Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Love binge-watch. From Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 21, A.V. Club contributor Shelby Fero will be watching and reviewing every episode of Netflix’s new romantic comedy. You can watch and comment along with her here, or chime in on the individual episode reviews. For those watching the show at a more moderate pace, reviews by Molly Eichel will run daily starting Monday, February 22.

Rounding out season one of Love, “The End Of The Beginning” is all peaks and valleys: Filled with more punchlines than any other episode, it also delivers the most punches to the gut. Like the pilot, Mickey and Gus spend the bulk of the finale separate. He has his first (and last) taste of working in a writer’s room before being loudly dumped by Heidi, while she spends the day searching for her missing cat and trying not to think about Gus. Love impresses in its ability to consistently find humor in the worst parts of ourselves. Gus can freak out on the writer’s assistant–because she’s not writing down his idea–but still apologizes for almost dropping her computer. When a foul-mouthed stranger is surprisingly helpful to Mickey, she’s quick to thank him and call him an ass. Even Bertie, who finally stands up to Mickey, is too easily cowed and pushed over. Arfin, Rust, and Apatow treat their characters like humans, and humans are good and bad and awful and great. It’s never all or nothing.

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We’ve seen Mickey and Gus make incremental progress as human beings over the course of the season, albeit imperfect progress. The Gus who gets told he says “I love you” too much by girlfriends now grabs at computers and yells “fuck you” when he’s upset. It’s not an acceptable way to express anger, but there’s no denying it’s there. And half the battle is admitting you have a problem (of course, the second whole half is fighting a battle). And when Mickey catches herself lying to Randy about why Gus “totally hates her” after looking at Bertie’s face, it’s only a flash of accountability. But a flash is infinitesimally more than nothing. She progresses from mistakenly accusing Bertie of letting the cat out to manically displacing her emotions onto an employee at the local animal shelter (the always great Betsy Sodaro), to attending her first Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting. She makes a couple of mistakes (like yelling at all those people earlier), but they lead her in the right direction.

There are a couple fumbles in the season close: The SLAA stories run from seemingly-joking to heartfelt, so it’s unclear what to take seriously, and to what degree. Gus’s job being salvaged through a Deus Ex Arya is a little fishy, but her point is valid (“That’s your fault! You made him a writer, why did you do that? He just doesn’t understand the campy quality of the show!”). Arya might be the only one feeling any sort of healthy attachment to people around here.

After a Hellish day on set, Gus sets out for the quickie mart where it all started, as does Mickey, thanks to a post from his Instagram. But when she shows up, she doesn’t lie or try to “bump into” him: She candidly apologizes for not telling him the whole truth, and that she probably needs time to figure her shit out. Mickey doesn’t strike me as a sex and love addict, but pathologically co-dependent, but no matter what exact section of the DSM she’s in, the appropriate response to her announcement is not an open mouth kiss from Gus.

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Ugh, finales, man. Season cliffhangers render opinion or critique impotent, since the rug they’ve told us to stand on at the end of one episode could be pulled out immediately at the start of the next. Gus probably should not kiss Mickey, but it’s not an event so heinous that it can’t possibly be redeemed for me. What if she slaps him away like “What the fuck, dude? Didn’t you just hear what I said?” and they spend the second season learning to care for each other platonically? Huh? That would be ok, right? Trying to nail down a stance on a season finale feels like getting an article with every other word missing and being told to figure out if it’s good news or bad news. It’s like Schrödinger’s Hot Takes: our opinions are both wrong and not wrong until proven conclusively.

So, as a finale, it works. It piques interest in continuing onto the next season, wraps up loose ends in entertaining ways, and neatly demonstrates the strides forwards or backwards the protagonists have made.

Grade: Both the A and F exist until the box is opened

Random Thoughts:

  • Oh I’m gonna need about ten hours to process this, huh?
  • This episode is the funniest episode. In no particular order, enjoy some of my favorite moments.
  • “Dead man walking!” *speaks into shoulder mic* “When he gets in there, say ‘Dead man walking.’”
  • Gus’s meathead friend’s take on the world: “My ex is getting married to a DJ [groan from Gus] I know, that’s so cool. I can’t compete with that.” “I heard they’ll get your name on a star, even.”
  • “Am I a horrible person?” “Compared to me? Yes.”

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