UnREAL remains well written, wonderfully acted, and wildly entertaining.
UnREALAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer, Craig Bierko, Genevieve Buechner, B.J. Britt, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Josh Kelly, Denee Benton, Meagan Tandy, Monique Ganderton, Monica Barbaro, Christopher Cousins, Michael Rady
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 3 - "Guerilla"
Air date: 2016-06-20
Rachel: We actually have to, like, create the drama on Everlasting. We're curating the story week after week.
Coleman: Right. I just love that you take it so seriously. It's reality TV.
Yael: What are you doing here anyway?
Ruby: What's that supposed to mean?
Yael: I don't know. You just seem too smart for all this.
Ruby: We're all too smart for this.
"Guerilla", the third episode in the second season of UnREAL, focuses on the ways in which some of the more reluctant players, both in front of the Everlasting cameras and behind, start to get more caught up in the drama surrounding them. There's also a significant power shift taking shape as Gary's (Christopher Cousins) new favorite producer, Coleman Wasserman (Michael Rady), is officially in charge.
UnREAL may be interested in exposing the manipulations and deceit inherent in producing a reality television show like Everlasting, but it's equally interested in shining a light on the intelligence and cleverness that’s also at play. Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) are undoubtedly smart and capable, despite the abhorrent behavior they frequently exhibit. Similarly, many of the women taking part as contestants play a cunning game, often by taking on roles that appear demeaning and outdated, yet they do so fully aware of how they come off, again, as loathsome to watch as it can be.
This episode begins with Quinn and Rachel working together as a team, united against Chet (Craig Bierko), yet it ends with Quinn learning that Rachel went to Gary behind her back in a bid to gain control of the show. The impending consequences of that knowledge won't be felt until the next episode, but their already complicated relationship will surely become even more complicated, especially since Rachel has embarked on yet another inappropriate work relationship with Coleman. How Quinn will leverage that bit of news against the two of them will also inevitably come into play over the remainder of the season.
As far as the action unfolding on Everlasting itself, Chet's continued attempts to create a ridiculous male fantasy lead to an obstacle course run by scantily clad contestants, complete with explosions and as much toxic masculinity as possible. Chet's reasons for pushing his version of the show become clearer, as it’s revealed he's lost a custody battle and now has to beg his ex-wife for visitation. It's a bit on the nose, particularly as the episode ends on him kidnapping his own child, but because this is UnREAL, it deserves the benefit of the doubt in exploring Chet's powerlessness and his obviously misguided attempt in his professional life to gain the control he's lost in his personal life.
Because Chet's vision of the show is so diametrically opposed to Quinn and Rachel's vision, Quinn takes the opportunity to show her superiority by taking on a much more hands-on approach than she usually does. She sets her sights on Brandi (Monique Ganderton), and her troubled past, and the tragic death of Chantal's (Meagan Tandy) fiancé.
Uncharacteristically, Quinn shares some of her own past with Brandi to try to get her to open up, but she also doesn't think twice about revealing her knowledge of Brandi's sealed juvenile records and exploiting her fears. She's also grooming Chantal to be a frontrunner, by placing her Brandi's sights at just the wrong moment, creating a victim in Chantal, a villain in Brandi, and scapegoat in Chet. It's one of Quinn's more despicable moments, but it cements her unapologetic approach to getting the results she wants. Zimmer’s excellent at taking Quinn's many reprehensible actions and making them impossible to look away from, uncomfortable though they may be. She's the kind of antihero that men get to be all the time (Walter White, Tony Soprano, Don Draper, etc.), yet women rarely get the opportunity to play, and Zimmer is mesmerizing.
Rachel's burgeoning romance with Coleman was telegraphed in "Insurgent", and fits in perfectly with her self-destructive behavior; it remains to be seen, though, how he interprets their relationship. He's clearly trying to drive a wedge between her and Quinn ("Rachel, you don't need Quinn"), although he can't help but be impressed by Quinn. Coleman is starting to become engaged with the process of making Everlasting, even if he won't admit it just yet. What he doesn't understand is that regardless of any difficulties in Rachel and Quinn's relationship, ultimately, they understand one another in fundamental ways, ways that few others do.
Similar to Coleman, Ruby (Denee Benton) is also getting caught up in Everlasting in spite of herself. She's genuinely beginning to develop feelings for Darius (B.J. Britt), much to Jay's (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) glee, but she's still struggling with how to reconcile sincerely participating in the show with her political views. It's a tricky balance for Ruby to navigate how to behave on the show in a way that doesn't get her dismissed without sacrificing her integrity; it's proving to be messy so far.
Somewhat sidelined this episode was Darius. At one point, Quinn explicitly says that the show is about the women, not the suitor, no matter how it appears. She's right. Darius, however, is beginning to struggle with some of the ways in which he's been asked to interact with the women. On the one hand, he thinks he's in on the plan and a part of it, but on the other hand, he's being manipulated just as much as the women. As the episode ends, Rachel is called by a Darius who seems to be incapacitated in some way, but it's unclear how.
Whatever's revealed next week, UnREAL remains well written, wonderfully acted, and wildly entertaining.