Sunday, August 21, 2016

UnReal Roundtable: Unpacking the Highs (and Lows) of Season Two [Contributors: Jen and Chelsea]

Shiri Appleby Constance Zimmer UnREAL

UnReal has been an intense and crazy ride from start to finish this season. And since the second season recently ended, Chelsea and Jen decided to recap the highs and lows of the back half of the season, as well as what they're looking forward to in season three.

What did you think of Adam’s return and Rachel shutting him out? Are you hoping to see him again in season three? 

Jen: I thought it was fair. Rachel let herself be vulnerable with Adam once, and he broke her heart, so it made sense to me that she shut him out. What’s frustrating about Rachel is that she believes that a man is the answer to all her problems. I think she loved Adam, but he was never going to solve everything going inside Rachel’s mind. I do think Adam showed some character growth and was serious about being with her, but I think it’s one of those circumstances where they need to get their stuff together separately before they can be together.

Chelsea: I think I would have liked for the show to have him back just a little longer to explore their dynamic, but I do think Rachel was okay in how she ended things. She was not in the right space to deal with Adam on top of everything else, and I’m glad he respected her wishes. I would like to see him come back down the line after they both work on themselves some more. I was glad to see his face though.

Coleman showed his true colors in the last few episodes. What did you think of him recording a drugged Rachel’s confession? Do you think he was completely in the wrong trying to expose the show with Yael? 

Jen: Ugh. Coleman. I think he’s the worst because he pretends to be noble and have some altruistic devotion to “the truth,” but he’s just as conniving, scheming, and self-centered as the rest of them. I don’t think he was wrong for wanting to expose what happened on Everlasting, but he was absolutely wrong in the way he went about it. Using a drugged Rachel to coerce a confession just made my skin crawl.

Chelsea: I had a feeling Coleman was going to be exposed. He completely violated Rachel by manipulating her into filming a confession when she was not in a proper state of mind. I get wanting to expose Everlasting, because they are terrible people, but don’t pretend you’re any better.

Quinn experienced her own momentary romance with a good guy. How do you feel about how she ended things with John Booth over her infertility?

Jen: It felt very Quinn — very true to her character. Quinn is a woman who very much needs to feel in control. When you are experiencing fertility issues, you are not in control of a lot of things, but at the top of the list is your own body. It’s an incredibly difficult and humbling experience. That’s why Quinn screaming, “I wanted a choice!” was such a powerful moment. It’s wasn’t about wanting kids. It was about having the choice. When that option is taking away, you can feel very helpless. Not only are you mourning the loss of any potential children, but you are also mourning your free will in a sense.

Quinn doesn’t handle feeling helpless well. Breaking up with John Booth was something Quinn could control. It was a choice she could make. John opened up this painful door for Quinn and it wasn’t a door she even fully realized was there. She didn’t want to be reminded of it in any way. She just wanted to shut it as quickly as possible. So, she had to shut the door on John.

I think she blamed him in part for exposing her to this loss and this pain, but Quinn didn’t want to feel like a disappointment or a failure. Booth made it clear that he wanted biological children and what’s really sad is that Quinn wasn’t sure if she would be enough for him. That’s really when the rubber meets the road in a relationship. If you aren’t sure you, and only you, are enough for your partner, that’s really the beginning of the end. This opened Quinn up to some really painful questions and she just didn’t want to go down that road any further than she already had. I appreciate that UnReal took a realistic look at infertility. John Booth was supremely confident that money could solve any problem, but that’s not how infertility works. Money can’t solve anything. You cannot make things happen just by sheer force of will. Sometimes, you have to accept what is. It’s why it’s so painful. And UnReal did a fantastic job examining all of that through Quinn.

Chelsea: Agreed. I enjoyed their short-lived relationship and liked seeing Quinn with somebody that respected her and saw her as an equal. She really was in her own Everlasting fantasy and it was only a matter of time before it all came crumbling down. Quinn is such a control freak and her not having the choice to not have children was such a powerful moment. Unlike the whole Black Widow infertility in the Age of Ultron film, Quinn isn’t mad at herself for being less of a person because she cannot have kids. It’s because she was never given the choice to have them or not. When she met John and started thinking of a life with him, maybe she could see herself wanting them in the future. She wanted that option to have that picturesque life. Now that she can’t give him what she wants, she’s going to pull a Quinn and shut him out. She’s nobody’s disappointment.


Quinn also had so many hilarious moments and lines. What was the funniest Quinn line this season?

Jen: There are too many to pick just one. I can’t do it.

Chelsea: Her hysterical laughing at Yael’s crapping her pants gave me life. Literally everything out of her mouth is gold. I’m still crying over “I am the queen of freaking fairies and I need you to get the hell out of my fairy fort.”

Whose arc did you enjoy most? Whose arc did you not enjoy? And who needed more of a story?

Jen: I enjoyed Quinn’s arc the most. I didn’t love Rachel’s arc this year. It felt repetitive. I think they needed to focus more on Jeremy’s character, given that he played such a huge role in the finale.

