In season three, Dave has repeatedly found himself at crossroads, pulled between the allure of life as a celebrity and the comfort of a simpler life spent with the people he loves. At times, he has come close to exiting public life altogether, canceling his tour, but he always gets yanked back. Those childhood dreams of hanging out with the stars have a way of sticking with you.
That’s truer than ever in “Looking for Love,” with Dave pouring himself into his work to ignore the pain of his breakup with Robyn. He should be seriously reevaluating his choices at this juncture, but he has already managed to dismiss her very valid characterization of him and move on to the next thing. What Dave needs most is to just slow down, to stop and appreciate what he has before he risks losing it all. But he can’t even appreciate getting two A-list actors for his music video without fixating on an unreturned DM from Drake.
As I’ve talked about in previous weeks, famous guest stars are a big part of Dave, usually used as an indicator of Dave’s current level of fame. You might’ve reasonably suspected “Hearsay” and “Met Gala” were the peaks of this season in that regard, but this finale features not only Rachel McAdams but fucking Brad Pitt, as well as an episode-ending cameo from Drake. What a time to be alive! It’s a sign that if Dave isn’t content with this, there might not be any level of fame where he feels fulfilled. Still, the cameos are starting to be a bit overkill, especially when they come at the expense of clarity about our main cast (more on that later).
The finale begins on the music video set for “Mr. McAdams,” before moving to Dave’s house for a final hangout with GaTa, Mike, and Elz. Once his friends leave, though, the episode shifts away from its finale vibe to tell a self-contained story about Dave’s encounter with Bella, the superfan who made a bust of his head back in the season premiere.
Upon Bella’s arrival to Dave’s house to return his hard drives, the episode shifts to a tone we’re familiar with: comedy mixed with a little horror, like many an Atlanta episode. It turns out Dave inspired Bella to move to Los Angeles to break into the industry, leading her to become a PA on his video. But his throwaway “follow your dreams!” advice came with unintended consequences: Now Bella has the same irrational belief in herself that he does, to the point that her go-getter attitude has crossed into stalker territory. From the moment Bella asks Dave to watch her short film and claims to be “the female you,” the parallel is clear. She’s essentially an exaggeration of him, with many of the same neuroses.
Shortly after Brad Pitt shows up, following up on an invitation to record at Dave’s house and move into the musical space, the episode inevitably becomes a hostage situation, with Dave and Brad working hard to play along and keep Bella happy (who pulls a gun on them). Essentially, she wants to just spend some time with them and prove how special she is, taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the way Dave has in the past. There are some additional stakes, too: Dave thinks Bella saw Emma’s clip of him and Mike discussing the death scam, so she has blackmail material at the ready.
It gets more unhinged from there. Bella demands they smoke weed together, and she later applies plaster to Dave’s groin and legs as a way of bonding with Brad over his love of ceramics. Dave’s attempts to escape are far too tentative (though it’s admittedly hard to kill someone with a Swiss Army knife), and Bella continues to terrorize the men, peeing on the floor and pressing a gun to Dave’s head until he admits he faked his own death. (As I figured from the beginning, she didn’t actually see the incriminating video.) GaTa shows up eventually, though he can’t read the situation, perhaps because Bella’s friendliness doesn’t feel too far outside what he already gets with Dave.
These parallels have a clear purpose, showing the thin line between “go-getter” and “stalker.” Dave probably lives by Kanye’s “name one genius that ain’t crazy” credo, but “crazy” can go too far. And the use of Brad Pitt makes sense, to an extent: He’s able to help Dave realize that seeking fame just to prove your skeptics wrong is no way to live, especially when the reward is intense scrutiny wherever you go. Dave spent most of this season coveting visibility even as he tried to avoid it, so hearing from an ultra-famous person has its utility. In the end, it’s Brad who gets through to him and reminds him that he can’t love another person until he loves himself — that maybe his never-ending search for validation will stop once he prioritizes his own mental health. It’s an obvious lesson, but one that Dave clearly needs to internalize.
