Unlike what some critics are saying about Season 2 of Lifetime’s UnREAL TV series, I’ve been a champion for this sophomore season for a variety of reasons.
For one thing, it had the balls to do what no ABC dating show has ever done (cast an African American as the Bachelor). Second, it’s become a character study of Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) as much as it’s given audiences a glimpse at Everlasting‘s on-screen and behind-the-scenes drama. In fact, what’s depicted on UnREAL often feels more real than anything you’ll ever see on The Bachelor.
But during the most recent episode titled “Ambush,” the series takes a strange, twisted turn down a road that doesn’t necessarily feel natural.
*Stop Reading to Avoid Spoilers*
In the most recent episode, Rachel, ever the stirrer of the drama pot, calls the cops on Darius (B.J. Britt) and Romeo (Gentry White) after they take a car out for a spin with two of the women vying for Darius’s heart. After Rachel reports that the car is stolen, there is a showdown between the cops and Darius, and Romeo ends up getting shot.
If someone would have told me at the beginning of the season that Lifetime’s UnREAL was going to address police violence and Black Lives Matter, I probably would have said, “The same show where the chick took too many pills and jumped off the roof?” UnREAL doesn’t necessarily scream “ripped from the headlines,” and that’s actually a big reason why I watch it. I want drama, but nothing that’s too real (“UnREAL” implies that it’s, you know, not actually real). After all, scripted sudsy dramas like UnREAL are an escape from the tragedy you see on the news.
The cops pulling Darius over just doesn’t fit, as surely at least one of the cops would have recognized the football star. When he tries to tell them who he is, they act like they’ve never seen or heard of him. Meanwhile, the beginning of the season stressed the fact that Hill has been in the headlines for his indiscretions and for saying “Bitch, please” to a reporter. It’s not like he’s a faded athlete – he’s a hot topic. (Plus, one would think that the police and security would be aware that a reality show was filming in the area.)
Plus, thematically, how will the show within the show be able to recover from this? If Romeo dies (please say he doesn’t), Everlasting already has one murder on its record. Are the fictional producers really going to bring it back another season after someone else is killed? If UnREAL is going to aim to do “ripped from the headlines” stories, then it should face the “ripped from the headlines” reality of it. In real life, the show would surely be canceled. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids and Counting haven’t been back on the air since their public turmoil. Two murders on a reality show feels like something that isn’t greenlit for another season.
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter storyline on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was appropriate given that the series has never been a warm and fuzzy look at prison life (except for that lackluster third season). There’s a power structure on the show, and there always has been, between the guards and women, so there’s a deluge of stories to uncover whether it’s about being a woman of color in prison, a Muslim woman in prison—the cultural stories are endless. Here, political topics feel more logical.
But for UnREAL to pull a police-shooting storyline feels like a power play to be a more “legitimate” drama series when it simply doesn’t have to be. The second season development with Darius Hill is interesting enough and already made a bold statement about how white dating shows are. The shooting just feels fabricated and over-the-top, two words usually reserved to describe UnREAL‘s real-life muse.