“Epilogue” suggests finality — a neat bow to be wrapped on Love Life’s gift of a season. But this episode instead promises a thrilling new beginning that sets Marcus and Mia on the course for happiness for the rest of their lives. Not that it’s all smooth sailing, but this final chapter provides reassurance that they won’t go down like his first marriage. He’s learned from his mistakes and knows for certain now that love takes work and constant commitment. And just because it takes work, that doesn’t mean it has to be draining — there’s joy and wonder to be found in the plain and ordinary.
Happily ever after for Marcus involves those exciting major milestones — marriage, baby Audrey, and a bigger apartment — but it’s also those boring monetary steps, like saving enough money to hire a nanny and worrying whether it’s worth pursuing your dreams while Mia is carrying the weight. There’s an emphasis that Marcus and Mia aren’t just a couple in love, but a team that supports each other. Now that they’re past the cautious flirting and circling around each other, their conversations can be both direct and lovingly tender. It’s not all flowers and chocolates (or a Christmas trip to the Bahamas), but that spark he’s been looking for will always be there. He just has to put in the effort to light the fire.
The saga of Marcus has continually prodded at the question of who this man is. Marcus knows himself deep down but is just scared to admit it. It’s not until he gives up his freelance editing gigs and takes the terrifying leap into writing his own book that he can’t ignore his identity any longer. Sick of the racist publishing industry, he decides to write a novel about a Black man retaliating against his white workspace (“Very Kanye at the TMZ office”) and asks for feedback from the one person who isn’t afraid to be brutally honest: Trae Lang. It’s a promising first draft, Trae says, but the words don’t feel like Marcus. “I wrote a character that I wanted to be, and it just didn’t ring true,” Marcus later admits to Mia, and so we return full circle to that idea of facades that was introduced at the very beginning.
Marcus has been projecting false versions of himself his entire life, and he’s trying to do the same thing in his writing. He’s an early achiever that had big dreams but ended up settling for less out of a fear of failure. That’s not the guy he wants to portray in his novel — but that’s the real him. Not a mature hook-up or a carefree friends with benefits kind of guy, but “a complicated softie prone to fuckups.” Trae’s advice sends him into a rut, but after some encouraging words from Mia, he finishes the book (with all of him in its pages) in three months, and it’s published to roaring success the following year.
But money and success don’t guarantee happiness. Financial security, sure, but Marcus’s new career as a hotshot author has its own set of road bumps. Namely, that he’s too busy to be there for Mia. When he comes back from a ten-day trip away from New York, all Mia wants to do is spend time with him, but he’s too occupied with a flashy work party. While Marcus and Trae are being interviewed, Mia wanders off, and it recalls his parents’ anniversary party when he ignored Destiny Mathis for hours on end. But he isn’t making the same mistakes this time. When there’s something wrong, he doesn’t run away anymore. And if that involves ditching the important work party and getting way too hammered, then so be it. In the drunken haze of their impromptu date, he falls in love with the little things, even when that little thing is cleaning puked up eggnog from the side of an Uber. “He now knew that being a man meant stepping up to the plate not once but in perpetuity,” the narrator says. “And even just having a plate to step up to made him as lucky as a person can get.”
Love Life comes to a modern storybook close, with Marcus and Mia reclining their seats on their first-class flight to the Bahamas. They lie down smiling, and I found myself smiling, too. I came into this show expecting very little and quickly fell hard for Marcus’s story for all of its messy, emotional, and human complications. The first season was, admittedly, a bit rough. Anna Kendrick was a fine enough star, but the show never really had a sense of purpose. It’s a sad truth that romantic comedy is a dying genre — was Love Life going to be the thing that saves it? At first, I wasn’t so sure. But with two compelling leads in William Jackson Harper and Jessica Williams, and a greater scope that amounted to more than just Marcus fumbling through ephemeral relationships, the anthology has improved in leaps. It’s proved that the rom-com is most certainly not dead.
• Marcus and Mia are invited to check out Ola Adebayo’s new play, Little Ass Boy, about a partner who can’t perform in the bedroom. But it’s not about him, Ola says; it was just a “product of her imagination.” Maybe Marcus should pitch a scathing op-ed about it.
• Marcus was reading this New York Times profile of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in case you were wondering.
• Anna Kendrick as Darby returns again when she bumps into Marcus at the Natural History museum, and I’m even more convinced that she and Mia are not actually friends.
• I love Keith David’s poetic justification for procrastination: “As the sea of red ink bled into Marcus’s eyes, he decided to close them and worry about what to do later.”
• Line reading of the episode goes to Williams: “If you don’t finish [your book], I will fucking cut you. All right, my love?”
• Now here’s the big question: Who would your pick be for next season’s lead? I’ll go with Manny Jacinto; that man is destined to lead a rom-com.