“Look, even with all the crap we’ve been through, we still always managed to make a show, so let’s just make a great finale.”
Yes, it’s season finale time (or it was a couple of weeks ago, I’m a bit late reviewing) for both UnReal, the show, and Everlasting, the-show-within-the-show, and any Rachel/Adam shippers’ hopes (ie MINE) are dashed early on as Adam, after a chat with Quinn, breaks Rachel’s heart and decides not to run away with her. Noooooo!
Since Rachel has form for decimating even people who’ve never done her any harm in the interests of good tv, this seems not so much a bad move as a completely catastrophic one, and so it proves; Quinn enlists Rachel and her fury in the new secret plan (after Madison spilled the beans on the old secret plan) to humiliate and destroy Chet, with the prospect of also humiliating and destroying Adam as some sort of performance-related bonus.
Ouch. If I didn’t love this sharp, intricately-plotted, eye-poppingly cruel finale quite as much as I could have, it’s not a reflection on the episode so much as a reflection on me. More than a little sweet on Adam myself (he didn’t really deserve what he got, did he?), I desperately wanted to see him and Rachel smooch off into the sunset, but that wouldn’t have been true to the spirit of UnReal at all. Yes, it’s built around a TV dating show, but it’s been clear from the first frame of the first episode that romantic love has very little to do with it: the relationship that truly matters is the much more complicated one between the two clever, manipulative, deeply flawed, utterly mesmerising anti-heroines (both Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer have been terrific throughout) at the heart of it all.
Even though I got a bit starry-eyed, then, Unreal never lost sight of what it was about, which was both welcome and refreshing; after what seems like years of me writing angry, disappointed posts about increasing misogyny on tv, here’s (not that I’m the first to point this out) a programme created and run by two women, Marti Noxon and Sarah Shapiro, mostly written by women, revolving around two female characters at the centre of an unapologetically grown-up, provocative, often hilarious, always brutal, never less than compelling story with an abundance of interesting, insightful, genuinely arresting things to say about modern tv. I can’t think of any more ways to say how impressed I’ve been with this first season: the writing, the acting, the characters, all of it. Unreal has been superb.