A year after its first season earned a certified “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with an 88 percent approval, Judd Apatow and Paul Rust’s Netflix brainchild “Love” returned for a 12-episode second season Friday.
Just like its place in the show’s chronology, this season comes off as slightly sophomoric, despite great performances from Juilliard-trained Gillian Jacobs and veteran comedy writer Rust.
The first episode picks up right where the previous season left off — in a gas station parking lot. Any and all romantic undertones left hanging in the season finale are dashed as Mickey repeats to Gus that she isn’t emotionally ready to be in a relationship, making for a rather awkward drive around the streets of Los Angeles that viewers assumed would be far happier, given season one’s finale.
The duo ends up at Mickey’s chic home in Silver Lake as Bertie, Mickey’s roommate, played by the always delightful Claudia O’Doherty, pretends to not have just been overheard having loud sex with Gus’s friend, Randy.
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This is perhaps the funniest scene, and the only scene, in which Gus and Mickey are not the center of attention in the 27 minute episode.
After the two share some clunky, expository dialogue over fish tacos, the episode then shifts focus to a felon on the run after a car chase ends abruptly at Gus’s apartment complex. The area goes on lockdown and Gus reintroduces Mickey to his group of weird, naive but lovable cronies in the rather banal storyline that follows.
As they’re falling asleep at the episode’s conclusion, Mickey says, “If there was a time to kiss me, it would be now.” But nothing happens.
It is this rather anti-climactic plot arc, paired with rather vapid dialogue that ultimately keeps a good show like “Love” from being a great show.
Much like other Apatow productions, much of the series consists of privileged people discussing their problems, however small, in the wake of something dramatic that just happened, and before something even more dramatic is about to transpire.
But this is nothing new, unfortunately, as representations of anyone who is not white and upper-middle class continue to be few and far between.
Though the first episode ends on a rather casual low note, the plot of season two is markedly more interesting than the first.
Gus and Mickey experience big changes in their lines of work, bringing in supporting characters played by David Spade and “Saturday Night Live” writer Paula Pell for some solid laughs as workplace buddies. Bertie ends her first meaningful relationship (and hilariously swipes right to every guy on Tinder immediately after), and Mickey briefly dates her former flame, Dustin (Rich Sommer, “Mad Men”).
What makes “Love” a show that comes with an on-again off-again relationship for audiences is its knack for making two self-absorbed, unlikeable Angelenos interested in each other, but in a poignant, honest way that makes it easy to forgive their character flaws.
The at times insufferable traits that define Gus and Mickey may be gaping, but not unfamiliar. Mickey’s story of recovery from alcoholism and sex and love addiction adds a degree of depth other shows do not have.
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Mickey and Gus go from being blissfully in love to engaging in a full-blown confrontation in almost each episode. Each situation brings out their best and worst; to say the relationship depiction isn’t realistically complex would be a lie.
At its core, “Love” is a show that uses its broad title to explore relationships from both male and female perspectives. The writing, albeit pretty funny and rife with references to Warren Beatty and “Little House on the Prairie,” may inhibit it from going above and beyond what we’ve already seen in shows about relationships.
The soothing chemistry between Gus and Mickey is reassuring as they navigate the uncertainties of adulthood and intimacy, making it a show worth watching, with its crisp, colorful establishing shots of Los Angeles notwithstanding.