Monday, July 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'UnREAL' - Everyone is Concerned About Rachel's Mental State After the Assault in 'Casualty'

Lifetime's UnREAL - Episode 2.06 "Casualty"

Chet steps up to support Rachel as she copes with a traumatic experience. Quinn continues to pursue a new relationship. When the cast and crew travel for a hometown date, Rachel makes a shocking discovery about one of the contestants. Darius gets fed up with Rachel's manipulation and makes an unexpected decision in the elimination ceremony.

How UnREAL has approached this season of Everlasting has been very interesting and incredibly problematic. In the first season, it was all about true love and romance. Yes, the events of the show were still being manipulated by the producers to create drama. But there was a simplicity at play as well. Quinn and Rachel were buying into the idea that true love was possible - or at the very least it's a concept that they can play to for an audience. This season everyone has become more jaded. That has had such a huge impact on Everlasting. It's no longer a show about making a meaningful connection. It's a show about producing crazy stunts every week. There is no connection between Darius and any of the contestants. The romance simply isn't there this season. Instead, it's replaced by the producers trying to top themselves with the crazy shit they're able to pull off. But that means the priority is on the stunt. So it's really difficult to care about anyone. The contestants are important for one episode. Everyone is being given a spotlight hour. But when that happens, it signals it's their turn for a crazy stunt that can boost ratings and then be eliminated. It's become a predictable pattern that really isn't exciting at all.

UnREAL seems to be struggling with this need to create big stunts and moments as well. This show has been trying to juggle a lot of plot. Most of it hasn't been necessary at all. Chet and Jeremy have served no purpose whatsoever. Yes, the season's first two episodes were strong and intense. But this is Rachel and Quinn's show. They've been lost a little bit this season. They've been preoccupied on trying to maintain control of the show by proving that they can deliver a good twist. It's become a competition of sorts. And yet, none of the characters have really had to deal with the consequences of their actions. They were able to get away with Mary's death because they carefully constructed a way out of that situation. But now, it doesn't seem like the show is all that interested in showing the repercussions of the characters' actions. Chet kidnapped his baby two weeks ago. And now, he's a completely different character who wants to be a paternal figure on set while also still having input on the creative direction of the show. That just makes no sense at all.

Similarly, Jeremy assaulting Rachel at the end of last week's episode was his big moment of the season. It felt like a big action in order to have a twist. It didn't really feel like something Jeremy would do. And yet, that's completely because he hasn't done much this season. He's just been moping around on set. He was aimlessly drifting in life. The show tried to explain this violent outburst as him taking out all his rage on Rachel because he still loves her. But that read as false. And now, the show only vaguely seems interesting in exploring the fallout of that action. Again, it's weird to see Chet looking out for Rachel while still protecting the show. It's a meaningful character shift. But it's disjointed from who Chet has been as a character all season long. And yet, if the entire point of the assault was to send Rachel on a horrifying and tragic spiral, then it was successful. This is such a destructive and nerve-wrecking episode for Rachel. She's spinning out of control. She lost control in that moment with Jeremy. She has the sensible idea to call the police and have him arrested. She's talked out of that by Chet who says the show is essentially more important.

So, Rachel easily falls back into the headspace of needing to produce a phenomenal show. That has always been her safe space. No matter what happens to her, she can always return to the show and do excellent work. Here, none of her personal failings affect the final product at all. She is still able to get the crazy and outrageous stuff she needs onscreen. But she's doing so with a reckless abandon. It's so powerful to notice how much of that is told to the audience by Rachel's inability to maintain eye contact with anyone. She doesn't want to be open with anyone about what happened. She just wants to get back to work. Coleman doesn't know that anything happened and believes it's just another day at work for her. It's not. She is spiraling out of control. She's desperately clinging on to whatever new information appears to make for a fantastic scene of reality television. She's no longer interested in creating a show that actually means something and adds to the conversation of race in America. No, she's retreated back to making the show the same way it has always been made. That means creating stunts that can entertain the audience at home while also destroying the lives of the people actually on the show.