But I can’t help wishing we saw him work through these issues by playing off the rest of the ensemble, not just Brad Pitt and a stalker who, in the end, isn’t really a complex or interesting character on her own. (In our final glimpse of her, she’s flailing around in plaster under Dave’s elite sex doll, yelling about how she just wanted to hang out.) We briefly hear from Emma near the end, mentioning that Dave has thankfully come around to promoting her tour documentary, but couldn’t we have seen them talk that out? One of the core themes of this season is Dave’s complex relationship with women, but we don’t even see him interact with Ally in this finale.
To be sure, Pitt has plenty of charisma, and he gets some funny moments, especially the reveal that his name is actually Luke Pitt. The sequence when he stands in the recording booth, trying to relay AutoTuned attack directions over an 808s & Heartbreak–sounding drone is both tense and amusingly absurd. But this is a rare supersize episode, clocking in at 48 minutes, and I’m not convinced the extra time was necessary for the story. Dave’s comedic voice thrives the best when each scene is tight, and too much of this plays out the way we’d expect. Besides, you really can’t do a successful joke about forcing Brad Pitt to cancel himself with a racist accent when there are actual well-known child-abuse allegations against the man.
Using Pitt in a smaller capacity might have been better, especially with the early meta-joke of Dave telling him, “I think it’s kind of cooler to not overuse you.” (Agreed!) Really, though, he’s not the main problem. The stalker plot, in general, just feels a bit by the numbers for this show; it might’ve fit better during the tour portion of this season. In fact, I spent the first few episodes of this season expecting Dave to do a stalker story, which was part of why “The Storm” was so pleasantly surprising. That episode subverted the expected horror turn, wringing surprising pathos out of Meg’s earnestness.
Compared to Meg, Bella feels like a cliché, meant more to elucidate something about Dave than anything else. And most of the beats here just feel familiar, even the climax of her shooting Brad Pitt with a crossbow. It doesn’t leave much room for the ostensible emotional climaxes of the finale, which are crammed into one montage. We see Mike introducing Ava to his dad, a huge moment that deserved way more buildup than we saw. And we see Elz announcing his plans to start his own record label, an intriguing end to a subplot that, again, we saw very little of. These mini-resolutions play out over the audio of Dave’s note to the best he ever had, finally being honest about his fear of putting himself out there emotionally.
And then … Dave meets Drake somewhere in West Africa. I’m not opposed to seeing Drake on this show — I may not love most of his music, but I was a big Degrassi fan — but this kind of feels like a waste, an awkward epilogue that doesn’t really answer our questions. Is the idea here that the episode prepped us to see Dave reuniting with Robyn to meet their adopted elephant but instead gave us yet another example of him choosing fame? Or should we believe what he said in that letter and have a positive outlook on what’s next?
I can’t really say. Parts of this ending feel like they’re meant to suggest that Dave will be more honest with himself now and that he and Robyn will even get back together. But I wanted to feel more catharsis here, a final button that directly dealt with the fallout of the last episode’s drama — especially given the episode title. At the end of “Looking for Love,” we don’t have a solid grasp of who Dave will be going into season four, unlike the previous finales.
Dave is not a conventionally plotted show, and I like that about it: Most episodes are largely standalone, building character arcs cumulatively and often in the background. But overall, season three may be its most serialized and most consistently good season yet, even if it only occasionally reached the highs of Dave at its best. So it can be mildly frustrating when the show indulges in a flight of fancy when I’d rather just see everyone grapple with their journeys more directly.
The finale does end on a fitting note, with Drake asking what to call him: Dave or Lil Dicky? That’s the central question of the show, in a way, and it makes sense that we don’t get to hear Dave’s answer. But while I understand the value of that ongoing ambiguity, I’m still left craving something a little more substantial, some apology or reconciliation that suggests a path forward. This episode hinted at revealing the death scam to the world, which would’ve made for some exciting conflict, but in the end, Dave just continues on his upward career trajectory unimpeded. Nothing was the same, but everything was the same.
• I’m curious to see if GaTa ends up suffering as a result of becoming the star of Nut Haus. Our final glimpse of him here is buying his mom (who is actually his aunt) a house, following up on Bella asking what he has actually done for her.
• Another favorite Pitt moment is when Brad tells Bella to close her eyes, clearly to set Dave up to grab their phones and disarm her, but Dave just goes along with it and closes his eyes, caught up in the group therapy vibe.
• Weird comparison, but that ending question made me think of season five of Mad Men, which ended with someone asking Don Draper, “Are you alone?”