UnREAL: “Friendly Fire” Season 2 Finale Review

Photo Credit: http://i2.wp.com/popseries.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/maxresdefault.jpg?fit=620%2C413

An uneven finale caps off the bumpy road that has been UnREAL season 2.

One of the most remarkable things about UnREAL is its ability to show that true love will always prevail, even in a ridiculous fantasy setting. Season 1 ended on a supremely high note with Rachel and Quinn admitting their love for each other. Sure, it wasn’t the white-wedding-dress-and-sparkly-diamond-ring sort of love that the two of them are used to producing, but it was authentic and it felt extremely satisfactory after a season of both manufactured melodrama, and behind-the-scenes turmoil.

Season 2 has had more than its fair share of traumatic moments, but the happy ending doesn’t come for the people you’d expect. One of the show’s major issues, as of late, has been its unwillingness to give any real consequences to Rachel or Quinn’s actions. At the end of “Friendly Fire,” it’s safe to say that they’re still riding on some sort of unstoppable wave of destruction. Sure, there are moments when each of them has been taken down a peg, but they’ve been able to dust themselves off with no problem and go right back to wreaking absolute havoc.

Before we delve further into that, however, let’s talk about the highlight of the finale, which was Darius choosing Ruby and the two of them leaving Everlasting behind. It’s a winning moment for multiple characters. Darius gets a chance to finally take the reigns on his public fate. Ruby is redeemed after being humiliated on national television. And then there’s Jay, who struggled the whole season to give Darius a story worth telling while still meeting Quinn’s insane demands. He finally produced something he could be proud of. For a show that stood on some seriously shaky ground when tackling race relations this season, UnREAL wins major points for giving Jay, Ruby, and Darius this happily ever after.

Even Quinn and Rachel are somewhat elevated by this narrative, with Rachel finally pulling off the “revolutionary” show she always wanted to make, especially after being blatantly called out by Darius and Romeo—oh yeah, he’s back, and somehow he can walk around totally fine despite having been shot—for how horrible she’s been. Quinn, whose plans for an epically awful finale go awry once Jay and Rachel’s plan goes into effect, is simply put into a state of shock that something other than her ideas seemed to work. Truthfully, after her failed relationship attempts with both Chet and Booth, she seems surprised that true love still exists. Constance Zimmer is once again spectacular in this sequence, saying so much with Quinn’s bewildered face in the control room.

Unfortunately, all of this good doesn’t even take up half of the episode. There’s still the threat of Coleman and Yael, which is where things really go south. The reveal that Coleman has always been a lying dirtbag—it turns out he faked the sex slave documentary that got him the Everlasting job—is disappointing. I really liked the idea of a noble, true filmmaker being dragged down by the intensity of Everlasting and succumbing to the pressure and promise of career advancement. It was a way to further illustrate how toxic an environment this is. Now, he just seems like another cartoonish villain on a season that already has way too many of them.

Then there’s the return of Jeremy, who goes from being Rachel’s abuser to Rachel’s savior over the course of one day back on set. Apparently hearing about Rachel’s childhood rape was enough to make him do a complete 180 and not only apologize to Rachel, but go as far as to cut the breaks on Coleman and Yael’s car when they tried to escape to go to the press.

There’s a lot to unpack in that plot thread alone, and it all makes my stomach churn. Are we just supposed to forgive and forget that Jeremy beat Rachel now that he’s on their side? Is Jeremy murdering Yael and Coleman somehow justifiable because this time the “right” people are getting hurt? “No,” would be the logical answer to both of these questions, but I’m not sure that’s the conclusion the show wants us to draw. The final shot once again sees Rachel and Quinn sitting contemplatively on the same lounge chairs they found themselves in at the end of season 1, but this time they’re joined by Chet and Jeremy in some sort of twisted foursome of lies and deception. I don’t like it at all. I’m just barely coming around to this new, reformed Chet, who’s still gross, but at least he isn’t a caveman. Now I have to start liking Jeremy too? I’m sorry, but f*ck that. The fact that either of them were even around when season 2 premiered was already too much.

 

Then there’s Miss Goldberg herself. The final scene made me think a lot about season 1, and all of the good things Rachel did despite working on a show where “sluts get cut.” She helped Faith come out, she gave Anna the triumphant ending she deserved, and she tried as hard as she could to stop Mary from jumping off the roof. All of that, even the good she did for Darius and Ruby, felt worlds away while she was lounging next to Jeremy and looking blankly up at the stars. I guess the only question I have left is, where can things even go from here? Or, better yet, how much worse can things get? I’m not sure if I want to stick around to find out. Finale Grade: C+ / Season 2 Grade: B-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Thank you for sticking with me through this season of UnREAL! This story was disjointed, to say the least, but I have to give it points for never being boring. I think this season’s biggest issue has been the fact that the narrative was broken out into a few smaller arcs instead of one season-long one. Remember the whole power struggle between Quinn, Chet, and Rachel? The network executive who seemed to be the one pulling all the strings? Adam returning to profess his love for Rachel and then just walking away? What ever happened with any of that? The season seemed to have a lot of competing ideas, and not one of them was ably to take precedent over the others.
  • There’s also the poor handling of Romeo’s shooting, but I won’t go into that any more because I’ve already written about it several times. I will say, however, that despite the fact that UnREAL tackled a topic that it was clearly unfit to tackle, I have to commend it for trying when most other shows won’t even go near the subject.
  • One thing that remained consistent throughout the entire season were the absolutely knockout performances from Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer. Both ladies rose above and beyond the material they were given and made every scene they were in feel compelling. As I just said, UnREAL had its problems this season, but being uninteresting was not one of them.
  • In all seriousness, if this show is to have a successful third season, the only avenue I see for it is to tell the story with a female suitor. UnREAL‘s commentary on gender politics in the entertainment industry has always been its strongest suit, and I would love to see what they do when a bunch of men are the ones being pitted against each other.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *