“Back In Town” makes an interesting choice that I’m not sure I’m all for the final episode of the second season. The show has already been renewed for a third season, so it’s not like we’re left hanging, but instead of focusing on Gus and Mickey, the show expands its world to include Rich Sommer’s Dustin. “Back In Town” begins and ends with him, and creating an obstacle for Mickey and Gus’ love that’s ostensibly external, rather than internal, but just features
The episode begins with Dustin talking to therapist. It’s supposed to be this moment of self-actualization for him, he wants to live a new grown-up life, and wants Mickey by his side to do so. But life moves fast while you’re making other plans, and other cliches, not to mention Mickey’s gigantic issues about intimacy and closeness. So while Dustin has a life planned out for himself, he never bothers to check if Mickey feels the same way. Romantic comedies, though, are all about perspective, though, as Love has taught us all along. Look at it one way and they’re about two people falling in love. Look at it another and it’s about horrifically dysfunctional relationships. Look at it another way and you see the person left behind. Dustin seems himself so clearly as the person who wants to save Mickey from the terrible decision of a boring life. He can give her love and excitement, while Gus can only give her made-up theme songs and nights on the couch. “This is the story we’re going to tell our kids. Your mom was dating a loser, and I chased after her. … You want someone who is going to fight for you,” Dustin says to Mickey after he creepily stalks her and Gus through the farmer’s market back to Gus’ apartment. From one perspective, Gus is the Baxter. From the other, Dustin is a major fucking creep.
And that’s what Dustin was in the episode. He calls Mickey a whore, but still ultimately wants her, texting her and entering her home without permission in order to use Bertie’s phone. He stalks her back to Gus’ places and puts her in a threatening position. I’ve actually liked this season of Love more than the first because it’s a little more on the nose, which I clearly don’t think is a bad thing. It’s messaging is more simple, and I think that works for Mickey and Gus, while it doesn’t work for Dustin in this episode. He’s cartoonishly evil, the way he follows Mickey and Gus around. His actions are outsized and ridiculous, and they have to be to get this message across that the supposed savior isn’t necessarily the hero. Sometimes, he’s just a savior in his own mind. You don’t know what you want, he tells Mickey. And that’s true, she might not. She just doesn’t want him. But the intensity with which her pursued Mickey felt a little too big for the show that works better when it’s smaller.
(Case in point, re: smaller: I’ve enjoyed Bertie and Mickey’s growing friendship. I loved their dialogue on the couch where they talk about the bad relationship experiences that they can’t seem to extricate themselves from. “”They say you go back to painful situations because they’re comfortable and familiar,” Mickey says. “I hear that. Sometimes when I’m in pain, I’m like, ‘Hello old friend,’” Bertie replies. “Yeah, I’m very comfortable with pain,” Mickey says. “It’s the happy part I’m not used to.”)
Despite Dustin, Gus is back in LA, and Mickey is interested again, perhaps because she genuinely likes him, and perhaps because she wants an excuse to flee from Dustin (a wiser decision than perhaps was apparent before). They’re sweet to each other, and seem to actually like each other, even making progress with each other. But it’s all sort of sullied of by Dustin, who looms so large over this episode. Like the first season, the second season of Love ends with a kiss, but it is a kiss tainted by circumstance. In the first season, the kiss came after Mickey admitted that the last thing she should be doing is kissing Gus. Now, the kiss and Mickey’s preceding declaration of a desire for a relationship with Gus are more to cover her own ass, to distract as soon as her latest mistake slinks away. Gus is none-the-wiser. Gus has not learned, Mickey has not learned. They’re still the damaged people they were scant months ago when they started their relationship, except now they know each other better.
As I said above, I liked this season of Love more than the first one. It was consistently more even and I appreciated the toned down characters. During the first season, it became hard to want to spend time with people these because they were a little too heinous, especially in the season’s second half. But as their relationship evolved, Gus and Mickey got to be sweeter, and nicer to each other, counterbalancing the fact they are still generally horrible people to each other, to themselves and others. But the show retained its core in the sense that while they were considerably nicer to each other during the second season, it’s still not clear whether they should actually be with each other. And that’s what makes Love interesting.
My favorite running gag through the whole series is Bertie’s inability to finish a cup of yogurt.
Thanks for hanging with Erik, Esther and me this season! Until the next!