Love Recap: Textual Tension

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Gillian Jacobs as Mickey, Paul Rust as Gus. Photo: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix
Love

Love

Friends Night Out Season 2 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 3 stars

As a recent New York-to-L.A. transplant, I can’t help but recognize what’s so incredibly Angelian — or Angelean? Is that a thing? — about this show. Gus’s short-term living situation is unique to the town of the world’s most transient industry. The bar Gus visits in this episode is the Griffin in Atwater Village. (Fun fact: Its exterior is also the exterior of the bar on New Girl!) Mickey’s outfits are basically an L.A. uniform. These are things I missed watching season one; now, they seem to point toward a show attempting to reveal some bigger truths about my adoptive city. Or maybe these are just details I’m especially keyed into at the moment. Maybe we’ll never know.

Mickey wakes up in Gus’s bed having spent a platonic night over. She woke up too late and missed her sex-and-love-addiction meeting. Gus goes out to get coffee while Mickey takes a shower, and comes back to find her using his one towel. She borrows one of his shirts and prepares to head out, but not before telling Gus that she wants to take a weeklong break from communication.

At her meeting, Mickey confesses that she likes Gus, and says that she feels good about having not slept with him, but that all she wants to do is text him and hang out with him. She’s trying to do things differently, but is clearly having a tough time of it. Meanwhile, Gus is startled out of a vacuuming reverie by Chris, who gets his attention by throwing a shoe at his window. They decide to hang out that night, gross-out and bro-down style.

When Mickey comes home to Bertie, she ends up confessing to her that she’s both a sex-and-love addict and an alcoholic. Bertie is supportive, and relieved that she isn’t necessarily the reason things have been tense between them. She’s extra excited that she’s Mickey’s only female friend who knows about it, and takes the opportunity to reveal a secret of her own: She cut up a rabbit she found in the yard when she was 8 years old. Wait, no, when she was 23.

Sweet, weird, possibly sociopathic Bertie. Never change.

Mickey tries to change out of Gus’s shirt, but finds herself wearing and smelling it; meanwhile, Gus smells the towel Mickey used earlier that day. They each go to their separate nights out.

Gus tells the guys about his Friends-universe theory, and a table of women nearby (including the wonderful Aparna Nancherla!) calls them out on having the nerdiest possible conversation, so the guys invite them to come join the party. Elsewhere, Mickey is stuck as the only single person at a table of couples, who are all talking about progressive preschools. Mickey tries to change the subject, and eventually gets the couples to agree to play a game, but her discomfort is obvious.

At the bar, one of the women tries to get a conversation going with Gus, but he is watching his phone for signs of Mickey. He won’t even accept an offer of a drink. Chris notices and calls his buddy out on it, and Gus deflects by saying that he thinks they should be past this stage in life.

Mickey’s “let’s all play TableTopics” plan immediately backfires, as the first question is couple-oriented. Mickey, seemingly out to destroy a marriage or two, asks who each person would sleep with in their partner’s family. Fights immediately break out, and Mickey sits back in all her shit-stirring glory. When one of the friends, Brian, calls Mickey out on her behavior, she melts down and leaves immediately.

At the bar, the girl who had been trying to hit on Gus asks point-blank what his problem is. The girl tells him that she wasn’t flirting with him. She has a boyfriend; she was just trying to be friendly. She gets up in his face about the misunderstanding, but Gus is distracted by Michael Landon — an actor he’s been told he looks like — on the screen over her shoulder. Gus getting close to taking responsibility for wrongdoing and then immediately getting distracted by himself (okay, a stand-in of himself) is so, so Gus. The girl storms away, and Gus takes a picture of the screen … so he can text it to Mickey.

She texts back.

Gus asks where she is, and she tells him the restaurant she’s heading to. We then see her look at her phone and consider her options before sending a follow-up. Based on Gus’s smile, we can guess what’s about to happen next.

In a montage, we see Gus and Mickey meeting up for Korean BBQ, kissing in the parking lot, and, finally, having sex in the car.

Oh, gosh, Mickey. Oh, gosh, Gus. You are both bound for disaster.

Love is a lot like watching a train wreck. But then, love can sometimes be a lot like watching a train wreck. There are the things you know you should do, and the things you know you will do, and oftentimes they aren’t the same. Neither of these people should have texted each other. They shouldn’t have met up. They absolutely shouldn’t have had sex. But were they ever going to do anything any differently?

A closing thought: The quality of Love as a show is quite high — the writing, acting, and production are very, very good — but its scope is so narrow that it can sometimes shoot itself in the foot. Without likable characters, Love doesn’t seem intended for an audience beyond exactly who it depicts on screen. Are you young, single, white, and living in a major metropolitan city with reasonable means? Well then, it’s not like you needed another show geared entirely toward you, but here it is.

In 2017, the sort of privileged navel-gazing perfected by Girls, and explored at length by Love, feels especially hollow to me. What’s the appeal of watching at a time when it feels like everything in the real world is falling apart?

Maybe that’s the point of the show. Maybe this is a meditation on what it’s like when deeply unaware people move slowly toward destruction. Maybe it’s about how sometimes it’s harder to stop yourself from falling when you’re falling in slow motion. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Love Recap: Textual Tension