In the third season of Netflix’s inventive British romantic comedy Lovesick, a single line of dialogue sums up the entire series. “I think that you two have loved each other for a very long time, but just in the wrong order,” Abigail (Hannah Britland) tells the protagonist, Dylan (Johnny Flynn), forcing him to finally admit his feelings for his best friend, Evie (Antonia Thomas).
Like Abigail says, Lovesick has played out in the “wrong order,” flashing back and bouncing around in time as Dylan considers his past relationships in light of contracting chlamydia. Along the way, it becomes painfully obvious that both he and Evie are hiding their affection for one another. But the third season puts an end to their will-they, won’t-they drama, finally making them an official couple. (Spare a tear for poor Abigail, who’s dating Dylan when she comes upon this revelation.)
Luckily, series creator Tom Edge doesn’t see this coupling as an end point for these anxiety-ridden romantics. Dylan and Evie may be together, but they — along with pals Luke (Daniel Ings) and Angus (Joshua McGuire) — still have plenty to worry about. After the season premiere, Vulture spoke with Edge to talk about Dylan and Evie’s surprisingly optimistic finale, where he’d like to take the show in season four, and his experience writing for The Crown.
This season is the farthest you’ve moved from the central conceit of the show: Dylan having to revisit his exes because of his chlamydia diagnosis. Was that liberating or scary?
It was a little of both. We felt it was necessary at a certain point. If we had gone with a different partner every week, Dylan would be working his way through 250 women, clutching his brow every time and wondering, “Why, oh why isn’t this working?” It felt like there wasn’t an inexhaustible stock of things he could really learn about himself through the lens of these brief relationships.
The other thing is I always knew right from the start that I wanted the show to be about that group of friends, and the conceit of the show really allowed you to tell the story of that group of friends through the prism of all of the relationships they had that didn’t work out. As we caught up with them in time — as the show’s dramatic focus started to zero in on exactly what would happen to them now that all of these questions come to a head — then inevitably the show’s center of gravity would pull in towards the present day.
I did, as you suggest, feel slightly fearful of that because there was something very comforting in thinking, “Well, let’s jump back in time and find a great contained story of the week and tell it with verve and then get out of there.” The tracking into more serialized and slightly more dramatic story territory, while it felt necessary for the show not to be simply spinning the wheels, I was at times concerned.
I was thankful you didn’t make us wait another season to watch Dylan and Evie get together. How did you decide when to finally do that?
It was something we spent a long time deliberating, myself and the two producers I work most closely with. It was a tricky decision because if you’re not going to find some quick reason to break them up — and Ross-and-Rachel-like swing them between different phases of a relationship, do the on-off thing — if you’re not willing to do that, then it becomes a matter of “Well, organically, how long can you spend learning new and essential things about these characters before you find ways to contrive to keep them apart?” There are plenty of precedents out there and Moonlighting gets talked about a lot in that regard, as the danger of once that tension is suddenly resolved, does that do something fatal to your show?
But we also felt that it wasn’t ever just a show about Dylan or indeed about Dylan and Evie. The kind of events we have laid out recently, in particular with Luke, gave us quite a lot of room to run. So what we endeavored to do is a baton pass to an extent. Episode one, season one you have Dylan bereft, wondering what to do and Luke doling out advice — bad advice for the most part, but well meant — and by the time you hit midway through this season, it’s Luke who is sitting down and saying, “I want what you used to want, but this is alien to me. How do I do it?” And Dylan begins to be the one who is cautiously going to help his friend.
Dylan and Evie don’t get a honeymoon period. What was your thinking behind that?
A classical not-very-good romantic comedy pulls the protagonist towards an end where all obstacles are cast off, including other people and rival lovers. You just get to forget about them, leave them in the shadows. I felt this story was less unclouded. These characters are not just hedonistically saying, “We have each other, all else is forgotten, and it’s a bed of roses.” Even if they want that in that moment, they’re not bad people. There aren’t many thoroughgoing villains in this show. So there is the complexity of those who get hurt, those who get disappointed, and the challenges of feeling bad on a day where you just want to feel happy.
In episode four of this season, where everything is set in bedrooms until the very final scene, I really wanted to explore the fact that a bedroom is intimate and is often just about two people, but actually those bedrooms hold a huge amount of complexity. Sometimes, two people in bed together can’t quite shake the feeling that they are accompanied by all of the people who brought them there — from family members, to friends who are going to be disturbed by changes to their lives, to people who have been hurt along the way. I was also really aware that some viewers might find that a little frustrating. They might just think, “Can we not just have five minutes which are unclouded and funny and get to enjoy that moment?” While I understand the instinct for that and I like that a lot in other movies, it felt like for this show and for these characters that would be telling a convenient lie.
