Monday, August 3, 2015

REVIEW: 'UnREAL' - Rachel and Quinn Put Together the Best 'Everlasting' Finale in the Show's History in 'Future'

Lifetime's UnREAL - Episode 1.10 "Future"

An unwanted guest returns to the set. Rachel is betrayed and Adam makes a decision that will change his life forever.

Rachel and Quinn have done so many dark and manipulative things over the course of UnREAL's first season. This show was unafraid to truly push the envelope and tell stories that were unapologetically twisted and messed up. That's the appeal of the show. It was horrifying to realize that things could only get much darker for all of the characters. But that's what made it such an enthralling experience to watch week-after-week. It was a season filled with tragedy and shocking surprises. That certainly meant this finale could feel the pressure to top everything that had come before. "Future" does do that to an extent. This final episode for the year is filled with so much plot. And yet, it never felt like the show feeling the need to cram as much story into the finale as possible because it only had a 10 episode season. The chaotic nature of the finale feels completely in tone with the show. Rachel promised Quinn early that she would deliver an unforgettable finale. And the show delivered it.

It was so heartbreaking watching Adam break Rachel's heart into a million little pieces early in the hour. They had just made those extravagant plans to leave the show behind and continue to live in their little love bubble in some wonderful foreign city. The finale opens with a wonderful musical montage that basically shows the two of them packing up their things and leaving their respective romantic interests for each other. The connection between Adam and Rachel was much more genuine than anything he had on the actual show - including Grace and Anna, who legitimately thought they had an opportunity for a real marriage. It was certainly much stronger than Rachel's bland romance with Jeremy. But being better than all those other connections didn't make it any more real.

The purpose of Everlasting is selling true love to an audience composed of millions of viewers. No tragedy can stop the wheels of the show from turning. In fact, the producers love turning those horrifying moments into guilty pleasure reality TV. That's what makes their jobs and a season so successful. It's horrible that Rachel gets Anna to recommit to the show after her dad dies. It's even worse that Mary actually commits suicide because of the actions Quinn, Rachel and Adam took. This isn't a machine that churns out "happily ever afters." This show isn't glamorous. They are selling something that is intended to be pure and simple. True love is something everyone wants to aspire to have. But that didn't make any of Adam's potential suitors a true match for him. It didn't even make him falling in love with Rachel or Quinn falling under Chet's spell feel like anything real either. It's certainly the closest anyone ever got to what the concept of love truly is. But they were still toxic relationships that were always destined to end horribly because the people involved got too caught up in the fantasy the show was selling.

It's magical to watch Rachel approach this finale with more passion and "crazy eyes" than she has any other episode of the show. Her heartbreak created a bomb that was capable of going off at any moment. That's what makes the finale so exciting despite the frequency with which plot beats were happening. Rachel makes a promise to Quinn. They bask in their shared disappointments in reality. And then, they create a stunning finale that leaves them well-situated to absolutely rule the show moving forward. So much ugliness is happening in their personal lives. Not only is Rachel dumped by Adam, Jeremy then embarrasses her with a huge public admission of just how horrible and manipulative she is as a person. For someone who was always positioned as the safe, good ole boy, that was an incredibly hurtful thing to do. Meanwhile, Quinn's scheme to use Madison to sue Chet backfired on her. She was the only person screwed over in that deal and then the network head refused to ever see her again for future pitches. This is all very devastating stuff. And yet, Quinn and Rachel are able to use that anger and frustration to motivate them to create one truly great episode while also hurting Chet and Adam as much as they can in the process.

This show has always been a fantastic showcase for both Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer. But they took things to a whole new level with this episode. Rachel and Quinn are both heartbroken. But the relationship between the two is the strongest bond on the show. It's just as twisted and messed up as everything else. But there's also a sense of genuine love. They do care for each other. They have weird and twisted ways of showing it sometimes. But they do want the best for the other. Because they are able to work as a team, they create a finale that won't be forgotten about any time soon. They produced moments that weren't gimmicky - like Chet's failed attempt to bring back Brittany as a dark horse in the race for Adam's heart. They got Adam to choose Anna as his bride by using his cheeky grandmother to their advantage. Rachel then had a brilliant moment where she exposed Adam for who he truly was for Anna. And then, Quinn was able to get a runaway bride talking to the camera about what when wrong with this seemingly happy romance on live TV. It was electrifying to watch as the two of them took ahold of the situation. They came out on top and it was very impressive to see.

But the success Quinn and Rachel had was only possible because Quinn meddled in Adam and Rachel's big plans at the beginning of the episode. Adam only backed out of the trip because Quinn told him about Rachel's issues with mental illness and hospitalizations. Rachel was able to use that anger and frustration to the show's benefit. But it was still a massive betrayal to her. Quinn is a much better mother figure to Rachel than her actual one is. Rachel's real mom just wants to medicate her. That's no way to live. Quinn has always been very protective of her. She has just gone about in a way that is blunt and could be perceived as manipulative. These two have such a tumultuous relationship. And yet, the love is still present. That last scene between the two of them perfectly sums up what their whole dynamic is about. They love each other while also hating what they do both for the show and to each other. That's what made the show so rewarding to watch this season. The connection between Quinn and Rachel will also be the thing to watch for in Season 2.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Future" was written by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro & Jordan Hawley and directed by Peter O'Fallon.
  • The finale really should have ended on that magnificent Quinn-Rachel scene. The camera pulls back to see the scope of production shutting down for the last episode of the season as they truly grapple with everything that they did. But instead it ends on Jeremy visiting Rachel's mom to plot ways to get back at her for all that she has done. That just wasn't a strong way to go out because I don't care about either of those characters.
  • Brittany wasn't memorable enough to completely justify a return appearance here. And yet, she had a handful of great moments - like her big return to the set, her reaction to Jeremy's public ridicule of Rachel and her telling Anna off once Adam made his decision.
  • It always seemed pretty clear that Anna was going to be the one Adam chose because she was the one who actually had a developed backstory. Grace always said that she was more than a beautiful face but the show never really went much deeper than that. But the big surprise was the reveal that Adam would end the show more desperate and alone than he started.
  • There was some weird shots of London throughout the episode though. It was pretty clear that the show was doing their best to transform their regular Canadian sets into the big city. It never really worked but it wasn't distracting either. Though it was weird that the show wanted to suggest that a daytime wedding in London could be broadcast live in primetime stateside.
  • Chet will obviously still be an important part of Everlasting moving forward. But now, the network head knows that Quinn is the person who gets things done while Chet has absolutely no clue what he's doing.
  • That's it until next year. UnREAL has been so much fun to watch on a weekly basis. It was a truly magnificent step in the right direction for Lifetime. It was something original and different. That was much appreciated. I can't wait to watch more.