In season 1 UnREAL was a refreshing and incredibly smart look at reality TV. The show wasn’t perfect but it had so much potential that it rightfully earned all the praise it received from critics and fans. Very quickly into season 2, however, the show went off the rails and it couldn’t ever really recover. Instead of one big event being the crux of the entire season (as it was in season 1), season 2 piled on plot twist after plot twist, resulting in a muddled mess of an episodic arc. UnREAL became every bit as trashy and wild as the shows it was parodying and mocking in season 1.
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UnREAL is in the exact opposite position they were at the end of season 1. When season 1 finished, there was all this hope about how season 2 would deal with the fallout and create something new. Now after season 2, UnREAL desperately needs to get back on track and change things up. Here are four ways that UnREAL can fix itself for season 3.
Make the Suitors Great Again
Darius wasn’t really a problem as character in UnREAL season 2. In fact, you could probably argue quite successfully that the bones of Darius’ character and B.J. Britt’s performance created something greater than the suitor of season 1, Adam. There was a really interesting guy to be explored in Darius as the first black suitor. Darius could have been so interesting as this good guy trying to provide for his family with his football career and navigating being the world of being an African-American celebrity under a lot of scrutiny. The problem is that UnREAL had no real interest in treating Darius as an individual character.
There were moments when Darius got the spotlight but they were few and far between. In season 1, Adam was one of the central characters. He was probably, in terms of importance, right below Rachel and Quinn. Darius was never awarded that same stake and importance in the narrative. Yael, one of Darius’ many romantic interests on Everlasting, ended up being a more important character than Darius. UnREAL clearly had all these ideas and potential stories there for Darius and didn’t manage to adequately tell a single one.
In season 3, UnREAL needs to get back to basics. The show is at its best when it is dealing with the small conflict between the producers of Everlasting and the contestants. We need to see more of the suitor unwilling to jump through hoops and Rachel forcing them to do it.
Don’t Give Us a Villain
Another major issue of UnREAL season 2 is that the show felt the need to create an over-the-top villain with Coleman. There were antagonists in UnREAL season 1 but the conflict was much more human. In season 1, the conflict often occurred from a difference of opinion and personality. In season 2, Coleman was essentially a poorly-written supervillain. Everything with Coleman’s character was leading up to the big moment at the end of season 2 where he reveals himself to a be monster. It made the conflict between Rachel and him uninteresting and very manufactured.
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Rachel and Quinn are interesting and dynamic enough characters that they don’t need to have external antagonists. Their struggles should be mental and internal. UnREAL doesn’t need characters like Coleman threatening to tear down Rachel and Quinn’s lives. Rachel and Quinn should exist in their little messed up world and that should be the show.
Bring it Back to Rachel and Quinn
This is the other essential problem for UnREAL and why season 2 failed. The show needs to primarily focus on Rachel and Quinn’s relationship. This doesn’t mean that they can’t fight or be at odds but the focus needs to be on them, the main characters. In season 2, Quinn and Rachel were separated from one another and the show suffered. Rachel and Quinn were having their own storylines and there was very little to connect them. UnREAL is at its best when it is focusing on the twisted platonic love story between Rachel and Quinn.
It’s very worrying that UnREAL season 2 ends in a mirror scene of the season 1 final shot. Season 1 ends with Rachel and Quinn looking up at the sky while on the Everlasting set. In season 2, Rachel and Quinn are still looking up at the sky but they are now joined by Jeremy and Chet. This implies that Jeremy and/or Chet are just important to the show as the two female leads and that’s simply not true.
While UnREAL made strides into making Chet more fully-rounded, Jeremy remained just as much a non-entity in season 2 as he was in season 1. This is despite the big action Jeremy takes in the season 2 finale. Speaking of which…
Dial Back on the Twists
UnREAL season 2 was drowning in plot twists. Every episode there seemed to be another twist intended to completely flip the show and it became repetitive and trashy. In season 1, there were plenty of surprising moments but only one huge twist, Mary’s death. In season 2, nearly every episode had an event on the level with Mary’s death. As a result none of the moments were properly explored.
Romeo being shot, because of Rachel’s actions, in “Ambush” should have been the defining event of the season. It brought together Darius being the first black suitor, Coleman searching for a story and Rachel’s desperation to make a difference. It was the perfect flashpoint for the season. In the end, however, Romeo getting shot meant nothing for the season. There was only one real side effect, Rachel putting herself in a mental hospital — a development that didn’t even last more than half an episode.
The Romeo shooting is the worst example of UnREAL’s season 2 love affair with plot twists and cliffhangers but it is just one example. A season could have easily been built on Rachel’s unraveling sanity and the revelation of her childhood rape. There could have been a multi-seasonal arc about Quinn meeting her new love interest John and deciding she wanted a family only to realize it wasn’t biologically possible. There could have been even more time spent on Yael and Coleman’s affair, though I’m not sure I would actually have wanted to watch more of that storyline.
UnREAL couldn’t restrain itself for season 2 and stuffed multiple seasons’ worth of stories into just 10 episodes. In season 3, UnREAL needs to take its foot off the gas pedal and really plot the story out. The show needs to go back to basics in every way and figure out that the brand of the show is not shocking twists. It’s about exploring the people who produce and fake those big twists for a silly reality TV show.
But what do you think? Was there a problem with UnREAL season 2? Did you enjoy the season? How do you think it compares to season 1? Do you think season 3 needs to change things?
(Images courtesy of Lifetime)