It seemed like season might end on a note of uncertainty with Evie thinking about her ex-boyfriend, but it closes on Dylan’s little smile reflected in the window. That’s a happier place than previous finales. Why did you want to do that?
It’s great that you pick up on that moment, because it is classic Dylan neurosis-fodder: There was this rich alternative and did she make the right decision and what might this mean for him and so on and so forth. You have that moment where he could be consumed by a whole new set of problems and doubts and questions, but instead he catches sight of himself reflected in the glass and actually has a moment of clarity. That clarity may be fleeting, but in that moment he realizes, “I could do what I’ve done forever, which is sit up all night and unpick the way this good thing might be less than 100 percent perfect, or I could go and lie down by this girl who is, like me, not 100 percent perfect and has complexity and baggage and jagged parts and secret parts but she’s here and she wants to be with me and in this moment surely that’s enough.” He gets that. It felt right to deliver Dylan into that moment after the second half of this season had seen him anxious about his own capacity to mess things up and those old habits dying hard. To see him rest under duress for a moment, it felt right.
It wasn’t a big cliff-hanger-y kind of ending, which was unusual for us. I think there is definitely still uncertainty in the show. Luke feels like Jonesy is the answer to everything, but Jonesy is far from committed to comfortably being his answer. Also, just watching what happens to Dylan — this arch-romantic who has been consumed by the question of trying to find the one forever — what does he do when he finally feels confident that the question has been put to bed? What happens to a mind like that?
It sounds like you’re thinking about season four already. Is that something you’ve started working?
We’re all very protective of the show and we’re all incredibly grateful to our cast, whom, as you know, have a ton of options. No one is coming back to do this show because they’ve spent the last eight months throwing a tennis ball against a wall. We only ever want to do it if we feel like we have story to tell that adds a new dimension. I do feel like there is another season of story to tell. This season is a little heavier at points — it is a little more melancholic, a lot of it is about individuals facing the cost of getting what they want, which is a lot less sprightly than early dating disasters. If we do do a fourth season, I have a sense of where we want to take the show. I think broadening its horizons but taking it back into slightly warmer, more upbeat territory would be the right thing to do. We’ve been thrilled to make the show for three seasons and will feel incredibly lucky if we get to make a fourth. Fingers crossed that people find it. It feels like we are often described as a hidden gem, but we would quite like to become simply gem-like at this point.
Do you think the name change from Scrotal Recall to Lovesick helped you move in that direction?
I hope so. It’s always assumed that Netflix mandated this in some way and that’s not the case. We actually asked them: Do you think our frat-boy nightmare of a name might be mis-selling the show? I think they researched mostly North Americans and they found that a majority of people who had watched the whole show and had given it a five-star rating wouldn’t recommend it to friends and family on the grounds that it might involve saying or writing the word “scrotal.”
Overall, probably five percent of our viewers think we gave up the greatest title ever appended to a TV show, but the majority just think we have undone a grave error. On balance, yeah, I’m happy we made that change. Certainly my grandmother is happy we made that change.
Did you come up with that original title?
I hate choosing titles. I put [Scrotal Recall] on a long list of titles with the words “Not this, obviously” after that particular one. And then we started using it as a working title, then we got fond of it. We just forgot that it was terrible or at least deeply inappropriate and likely to become an albatross around our necks. I can’t hang that decision on anyone else, unfortunately.
You also wrote the “Paterfamilias” episode of The Crown, which digs into Prince Philip’s past. What was writing that like with Peter Morgan?
It was great fun to do that. I had worked on the first season in a more limited context and I had a lot of affection for the production team who made it. Peter was very generous in laying out roughly what he thought the season might look like and allowing me to say what I was interested in writing. It’s oddly telling that I ended up gravitating towards the one that offers you intercutting in two different timelines and allows you to tell the story of a father and son struggling to connect at one time, while at another time making age-group peers in the same space. It also had a really playful structure, which is odd as that’s one of the great pleasures of doing Lovesick. Obviously a very, very different kind of show, but ultimately [it’s also] a story about very simple but quite tragic human fundamentals of having your needs met and then holding the thing that was a solution over and above your ability to read another person.