Let’s Talk About the End of Love

Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs): So happy together? Photo: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix

Love is a series about two untrustworthy people attempting to build a trusting relationship with each other. It’s not clear just how true this is, though, until the last two episodes of season three, the Netflix comedy’s final season. Some viewers may consider the late-stage revelations, particularly the ones that come in the final episode, frustrating and too reliant on baits and switches. As I noted in my review, I liked the way Love concluded, not only because I think the story of Mickey and Gus has been written in a way that supports the direction their relationship ultimately takes, but also because it surprised me at a moment when I wasn’t necessarily expecting any surprises from Love.

Both Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) have always carried significant baggage. Mickey is an alcoholic, a love/sex addict, an inciter of conflict, and someone who tends to be dishonest with herself and others. Gus is awkward, emotionally needy, oblivious to social cues, and prone to occasional outbursts when things don’t go his way. But for the most part, throughout the show’s run, we’ve been led to believe that Mickey is the damaged one, while Gus is merely a nice guy with significant flaws.

In the penultimate episode of season three, Love finally confirms that’s not the case. During a trip back to Gus’s hometown in South Dakota, where a celebration of his parents’ 4oth wedding anniversary is taking place, a serious fight erupts between Gus and Mickey after Gus makes an offhand comment about the fact that they won’t be ready to have children for at least another four years. Mickey accuses him of saying this because he doesn’t believe she’ll stay sober. He admits this is an issue for him. She expresses resentment about the fact that she’ll forever be perceived as the screwup in their relationship.

At the party, their relationship is already on very thin ice when Mickey learns from Gus’s siblings that his entire backstory has been hidden from her (and, also, from us). Gus isn’t just an aspiring filmmaker who’s never caught a break in Hollywood. He caught a break early on, a huge one, by working for Ridley Scott and getting the opportunity to potentially develop projects with him. But Gus blew it, the way he always does: by attempting to advocate for himself in a way that’s too aggressive and humiliating, it prevented him from being taken seriously.

That secret, coupled with the reveal a few episodes prior that Gus was previously engaged but had not mentioned that to Mickey, is the final straw for Mickey. Before she can sever the relationship and head back to L.A., Gus asks her to at least say good-bye to his family, which is ironic. By asking her to make up an excuse so he won’t look dumb, he’s essentially telling another lie by proxy, via the woman who just dumped him for lying too much. But then Gus surprises Mickey by telling his whole family exactly why she’s leaving and burping up a random series of confessions that he’s been holding in for, in some cases, decades, including the fact that he has an anger-management problem. Finally, he says the three words Mickey has always wanted to hear. No, not “You complete me” or “I love you.” But: “I’m a fuckup.”

It might seem like a stretch when Mickey and Gus reconcile so quickly afterward. But, to me, Gus’s gush of honesty recalibrated the relationship and gave it a balance it didn’t have before. Mickey doesn’t have to feel like the screwup anymore because Gus is now openly as much of a mess as she is. This also implies that maybe Gus mentally postponed the prospect of having a child not because of Mickey, but because he knows he’s not stable enough to take on that responsibility.

Even if you accepted the fact that Gus and Mickey survive that near-rupture in South Dakota, you might have had more of an issue with what happens in “Catalina,” the series finale. Out of the blue, the two decide to elope, quickly booking a weekend in Catalina and blast-texting friends to let them know they’re welcome to join. Considering they have been a couple for less than a year, and very nearly split up days, at most, ago, this is an impulsive decision to say the least. A less diplomatic person might even say it’s a really dumb thing to do. But do I believe it’s something that Gus and Mickey might do? Yes. Absolutely.

In every scene, it seems like the quickly arranged wedding could be called off. Mickey starts to look like she’s doubting her decision during a conversation with Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty) and Syd (Kerri Kinney). Right before the ceremony is supposed to take place, Randy (Mike Mitchell) makes a big speech about Bertie dumping him, which isn’t exactly the best omen for a happy wedding day. The entire time they’re in Catalina, Truman (Steve Lee) is convinced the whole thing is a practical joke. In other words, he thinks Gus and Mickey, frequent fibbers, may be lying to their friends, and by extension, to those of us watching. In its final moments, Love is making us question whether we can really trust Gus and Mickey.

As the service begins on a deck overlooking the water, it’s not surprising that it screeches to a halt because two idiots on the beach are getting into a loud argument over a lounge chair. The fight escalates, and Gus and Mickey debate whether or not to continue. The whole thing is a perfect metaphor for their relationship: two people questioning whether to commit each other while ignoring the abundance of jackassery lurking in the background.

Ultimately, they agree that they may have acted rashly and call the whole thing off … until later that evening, when, in a final twist, they sneak away from the gathering with their friends to be pronounced husband and wife alone, with only the officiant watching. They are both giggly and teary-eyed as the ceremony unfolds, because they’re in love, yes, but also because they’re keeping a secret. And this time, they’re in on it together. We don’t know what happens after the under-the-radar wedding, but I’m betting Gus and Mickey keep their betrothed status under wraps for weeks, or maybe even months, because they find it so much fun.

The finale serves as a fitting bookend to season three’s first episode, “Palm Springs Getaway,” in which Gus and Mickey try to take a weekend away together alone and wind up on a road trip with Bertie and Randy. Like “Catalina,” “Palm Springs Getaway” is awash in acts of unintentional and intentional deception. Randy promises everyone that they’re going to be staying in his cousin’s luxury home in the heart of Palm Springs, but those lush accommodations turn out to be a modest house well outside of Palm Springs that hasn’t been updated since the ‘80s, or possibly the ‘70s. Bertie, Gus, and Mickey try to act like everything’s okay and make the best of it, but eventually everyone admits the place is a dump, as well as every resentment the couples have harbored toward each other. Fences are only mended when they, while leaving, all decide to set off firecrackers in the front yard of a grumpy neighbor and speed away, the four of them bonded in the joy of doing something naughty together.

By the end of Love, Gus and Mickey finally find the moment of intimacy they were searching for in “Palm Springs Getaway.” They’re no longer in a desert. Instead, they’re right by the water, in a place that may not be a luxury hotel, but is certainly very nice. In the end, they, too, are bonded by the pleasure that two best friends feel when they’re playing a really good trick. They are on an island, becoming an island unto themselves. It’s what they’ve always wanted.

The Love Series Finale: Let’s Talk About That Ending