Saturday, February 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Love' - Mickey and Gus Want to Understand What Love Actually Means in 'It Begins'

Netflix's Love - Episode 1.01 "It Begins"

While recovering from nasty breakups with their exes, Mickey makes a scene at a church and Gus stumbles into a confusing sexual encounter.

Gillian Jacobs' Mickey and Paul Rust's Gus are both on a quest for love in Netflix's newest series, Love. Love is a complicated subject. Both Mickey and Gus feel like they have an understanding of what love really is. And yet, they are still just flailing around into their early thirties because they really don't have a clue at all. This premiere does a very smart thing in showing both of the characters apart from each other and how their lives are so different but also the same. Mickey and Gus don't meet until the end of "It Begins." But you'll have to press play on the second episode right away to see what they are like together. "It Begins" has to do a lot of set up for these characters and this world. Both Mickey and Gus are on a quest for love. It's a quest that will eventually bring them together. But it's also important to understand what their everyday lives are like before they meet. Their struggles are so specific and different from each other. This first episode fleshes out those concerns in interesting ways. It's not the best kind of introduction but it's still engaging and makes me at least curious to see where they go from here.

Love can take so many different forms. Every person in the world has a different idea of what love is and what love actually means to them. Mickey and Gus both start the series in a form of love. They are both with other people. But seeing them play opposite each other shows just how loose and complicated this central subject really is. To Gus, he's in a stable and routine relationship with Natalie. He's in love with her but nothing about it is exciting. The emotions are real to him but the actions play more as stiff and disingenuous. This is enough for him because this is what he believes love looks like. But it's not enough for Natalie. She cheats on Gus. But that only further showcases just how twisted Gus' sense of love really is. He's conflicted because he's furious at her for doing this but he still holds out hope that they could still be friends or get back together. It shows that he really is so uncertain with his emotions. That conflict bleeds into his everyday life as well. It doesn't seem like he walks through life with much conviction or determination. He's simply going through the motions of what a happy adulthood should look like.

Meanwhile, Mickey is much more of a mess. She is an on-again, off-again relationship with Eric, a cocaine addict who still lives with his parents. When they have sex, it's much more aggressive and filled with passion. Sex is how she experiences love. That's what a love connection means to her. It's a mentality that has grown due to a hook-up based culture. But that doesn't make her well-equipped to handle the emotional realities of being with Eric. When she's not having sex with him, she pretty much hates everything that he does - largely because of the drugs. She sees him as nothing more than a foolish child. She may be that as well. But she also considers herself better than Eric because she has her own apartment and a stable job.

Mickey and Gus' current living arrangements and employment also further show just how adrift they are in life right now. Mickey works at a radio station and gets a new roommate, Bertie, after she kicks Eric out. Not a lot of time is spent with Bertie after she is introduced. But Mickey's job is important. Except she largely just submits to whatever her boss, Dr. Greg, asks of her. She fires another employee for him just because he doesn't like him. She doesn't even have the professionalism to do it in person at the office. No, instead she does it over the phone while he is at home with his family while she's high on Ambien. Meanwhile, Gus is an on-set tutor on a supernatural TV show. He can't voice his concerns in a good or constructive way. He can't connect with anyone on the set. His job is important but no one takes him seriously. He does find a community back at his new sad-sack apartment complex. A bunch of college students have raided the place in order to party during spring break. That allows him a chance to be free a little bit more - though even that produces its own complications after awhile.

Mickey and Gus have to confront their notions of what love is as this premiere goes along. They have to do this in completely random and unexpected situations. Eric drags Mickey out to a late night, church service that is all about asking for love and it being delivered to you. It's an experience Mickey undertakes while high on the Ambien. And yet, she's just frustrated because she's being doing exactly what this preacher has been saying for a long time. She gets up in front of the crowd and wonders if anyone truly has it all figured out. She sees her classmates from high school getting married and posting pictures of their kids everyday on Facebook. But is that love? Does that have to be it? Can it only be that one thing? She doesn't leave this night with a better understanding of what love is. She simply gets to voice these big questions to the rest of the universe. Meanwhile, Gus' party heads back to his bedroom when two girls want to have a threeway with him. It's something he's really into as well - until he learns that the two of them are sisters. That's just something he can't understand. It's weird to him and doesn't fit what his definition of love should be. He freaks out and calls it a conduit to an incestuous relationship - which promptly ends things right on the spot.

The moment where Mickey and Gus meet felt inevitable throughout the entire episode. The premiere was building up to that moment. When it happens, it's this incredibly simple gesture. Mickey just wants to go to the local store and get a cup of coffee. She doesn't have her wallet so she can't pay for it. Gus steps up and offers to pay for her. It again shows just how different these two really are. Mickey would rather argue with the clerk who knows her well enough to know that she would come back with the money eventually. Gus would rather step in and be the nice guy simply because it's the good thing to do. Again, it's very uncertain how these two personalities will play off of each other once they get to know each other. They could force each other to be better people and come to accept just how complicated love really is in this world. Or it could be a complete disaster that ruins their lives? Either way, that journey should be fascinating to watch across this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "It Begins" was written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust and directed by Dean Holland.
  • There is also lots of talk about Los Angeles geography in this episode and how a place where a person lives defines who they are. It's an internal struggle that Gus has. And yet, this aspect of the show didn't really play all that well to me - as someone who's lived in the Midwest for his entire life.
  • Iris Apatow is going to be quite the scene stealer as the child star of the show Gus works on. She is a little bit of a diva - wanting naps and yelling at the crew even though she did something wrong. But she was also one of the funniest parts of the premiere.
  • Nice to see Dave Allen and Steve Bannos as the two best friends who live together in Gus' apartment complex. Again, that's another form of love that has nothing to do with sex at all. It's just a really strong and lasting friendship.
  • Hearing about an elderly woman dying in the shower and her body being turned into mush produces quite the visual.
  • Brett Gelman plays the host of the radio show where Mickey works. It's a nice twist on the type of characters he usually plays. Plus, it was amusing to see him use big words just to seem important and smart but have no idea what "archetype" really means.

As noted from previous series released all at once, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.