UnReal season 2 may be disappointing, but nothing sent shivers down my spine quite like hearing, “Three hour Bachelorette finale.”
I have not held back my negative feelings for UnReal‘s second season in the past few weeks, but as I set out to review “Espionage,” I was hopeful that my mood would change and the penultimate episode would give me something to grab onto and unpack. Once again, the singular moment that could have meant something was tainted by a season of disorganized and sloppy storytelling. And so, to see how bad it truly could be, I took a walk on the ratings side and watched the finale of The Bachelorette.
Having never seen a reality dating program, I figured I had enough of the basics to figure out what was about to happen. UnReal critic Chris Harrison would lead a discussion about the episode, something that Graham would kill to do on the series’ counterpart. Then I’d get to know a bunch of people I would forget about in a matter of minutes and watch a lot of forced crying.
I was not that far off in my outline, but I seriously underestimated just how painful the experience would be. Luckily, watching this as a rerun, I only had about 80 minutes of confessions, tears, and extravagant Thailand resort shots to watch. If there was a drinking game with the rules that every time you heard “trust issues” you took a shot, then no one would have survived to see who JoJo picked at the end of the finale. I understand why wine and this show go hand-in-hand.
What UnReal accomplished in season 1 was a balance between the drama unfolding for the 16 million viewers at home and the manipulation and sacrifice in the control room. The Bachelorette is all fluff, regardless of how many times Harrison describes the finale as “dramatic” and “emotional.” However, I get the appeal of the series to a mass audience. The stakes are not high, it allows people to sit in their living rooms and judge people based on the careful crafting of a few bright producers, and it keeps some entertainment writers in business (even ESPN reaped some clicks this year thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ brother).
UnReal‘s penultimate episode forced Chet and Tiffany together, forced Quinn to push Madison and Jay ahead of Rachel only to have them flounder while trying to use their newfound superior attitudes, and tried to make us care about Darius again. Quinn’s story arc this season, you know the one where she finally sees that she can have a life beyond Everlasting, was buried time and time again until she finally had an outlet. But that outlet was given through, you guessed it, her infatuation with a man.
Envying the freedom and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of the men in the business, Quinn decides to take a stroll wearing the pants of the industry, only to find that she is resigned to rocking the tight black dresses that continue to live in the bunker of the producing room. When everything comes crumbling down, she finds herself more alone than ever, choosing this moment to push Rachel out of the nest rather than drawing her closer into what she sees as a blackhole of a career. Depressing, right?
It was a brilliant scene and works well in the fan fiction alternate universe edit of this season I have worked up in my head. And now, finally, we have Rachel and Quinn back on the same side, working together against the man. With one episode left, I cannot wait to sit back and watch whatever the show decides to feed us and then look ahead to season 3. Maybe The Bachelorette audience is on to something with the wine. I’ll be sure to have some on hand for responsible viewing of the finale.
In the end, Quinn and Rachel want to run Coleman and his agenda into to the ground, Rachel loses trust in yet another person in her life, Yael turns out to be awful, and Darius is under the guidance of Jay, who may or may not burn the set down by season’s end. Oh, and JoJo chose Jordan Rodgers, but apparently America wanted this guy named Luke to win. Well, America, I share in your disappointment when shows don’t go the way you want them to.
UnReal‘s season 2 finale, “Friendly Fire,” airs Monday, August 8 at 10:00 p.m. ET on Lifetime.