“I don’t want a break from you.”
The opening minutes of Love season 2 are utterly perfect. The series subverts and deflates the moment that reduced me to tears in last season’s finale in a way that’s sort of incredible. It acts as a strong, immediate reminder that this ain’t your usual Hollywood love story. If Love’s first season was about Mickey and Gus going about a relationship in the wrong way, then this year is about them doing it right. Just like SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) is about teaching people how to have a healthy relationship, so too is this show.
After finishing this season, it almost feels like this series is better viewed by watching both seasons as a whole. They each tell two very different halves of this story, which is essential to unpacking Mickey, Gus, and Mickey and Gus as a team.
The season’s premiere does a good job at reminding viewers how dysfunctional and toxic Mickey and Gus are together. The show’s mission statement is made clear at the end of last season and reiterated again at the start of this year. Mickey wants to be alone. And yet, these two keep finding themselves with each other. A lot of this season banks off of the greatness of slowly realizing that Mickey and Gus are good for each other after working out all of their baggage from the first season. They simultaneously push each other further to the edge while also pulling each other back.
Love’s second season still has a ton to say about modern dating, but the raw, visceral, gut punch nature of the show’s first year isn’t quite there this time around. Granted, this is to be somewhat suspected after already being familiar with these characters and getting under their skin for a little bit now. It’s still a very strong season that carries the same themes and degree of honesty that were present in its first year; there’s just a little less of a spark now. It’s probably because there are less explosions being set off accordingly. This season—much like a steady relationship—teaches you to take in the quieter moments without losing interest and still staying satisfied.
Love continues to prove this year that it’s still the sort of show that can spend an entire episode simply unpacking an argument and taking the time to properly depict the motions of working it out. This is a show that is entirely satisfied with talking and getting to know characters. You get to learn everything about these people—their go-to snack, what makes them cry during movies, their family tree. Love’s not interested in huge events so much as it is in genuine, honest interactions.
These are characters that you just want to hang out with. It offers up so many moments like sniffing someone’s shirt and savoring tiny pieces of the person that you’re in love with that are so real. This season also gets to shine a lot more light on Mickey’s therapy and support group meetings, which all proves to be rich, powerful material that Gillian Jacobs pulls off exceptionally well.
This season also digs its claws into the painful honesty of Gus and Mickey, who deeply want to be together, but are resisting because they need to better themselves first. These episodes continually juxtapose Mickey and Gus’ lives against one another, illustrating what similar paths they’re leading. Watching them collectively outgrow their friends and start to feel like outsiders when they’re in fact incredibly similar can make for heartbreaking material. The season explores the many trust exercises that relationships put people through, with everyone basically being worried that the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park of our lives are never going to show up.
There’s something so simple and beautiful about slowing things down, and that’s sort of what this season is all about. It highlights the value in taking in those smaller moments and making a meal out of them. The show continually does a great job at building up to these huge emotional moments and then re-framing them in the next episode, which is so much what relationships and real life are like. Hindsight is everything. The season provides so many glimpses of different sorts of weird, fractured relationships with “No Judgments” basically becoming the mantra for the year. Love excels at keeping it a mystery as to whether every hookup that Mickey and Gus experience is a triumph or a devastating backslide, all of which is pretty powerful. I legitimately wanted to see these two together, but also dreaded their closeness all season, because it’s not what they need.
The supporting cast also gets plenty opportunities to steal the spotlight as well, with this season making for a great showcase of the eternal man-child, Randy (Mike Mitchell). This season gets mileage out of exploring a lot of weird combinations of its supporting players, showing how crucial and illuminating simply interacting with other people can be. This season also provides a good dissection of Claudia O’Doherty’s Birdie and the sorts of people who rush into life decisions and don’t realize how poor their choices might actually be.
As Love’s second season really dissects Mickey and Gus’ relationship, it’s kind of incredible to watch these two fall into typical patterns or, better yet, when they rise above them. When these kids prove that they’ve actually learned something about love, I couldn’t have been happier. While there is a very “one step forward, two steps back” approach to Gus and Mickey’s progress, some poignant ideas are brought up on what is sustainable and healthy in love. Something that’s going well sometimes just means that it’s taking longer for the messiness to kick in. Mickey and Gus work through their damage, but it feels like cracks are starting to show in them. Something is changing within their dynamic. Love’s second season is arguably a richer show than its first was, but just like Mickey is less interested in those that she gets closer with, the show also feels a little more comfortable with itself rather than the frightening feeling often felt during its first year.
Love is a show that’s just so damn easy and human to consume. The season still ends on a contemplative note, even if it is a more of an affirmative one. Gus and Mickey are further along than they were at this point in the first season, but their story and development is far from over. And with these two, hitting one extreme probably means that the other one isn’t that far behind. Watch this show with someone you love, or someone you hate, and I guarantee that you’ll learn something about each other in the process. If a show can do that, it’s definitely doing something right.
Love’s entire second season begins streaming on March 10 exclusively on Netflix
This review is based on all twelve half-hour episodes of Love season 2.