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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

UnREAL wraps up an uneven and confused season 3

Illustration for article titled UnREAL wraps up an uneven and confused season 3
Photo: Bettina Strauss (Lifetime)

At the end of this UnREAL season, we have to wonder what the point of all this was. Was it to portray husband-hunter Serena as the ultimate feminist at the end? To show how close Quinn was to losing everything? Or to highlight the near-supernatural Jedi mind tricks of one Rachel Goldberg, able to manipulate anyone within a matter of moments?


I get that Rachel is persuasive, and it’s been fun in past seasons to watch her pull some strings and weave her little webs. But these two episodes were straight-up ridiculous. She’s able to puppet Jeremy (again) into doing exactly what she wants, down to showing Owen his tape of August. But convincing Crystal to propose to Chet on live television, in a wedding gown, no less? And getting Serena to ditch the whole idea of choosing one of the guys—the reason she came on the show, her main goal for all of these weeks—in about five minutes? And what is Rachel’s reasoning for doing so? Because it’s just fun manipulating people?

Serena’s farewell to Rachel is the best she’s been all season, even though it hardly holds up against the “friendship” speech she trots out at the end of the elimination ceremony. She told Rachel that she wants to hire her because of her skill at manipulating people, so she ought to be able to tell when she’s getting played. In all honesty, Serena did appear to have so little connection to either Owen or Jasper that it seems possible that Rachel’s twisted heart was in the right place when she pulled out her classic mind tricks. But it’s delicious irony when Rachel’s manipulations cost her that ticket out of Everlasting, as Serena blows her off. Rachel began the season face down in the water; she ends it lying on her back on the porch of her cabin, once again, far away from Everlasting.

Also in the making little sense category: Dr. Simon’s true colors emerge. He almost had a good reason for putting that camera in Rachel’s truck when she brought her dad on set but yes, he crossed a line and just kept crossing it. Inconsistently, he turned down Rachel’s advances last week, then creepily says she’s the only woman he wants to be with, and dangerously dangles that Jeremy double-murder in front of her. It makes little sense, but what’s worse, Dr. Simon is a major loose end at the end of the season, yet another person who knows that that fatal car accident wasn’t an accident. Dr. Simon, go stand against the wall with Jeremy and Chet please, thank you.

Other loose ends: Jay’s still bitchy and hurt, Jeremy at least mentions the murders (“I killed two people, Rachel. For you… You made me a murderer.” Thank you!) then (please god, let this be true) supposedly drives off the set for good. You know, just mentioning the murders isn’t the same as actually dealing with them, show. It still bugs that this whole season went by without any comeuppance for the act that ended season two.

And Quinn and Chet get back together: yawn. I guess the attraction is supposed to be that Chet loves her for who she really is, her power grabs and fierce takedowns. But what’s in it for her, knowing what a mess this guy has ben, especially in previous seasons? An in-camera declaration of love? I guess so, but it just seems like convenience more than anything.


No, as usual, this season of UnREAL revolved around not the Suitor or Suitress but Rachel, coming to grips with her past, her parents, and then having no idea what to do with that newfound freedom except try to hook up with crew guy Dan. It’s like she’s truly trying to make (painful) friendship overtures, but in the end only knows how to communicate through sex. She tries to break away from Quinn, the only person who ever tells her that she’s worth a damn, usually at an extremely advantageous moment, but of course, gets sucked back into the dysfunctional hellscape that is Everlasting. For all her essential honesty or whatever the hell she was preaching at the beginning of the season, we once again have seen her turn it all around again.

These seasons of UnREAL are getting annoyingly cyclical. This one, I guess, is ending on a high girl-power moment, taking Gary down in a massive sexual harassment suit and putting Quinn’s backstabbing pal Fiona in charge of the network. Even Serena pulling a Kelly Taylor “I choose me,” as contrived as it was, was a refreshing message for not settling, and showing that Serena was going to have plenty of options even after turning down two proposals in a single night (And why would they propose? Were they really that into her? Where did they get rings on set? So many questions.) Still, that anticlimactic ending falls extremely short of the explosive emotional fireworks in UnREAL’s season one finale, for example. Why pull in Serena’s obviously volatile relationship with her own parents, for example, and have that go absolutely nowhere?


And yet: Then there’s that teaser for season four, in which Rachel apparently gives up everything again next season (so long, cabin) and just becomes the Suitress for an Everlasting All-Star season. Even the few moments they showed looked absolutely insane (looks like Alexi and August are back): Quinn with a baby (I assume that’s Chet’s kid)? Rachel even more manic than usual? Given the tepid response this season seemed to get, I am assuming that season four will be the final one to go out on. But what a way to go. See you then.

Season three finale grade: C

Season three grade: C+

Stray observations

  • “You’re just way off-base about me and intimacy, dude.” Rachel’s various attempts to make friends with people are both boring and embarrassing. And all of a sudden she and Serena are chummy like girlfriends?
  • Quinn: “I hate Graham.” Wrong, I love Graham: “What’s the announcement, is it about me?” “Yeah.”
  • Jay, you did not break up with Xavier for Alexi, for god’s sake.
  • Again, Quinn’s dresses were pretty amazing, both the gala gown and the blue off-the-shoulder one for the finale. Unfortunately, Rachel’s gala wear was some kind of goth Lizzie Borden (nice bow) with scraggly broomstick hair.
  • Why was Madison bussing tables? Don’t they have staff for that?
  • The Chet Wilson School Of Reality Television Studies, really? What is there to study?
  • Jeremy: “I can’t believe I fell for it again.” Oh, we all can, Jeremy.
  • Can’t help but feel bad for how messed up little Riley is going to be after all of this.
  • “I’d rather be alone forever than be with you.” Honestly, I’ve never liked Jeremy more.
  • Man, I hope Dr. Simon doesn’t show up as some crazy blackmailing set stalker next season, but I’m pretttttty sure that’s what’s going to happen. (Update: This EW interview with the UnREAL showrunner tells me I’m wrong, so…)
  • And, that’s a wrap on UnREAL season three. Thanks so much for reading. Did you think this season worked? Or not? Let us know in the comments!

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.