All of the producers want to help Rachel through this difficult process. They all care about her in their own strange ways. Coleman really is genuinely in love with her. He hasn't been corrupted by this show as much as the other producers have. It's been difficult to understand what he actually does on the show this season. Quinn, Rachel and Chet have been the ones creating the drama. They are the ones making it happen. Here, he's simply hesitant about the big stunt Rachel is creating but allows it to happen once it does. He's supportive of Rachel no matter what she decides because he has no grand connection to Everlasting. This is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But to Quinn, Rachel and Chet, Everlasting is their entire lives. They are this show and the show is them. That's been destructive to who they are as people. Because of the show, they aren't able to have any real or lasting relationships. They live in this bubble. Rachel keeps saying she wants a life outside of the show. But she still retreats to the familiarity of Everlasting whenever she's confronted with something real while still craving any guy who wants to "save" her. Meanwhile, Quinn loves the show because it gives her control. She has bigger aspirations as well. And yet, that hasn't been very good for her personal life. She has none. And now, she is actually quite taken with John Booth. He seems too good to be true but she wants to make that work.

However, it's hard to understand why the producers are willing to risk destroying their entire lives for Everlasting when the show really isn't that great this season. The connection with Darius just isn't as strong as it was with Adam. Rachel's relationship with Adam gave the show an easy route into drama, tension and storytelling last season. This year there has been a disconnect between the producers and on-camera personalities. It's crucial that Darius is so fed up by the end of this episode that he blows up at Rachel. He had to deny Beth Ann a necklace despite her being pregnant. That was the big bombshell of this hour. Beth Ann got the hometown date. Everyone was expecting a racist community that would shun Darius. However, the racial dynamics were not important in the slightest. That has been a big topic of discussion for the show this season. And yet, it really hasn't said anything all that interesting or compelling about race. In fact, one of Beth Ann's relatives accidentally points a gun at Darius and it's played for laughs. That's a powerful and significant image that needs to mean something. Otherwise it shouldn't happen at all.

It's important that Rachel and Quinn give their entire lives to Everlasting. But this season, it seems like they are realizing there needs to be something else as well. Right now, that's being presented as romantic interests. It's great that they both have someone more stable than Chet or Adam were last season. However, their lives can just as easily be manipulated as well. Quinn doesn't want to listen to Dr. Wagerstein as she diagnoses her as being lonely. And yet, that's completely true. Quinn cares about Rachel because their friendship was real. It was more than just your typical boss-employee dynamic. And now, Quinn may have ruined that all over again in her latest attempt to get Coleman kicked off the show. She invites Adam back to the set to get in the way of Rachel's relationship with Coleman. Meanwhile, Rachel really wants to be with Coleman. That's a relationship she wants to feel safe in. He cares for her in a genuine way. And yet, she's still siding with Quinn and Chet with a lot of the big decisions about this job and how it affects her. She refuses to file a police report because she needs the show to continue. She doesn't want to think about what happened to her. She just wants to work. And when that's not enough, she needs sex. It's as simple as that. But sooner or later, she is going to crash. When that happens, people better get out of her way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Casualty" was written by Vince Calandra and directed by Shiri Appleby.
  • It's long been questionable on whether or not Dr. Wagerstein is actually a good doctor. She's on set to look out for the girls. But she is easily manipulated by the producers. Plus, she hasn't been able to help any of the contestants during their time of need. And yet, she still provides a great analysis of Quinn.
  • It's also just fun seeing Dr. Wagerstein with her own segment. It allows the contestants to actually exist in the reality of the show without it being in complete service to Darius or the main contestant of the week. Sure, it's frustrating that the other four ladies still are barely defined. But it seems like the show is putting in the effort to fix things a little bit.
  • It was smart of Jay and Madison to produce something on the regular set with the remaining contestants while Darius and Beth Ann were away. And yet, how did they possibly have the necessary crew to do that? Weren't they all in Alabama getting the important shots?
  • The pacing is really off with the show's romantic developments though. It's surprising when Beth Ann declares her love to Darius while she's revealing that she is pregnant. He's taken aback and has a very appropriate reaction. But the show is also moving fast with Quinn and John. They are charming. He is a step up from Chet. But he needs to have more purpose as well.
  • Hopefully, this is the last we'll ever see of Jeremy. He did a bad thing and deserves to be banished from the set forever. There's no way he can possibly return after what he did - especially since all of the producers are happy that he has been fired. But the show also doesn't let the audience know if he will be a threat for the remainder of the season or not. This assault could easily be blown out of proportion. But there's no indication on if that will occur.