UnREAL Recaps S2E3: Clarity

by thethreepennyguignol

This entire episode kicks into gear with a UTI, and it’s just less pleasant from there on out.

Well, no, it starts with Quinn continuing to hook up with Hunky Australian Man-Bun (HAMB), where we left off last week, and manifesting a UTI thanks to their frequent behind-the-scenes fucking as she continues to spiral out. And honestly, I really think UnREAL has made a sharp choice shifting the focus of the show from Rachel to Quinn, not least because Rachel’s plots often seemed to involve stories far more ridiculous and less grounded than Quinn’s, but because Quinn’s self-destruction has always been coming.

When we look back over everything that Quinn has been through over the course of this show, it’s been – yeah, it’s been a massive emotional, professional, and physical clusterfuck. Her show was stolen out from under her by her partner, who pitched it and got all the credit; they engaged in a years-long on/off relationship that ultimately ended as he went to pursue a much younger woman; she met a man willing to start a family with her only to discover her infertility; she had to step in as a pseudo-mother figure for her soulmate/faux-daughter/muse Rachel as Rachel went to pieces; she’s had to deal with the spiralling ratings and reception of the show which she finally seems to actually have some power over. While Rachel has been busy attempting to put herself back together, Quinn has been splintering out in all directions, and we’re finally seeing the impact of that as the hard-drinking, cold-hearted Quinn begins failing to clean up the messes she’s made. Constance Zimmer, as ever, is still just The Utter Fucking Best Thing about this show and maybe all of TV at large – but it’s the impact this spiralling has on the rest of the crew that’s really interesting.

Rachel bears the burnt of it, as she begins by niggling at Quinn by setting up her HAMB with the Suitress, Serena, for a one-on-one date that Quinn has to sit through and then ends up stepping in for her boss and covering for her deepening alcohol problem by firing an innocent crew member supporting an ill family member. It was always only a matter of time before Rachel went to bits once more, but she’s so used to it now it almost seems to bore her (no shade to the performance or development, both of which I really liked the handling of this episode): she monotones through revealing deep personal secrets to a near-stranger and shreds the life of a bystander just to protect Quinn in seconds, as though even she really believed that this time around she wouldn’t have to hit these same marks again. Rachel is still putting up the pretense of being a decent person, just, but Quinn seems to have lost all interest in that altogether and leaves Rachel to pick up those pieces.

For once, neither woman as a significant love interest as part of the show, and that means that this season of UnREAL has them focusing in all their destructive, neurotic energy on each other. The result is fireworks, but the kind that burn down the factory and the entirety of the surrounding town as well, leaving no survivors. I love it. Rachel and Quinn and their implosion of a muse-creator relationship will always be my favourite thing about this show, and this episode is hunkered right in on all of that. There aren’t many things more unpleasant than a UTI (a note for the be-vagina’d amongst us: PEE AFTER SEX), but the way this relationship is going, it just might be.

Elsewhere, Craig Bierko as Chet is once again reminding me why he’s always better pulled back from the dramatic and focused in on the comedic instead. His po-faced, dead-serious interviews about Feminism and Women’s Issues with the rest of the suitors has such a delightfully manic energy to it that it’s easy to paper over the rest of the cracks in this B-plot (notably, anything to do with Jeremy, who, lest we forget, actually fucking murdered two people last season because someone maybe hinted that she didn’t like them, perhaps, if you squinted a little bit and tilted your head sideways). I have been struggling to get really invested in the central plot of this season of Everlasting, but honestly it’s usually good news if the drama off-imaginary-camera is more engaging than what’s on it. I prefer UnREAL to use Everlasting as a delivery system for the juicy takes on mental illness and female success, rather than as a season of The Bachelor where the UnREAL writers get to play with the dolls all by themselves this time around.

So yeah, it’s a strong episode for UnREAL which caps off what has been a surprisingly decent start to this season as a whole. While not perfect, the character work set up in this last few weeks has been a solid move into something new, and I am all the way here for Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer getting to share more screentime and hopefully making up the central conflict for season three. With a third of the show behind us, I’m keen to see where they end up next – and hopefully, this time, it would be knee-deep in an ill-advised racial commentary subplot.

If you liked this recap and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon! You can also check out my other recaps of American Crime StoryRiverdale, and Carrie, if that’s what you’re into.