Chelsea: Quinn will forever be my favorite character to watch. She is such a complex character and I think she needed to be more involved in Rachel’s story. Hers was still interesting to watch but also felt lacking. I think more focus could have been on Darius. He felt like wallpaper by the end of the show and I wanted more for him. Coleman’s arc was just a mess. Aside from him trying to romance and manipulate Rachel, did he even try to run the show?

The show introduced several social issues to varying success this year. How do you think the show handled issues like race, rape, and violence against women? What were the missteps?

Jen: I think Rachel keeping silent about Jeremy hitting her and her rape is a very common response. So many times these attacks go unreported, but the reasons why are seldom explored in TV shows. Protecting the show is a disgusting reason to not report Jeremy, but I fear it represents the Hollywood reality more often than not.

Revealing Rachel’s rape was like finding a missing puzzle piece. Rachel finally speaking about her rape and confronting her mother were powerful moments, but I wish she opened up to someone other than Coleman. I truly didn’t buy that their relationship had progressed enough that Rachel would open up about something she’d kept silent about for years. And that was before Coleman revealed his true colors. My concern with his reaction is that it reinforces a woman’s fear about speaking out. Rachel’s mother made her feel shameful and told her that nobody would ever love her if they knew. Coleman reinforced all that garbage, so he became the embodiment of Rachel’s worst fear. I do not think UnReal did a good enough job with the scene with Quinn to counteract that. So, I thought that was a misstep.

As for the racial issues, I think UnReal being uncertain if they even had the right to tell this story felt accurate. However, in the end a lot of the racial issues were dropped which was frustrating. UnReal should have focused on ONE of these issues (rape, race, violence against women) to give it the time it deserves. It was like they were throwing social justice issues at the wall and seeing what sticks. It created a hodgepodge season.

Chelsea: They really could have explored these issues more. They tossed in police brutality and literally nothing came from it. I don’t think UnReal should have introduced it if they weren’t going to commit to telling a thoughtful story about it. I do think them shouting all season about having their first black suitor and being very self-congratulatory is very indicative of the industry when they attempt to have diversity but don’t fully explore that character or make them complex. I don’t think this is the show that should be telling this story.

As for the rape and violence against women, I do agree with Jen that it is a very common response amongst women, since there is so much victim blaming, shaming, and ultimately nothing is done when women do report attacks. That revelation that Rachel is a victim of sexual abuse does fit for her character and explains more of her problems with her mother, but I don’t like how she trusted Coleman with this information or how more people found out about her history, like Jeremy. That one detail makes him forgive everything and see the error of his ways? It just felt icky to me.

Are there any of the new characters you want to see return in season three?

Jen: The answer is always more Freddie Stroma. I like Adam. I can’t help it. I’m not holding my breath though given his new show on ABC, but a girl can dream.

I think not seeing Coleman or Yael’s body is a little concerning. My red alert is blinking. I am mentally preparing for a “Surprise! We’re not dead!” moment in season three. Yes, I’ve watched way too much TV.

Chelsea: I feel like we could get more Adam, depending on how that ABC show goes. I’m hoping for a Bachelorette situation for Everlasting next season. I think they need to regroup with the characters they have now. I like Chantal and would love to see her be the bachelorette next season. Tiffany is another person that has potential to come back next year.

Quinn and Rachel went through a lot of ups and downs this season. Were you happy to see them end the season working together? How long do you think it will last?

Jen: I think the show is always weaker when they send Quinn and Rachel off in different directions, which was the majority of what this season was. Their relationship certainly has its codependent, dark and twisty elements but somehow, in the end, they seem stronger together than apart. I think Quinn is the only person who accepts Rachel for who she is and doesn’t try to changer her. As much as Rachel wants to be independent, she needs Quinn’s support. But they are stuck in the mud together, so to speak. I like it better when they are working together, but I highly doubt it’ll last long.

Chelsea: Agreed. I think they’re still going to have problems and struggle with power, but ultimately, this show is about them and their relationship. It’s dark and messy, but they are better together and the show is better when they are together. They’re soulmates.

Do you think the finale went too far? It looks like the writers hit the reset button. What are you looking forward to in season three?

Jen: I didn’t particularly enjoy the finale ending. I felt UnReal set up a lot, but then failed to follow through with it. It felt like a “Get out of jail free” card — bringing Jeremy back in the final moments and moving him to a point where he would now kill for Rachel didn’t feel earned. Nor was Jeremy finding out about Rachel’s rape enough to earn it.

Chelsea: It felt like they jumped into the stereotypical “Lifetime movie” territory that they’ve been trying to steer clear of since their debut. Jeremy falling back into their good graces did not feel earned, and I think they could’ve had a better exit for Yael and Coleman. I’m hoping that reset button is hit and that the show tries to scale back on the drama and focus more on the characters. I will say that Chet is a character that got much better this season, even though he’s still such a pig. At least he was enjoyable to watch and brought something to the show. But more Rachel and Quinn scheming together in season three please.

What did you all think of this season of UnReal? Sound off in the comments below!


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