Love Life moves fast. The leaps in time by months or even years already are proof of that, but the speed at which everything progresses really hit me at the end of “Magnus Lund” last season, which ended on a proposal cliffhanger so tantalizing that I couldn’t stop watching, only to discover that the next episode picks up well into their marriage — no answer, no engagement, no wedding (well, until now). In that way, Love Life is like ten snapshots that can encompass one night, a few months, or even years, capturing euphoria or heartbreak and sometimes both. Like the proposal time jump, “Paloma” doesn’t offer a neat resolution following Emily’s revelation about Marcus’s infidelity. Instead, it picks up one month later, and all we know is that there was a messy “72-hour state of the union” that ended in Emily asking for a divorce.
As these skips in narrative demonstrate, this isn’t a show that’s invested in the minutiae of each relationship, but how those encounters shape the protagonist into the person they become. Essentially, each episode investigates the cosmic meaning of this moment arriving at this point in time. In the case of Paloma, she’s something of a reprieve for Marcus. She smiles and nods and giggles at his jokes, all without the awareness of the loneliness and fear that hangs over Marcus as he processes his breakup. She could be anyone, really, but she just so happens to be a college senior riding on the thrill of having sex with a sophisticated older man. But the issue of her age and immaturity also acts as a wake-up call. Not that long ago, he was in a relatively happy, stable marriage — now, his life is unrecognizable.
Ostensibly, the end of a relationship opens up a fresh new chapter in Marcus’s life, but he radiates woeful levels of divorced-guy energy. Marcus is in pretty terrible shape post-breakup, and by terrible shape, I mean in a stained apron stinking up his sister Ida’s apartment with peanut-butter-infused chili on a Friday. After Yogi tells him to get some “ass time,” he decides to have a night out as a newly single man, texting everyone in his contacts, “What’s up tonight???” (three question marks taken verbatim) including Mia.
What unfolds next is a fresh variation on the “one wild night” story, except it’s less wild and more mortifying. Marcus darts from an impromptu office happy hour where he raids his boss’s bar cart and gets high on Adderall to an expensive dinner with his Balenciaga-sweater-wearing wealthy friend Kian (played by Arian Moayed, whose appearance made me scream “STEWYYY”). Later, he gets drinks with Ida, and he ends up inviting Mia along, too. It all works out a little too well — they’re laughing, Mia seemingly gets the thumbs-up from the family — until Marcus and Mia head out for a walk. He’s hoping for something to finally happen with Mia, which is why he’s so baffled by her questions about Emily.
Whether out of confusion or anger, he places the blame for his ruined marriage on Mia, to which she refuses to feel guilty and walks away. And rightly so. Cheating is cheating, but Marcus is the married one — he decided to be unfaithful, though perhaps he hasn’t truly considered the mistakes he made. Last episode, his friend Yogi urged him to actually work on his marriage because the spark doesn’t just materialize naturally: “Make the happiness happen.” Even after everything has fallen apart, Marcus still hasn’t absorbed that advice in taking accountability — in considering that he could be the reason he was and isn’t happy.
What makes the “wild night” narrative so fun to watch is that each encounter is engaging as a little story of its own, which is something that I think “Paloma” lacks. This isn’t a problem so much with the Mia portion as much as it is with Marcus’s sushi date with Kian — it flies by with some small talk and divorce condolences before they’re interrupted by Kian’s actual date. The episode doesn’t really know where to go until his run-in with the titular hookup, but it’s when Marcus locks eyes with Paloma from across the bar that it truly finds its footing.
This is such a watch-between-your-fingers type of one-night stand that I don’t even know how I endured this. Surely, Marcus should’ve noticed something was off when Paloma ordered potato skins to return to her place? (Takeout after drinks gives me student night-out vibes.) But then again, she’s the kind of girl that earnestly fawns over every boring detail that Marcus shares about his life, giggling and twirling her hair to get his attention. It’s not until they’re standing outside a college dorm that he finally realizes how young she is. (“I’m an RA, I literally run my floor,” she reassures him.)
Everything about the resulting hookup is so unbearably awkward but perfect, from the fairy lights in Paloma’s cluttered bedroom to the cheap wine to the set of Harry Potter books on the shelf. Her version of foreplay involves chomping down on some precoital potato skins and asking if her feet stink. And despite the condom jar on the windowsill, she most definitely learned everything about sex from porn, judging by her overzealous blow job technique and her deafening moans — as if the sign of good sex is if your neighbors can hear you.
With the wounds from his separation still fresh, what Marcus needs at this point is not someone to sleep with but the time to recover. A simple question like “are you okay?” from Kian briefly coaxes out the truth that he’s not. Emily was the one that held his life together, and without her, he’s lost and aimless — aimless enough to get a bad blow job from a college senior. I really hope for his sake that he can eventually find the proper outlet for unloading all of his feelings about Emily, because his friends currently aren’t helping. The last person he seeks guidance from is the viewer. As he finds himself back at Emily’s (and also formerly his) apartment with Paloma’s potato skins in tow, he looks to the camera, his alarmed eyes asking: “How did I end up here?”
• Let’s just relive all of the Adderall roasts thrown at Marcus: “You couldn’t find a drug that was, I don’t know, illegal?”; “Do you have a term paper due?”; “It’s not 2004, dipshit.”
• Marcus and Paloma briefly meet again six years later, and though he recognizes “her carefree aura and earnest smile,” she walks past him with no clue who he is. Paloma left an indelible mark on him (probably of the crippling embarrassment variety), but he didn’t have the same effect on her.
• When Marcus tells Paloma that he would hide the smell of weed with a toilet paper roll and a dryer sheet, and she replies “My dad told me that trick,” I screamed! She did not have to obliterate him like that.
• Paloma, after she takes off Marcus’s shirt: “Are you sure you’re an editor and not a CrossFit instructor.” She gets it.