

Chelsea: If Chet and Jeremy weren’t around, then yes, she could run the show. She’s fierce and smart, but when other people are manipulating around her and it’s not just her and Quinn working together to make it great, then no. She gets caught up in the male drama and it drags her down. I love her when she’s in Showrunner Rachel mode though. Like, that’s what I want to do for a living with my Bachelorette-watching crew. We’d be so good at that.
What did you think of the season premiere of UnReal? Sound off in the comments below!


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