The question here isn’t who Everlasting suitor Serena picked. (You could’ve guessed that from the start.) We’ve been here, all season, wondering about UnREAL itself: Could the show redeem itself from its sophomore slump? And now that we’ve reached the double-sized whammy of a third season finale … well, did it?
It’s my job to answer that question, but to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know. I definitely don’t think UnREAL was able to recapture the magic from season one, but I do think it really turned things around from season two. It returned to its roots, a full-on matriarchy that revolves around the relationships between three women: Quinn, Rachel, and this season’s suitor, Serena, who represented the hard-ass entrepreneur they both strived to be. Or, at least, the person we thought they each wanted to be.
If UnREAL hadn’t already filmed season four, I’d have a feeling that it’s taking a final bow here, leaving our two leads in two genuinely good places. Quinn and Rachel seem to each get what they wanted. They both seem happy. To be fair, this show never quite told us anyone’s truth. I still don’t quite understand Rachel Goldberg, and I don’t think I ever will. Her actions never quite add up to anything she says to anyone, let alone her nearest and dearest. But with a little monetary help from Quinn, she winds up in the cabin of her literal dreams, an escape from Everlasting. Sure, I’ve seen enough of this show to know that no favors are without payment. Could Quinn show up at the top of the next season (of Everlasting, natch) and demand Rachel return to the job? Of course. But we’re led to be that this gift is the first selfless act of friendship between the two. “I have done everything I can to keep you to myself,” Quinn says. “You are a dark twisted wreck, and I’m gonna miss every bit of it.”
But as this is a recap, let’s recap the rest of what went down. Happy endings abound.
Guess who turns out to be not such a good guy? That’s right: Dr. Simon! He tells Rachel she uses sex to run away from intimacy. Not a terrible read, but can we ever trust this guy again to properly treat Rachel after we learned about the cameras he’s installed in her apartment-slash-truck? No, duh. Quinn discovers the cameras, figures out immediately that he’s the peeping Tom, and tells Rachel. He tells Quinn, “There’s no version of this job or your relationship with Rachel that’ll be healthy for her, ever.” Again, not the worst take, but doesn’t change the fact that he’s a creep. Rachel doesn’t believe Quinn, at first, but he admits it to her and — of course — tells Rachel … drumroll, please … that he loves her. Nope! No thanks and good-bye, Dr. Simon. Can we get Rachel a female shrink next time? Thanks.
Guess who turns out to be a smart guy? Shockingly, Jeremy. The end of the first episode has him sobbing to Rachel. The two murders he did (yes, on her behalf) still haunt him, it’s true. But do these two damaged souls belong together? What if they were away from the cursed halls of Everlasting? Could they make it work then? No, says Jeremy. “You’re a stain that I have to live with for the rest of my life. I’d rather be alone forever than be with you. And I think you’re gonna be alone forever, too.” Hey, at least you know better than to keep chasing after her. Jeremy leaves Everlasting, supposedly to never return. We’ll see.
Rachel gets a job offer from Serena — but we’ll never learn what the specifics are, because even though Rachel (verbally) accepts the offer and tells Quinn that she’s quitting, everything falls apart after Rachel manipulates Serena into choosing … one more drumroll, please … no one! That’s right, if Rachel can’t be happy (see: Jeremy), then no one can. Even Serena, who is somehow successfully convinced to turn down both Jasper and Owen. She knows she has been “produced,” even though she goes along with it, catching Rachel mid-smile after she masterminds another miserable breakup between Chet and his young girlfriend, Crystal. (Alas, she isn’t really making everyone miserable. Because of that stunt, Chet admits on live TV that he’s in love with Quinn. More on that in a few.) “You produced me so I’d end up like you: empty and alone,” Serena taunts Rachel, rescinding that job offer. “Tell the truth. You don’t hate it here. You love it. You were smiling, I saw you … This is exactly where you belong.” She gets into her limo and rides away, satisfied for a moment until she realizes that she is alone. Turns out Rachel did successfully produce her into misery. Sorry, Serena.
Meanwhile, Quinn is still waging war with Gary. Her “BFF” Fiona has a big deal fall through and asks for a job — this after she told Quinn her TV shows were too “low class” for her — and Quinn says no, refusing to help her pal. Fiona takes that news right back to Gary, offering to help him take Quinn down by bringing in that journalist (the one played by Ellie from Degrassi!) to write a tell-all piece about Quinn in exchange for a big job. She even somehow deletes Gary’s damning emails off Quinn’s computer. (Why Quinn didn’t make backups before blackmailing Gary, we’ll never know. You gotta print those things out, girl!) But in typical UnREAL fashion, this double-cross becomes a triple-cross when Quinn offers to help Fiona take Gary’s job and reveals how horribly scummy the guy is. Scummy isn’t even a strong enough word for it: Quinn’s magazine profile becomes a full-on take-down of Gary, instead, who has 11-plus women file a sexual-harassment suit against him. It just goes to remind you, in UnREAL, it’s female solidarity above all else. Even Madison gets to finally pitch her pilot. To Fiona. The new head of the network.
So Quinn keeps her job and gets her man. Sure, she’s “old” and “can’t have babies” and “hates [him],” as Crystal says right before she’s escorted off of the Everlasting set, after Chet’s declared his love for Quinn. But these two belong together and always have. One of them just had to say it. Now they can turn that house they designed back into a home for two. I hope they adopt!
We should end on Rachel, who goes from sleeping in a prop truck to arriving at her dream cabin. It feels almost too good to be true for someone whose problems always seem to find her wherever she ends up. Can Rachel stay away from Everlasting for good? She doesn’t seem to think she “fits” anywhere else, she explains to Quinn. But Jeremy is long gone. And her parents, too. She’s long broken the pact of that essential honesty cult, but was that really the answer she needed either? The girl needs a therapist she can trust, sure, but she also needs a life free from the reality show that’s provided her with an identity and rewarded her, again and again, for the shameless manipulation she’s proven to be so excellent at. The question is, will UnREAL let its heroine live in peace? With a fourth season on the horizon, probably not.