The second season of UnREAL was just as deliciously dark and entertaining as the first, although it may be true that this season might have bitten off way more than it could possibly chew. To be honest, the criticisms that the second season suffered in the press were every complaint that I had about the show in its first season. And this year undoubtedly doubled down on the out of control pacing issues over a flat ten episode run. Still, the fact that it did so while never allowing itself to become the least bit dull is something to give it credit for.
The nasty and biting satire of a drama that took us behind the scenes of a Bachelor-type reality show, while essentially being every bit a soap opera in and of itself, did more or less the same thing this season, but without the novelty of revealing the secrets of how reality shows are produced, the soap antics seemed to take center stage completely this time around. Early on in the season, our antiheroines Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) decide to break new ground by having a black “suitor” for the first time in Everlasting’s history, and since the real life Bachelor franchise has never once put forth a suitor of color (male or female) this did seem like somewhat daring ground, since creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro couldn’t pull from her own experience on these shows to bring up the kinds of racially tinged stories an event like this might produce behind the scenes. But Shapiro and the writers tried anyway, diving headfirst into issues of race and dating and image, without necessarily hitting on any specific insights along the way. It also treads into what may be far too serious real life waters for this show, as it tackles a police confrontation that turns violent with suitor Darius and his manager Romeo, only for that event to be used primarily as a driving force for our white female lead (and oddly, to have no lasting impact in terms of character development on Darius or Romeo), which inadvertently feeds the age old problems of black stories being used only to service white characters.
It also didn’t help that this year’s suitor, football player Darius Beck (B.J. Britt), comes across as more of a non-entity than last season’s Adam (Freddie Stroma) did, which makes investment in his choice a little harder to come by. The real meat of the season comes from behind the scenes with Rachel and Quinn of course, but the story veers in way too many directions at once. My complaints with the pacing of last year’s plots is increased tenfold this season, as Rachel and Quinn go from friends to enemies to allies to friends and back again within the first half of the season alone! The same kind of whiplash happens for key supporting characters like Chet (still a delightfully douchey Craig Bierko) and Jeremy (Josh Kelly), who do battle with each other, Rachel, Quinn and the network at various points, and with such dramatically rushed plot crammed into too few episodes, it feels like personalities and motivations do 360 degree turns at rapid velocities, which is more of a problem than the rushed plot itself. As long as you can keep yourself invested in the characters, plot overload can be tolerated well enough, but the show nearly goes off the rails in this area early on.
Eventually though, the show settles into the story of Rachel’s romantic relationship and alliance with new show runner Coleman Wasserman (Michael Rady), who does turn out to be the season’s real antagonist, as there can be no such thing as a truly decent person behind the scenes of Everlasting. When the show lets itself breathe it remains as entertaining and wickedly fun as ever, helped along hugely from pitch perfect performances by Appleby, Zimmer, Bierko and most of the new batch of contestants, especially black lives matter activist Ruby, sensitively played by Denee Benton. There’s no line that the producers of Everlasting won’t cross, and the barbs aimed at beefcake on-camera host Graham (Brennan Elliot) and launched by Zimmer towards everyone at every turn keeps each episode a rollicking, funny and occasionally off the rails soap that never fails to feel original, fresh and entertaining, despite its failings. I can forgive stuffing your face with dessert when the major complaint afterward is feeling way too full, but not necessarily sick. I’d advise slowing down the plot and sticking with maybe two or three directions next season, instead of six or seven (especially when we’re only dealing with ten episodes total), but then again, I can’t deny that some of the plot twists and revelations were indeed fun to keep up with in a way. My hat’s off to the writers of the show for pushing the limit and reaching for the stars here, even if it didn’t always work. I’m still as pumped as ever for next season, to see what more the evil little Everlasting family can get away with.