This is a bold statement, possibly on par with Hannah Horvath’s voice of a generation comment, but Netflix’s Love succeeds at something that basically every TV show has tried to capture: a realistic and personal look at falling in love. Season 2 is an accurate look at modern love that skips the ridiculous romantic tropes in favor of unapologetically human moments and will make even the coldest hearts skip a beat. While Season 1 of the show depicted the often complicated politics of first meeting and hooking up, Love Season 2, which hit Netflix on Friday, March 10, finally (and simply) shows two people falling in love.
The love between Mickey and Gus feels natural and not manufactured by Hollywood. It seems real. It brings back the feeling of getting a text from a stranger you want to get to know better, the feeling of vulnerability when sharing new parts of yourself, and like a love song can make you blush with the feeling of sameness, Love brings the same warm fuzzies, because it resonates with real dating experiences.
Season 2 begins just where the Season 1 cliffhanger left off with Gillian Jacobs’ Mickey telling Paul Rust’s Gus that she is a love and sex addict, drug addict, and alcoholic. Though Mickey’s intent is to take a year off from sex and relationships, this confession leads to the pair connecting on a deeper, more intentional level. In order to take the next steps in a relationship, they have to think about the future and their actions. The two deliberately see each other and are honest about their intentions — which is a breath of fresh air compared to the cat-and-mouse game of Season 1.
In the first two episodes of Season 2, Mickey and Gus are still living pretty separate lives and avoiding rushing into sex. Mickey is working on her addictions and going to sex and love addiction meetings. They are trying to make healthy decisions despite the fact that they are attracted to each other, which is where we first get those relatable feelings of falling in love.
Even though Gus and Mickey aren’t having sex, they are beginning to realize how much they enjoy each other’s company. They experience sleeping together without having sex and they start to get glimpses into each other’s private lives, like the fact that Gus has three half-empty bottles of shampoo and only one towel. And, small things start to remind them of each other when they are apart.
When Gus goes to a bar, he has no interest in being there. He is distracted all night, hoping that Mickey will text him out of the blue — something many people who have dated have surely felt. Then Gus sees Little House on the Prairie‘s Michael Landon on the TV and it feels like a sign, because he and Mickey had just talked about this. So, he texts her. And, she feels what we all feel. The thud in our chests when that person you are getting to know texts you just because they are thinking of you.
This all may sound unremarkable. But watching it gave me far more butterflies and giddy flashbacks of similar getting-to-know-you moments than any sappy, orchestrated rom-com ever did. No ridiculous grand gesture — like Darcy tracking Wickham, or Darcy freeing Bridget Jones from a foreign prison — has ever captured this feeling. And no grand speech — like Julia’s to Hugh in Notting Hill or Colin Firth’s (damn, he makes a lot of gestures) broken Portuguese proposal in Love Actually — has ever spoken truer words than the simple text conversation in Love.
So while the romance of Love may be seem ordinary compared to the sweeping gestures of rom-coms, that’s what makes it better. Love may be the one of the most realistic depictions of two people falling for each other ever portrayed on TV. As Mickey and Gus, who often had separate lives and storylines in Season 1, start to fall for each other, their plots begin to reflect this. Just like in real life, their stories start to blend together with shared experiences. Mundane conversations with roommates and staying in together are all part of their shared plots, which are the most realistic aspects of dating that are often skipped on TV.
On most shows — think Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and even The X-Files — the characters are thrown together from the get-go, or the protagonist meets someone a la Sex and the City. But on Love, we finally get to see two separate stories converge into one. And it’s a beautiful, relatable thing. Even if the storyline is as simple as going to the movies or as hilarious as a new group of friends, all thrown together by the burgeoning relationship, taking mushrooms together.
I’d bet that most of the Love audience has gotten flashbacks of shuddering at someone’s touch on a first date or trying to conceal sweaty palms during awkward hand-holding. Its depiction of romance works so well because of it pulls from these real experiences, without excessive hype and drama. The fifth episode of Season 2, “A Day,” is the best example of this, as it uses relatable actions and normal conversations — rather than voiceovers, diary entries, sitcom misunderstandings, or tear-jerking revelations — to show what it feels like to be vulnerable and open yourself up to someone else.
Before she decides to spend that day with Gus, Mickey talks to a fellow sex and love addict about what to do. Her sort-of sponsor explains that the point of the meetings is to learn how to have a healthy relationship, and just because you’re new to the program doesn’t mean you should turn one down. For Mickey, this realization is about addiction. But, I think it can also be applied to other things that people often need to address in their own lives becoming vulnerable. No matter what you’ve been through, it doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve love and with this brief conversation, Love conveys that important message.
Once Mickey decides to spend that day with Gus, we see them having brunch (Gus pays after Mickey jokes about slowly reaching for her wallet), talking about their families, getting their first glimpses at embarrassing habits like the funny face Gus makes when he catches himself in the mirror, and an honest, short conversation about the joy and fear that come when things are new and going so well. As you watch these characters take the leap, you can’t help but feel the same excitement and apprehension. Gus and Mickey are anxious to see where the relationship goes, and so is the Love audience.