(Photo: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix)

Time moves slowly on Love. Though we have spent a season and about a half with these characters, we’ve really only just dropped in on their lives. We’ve gotten to know Mickey and Gus, but they don’t really know each other that well. Case in point: The events of A Day, a mild but lovely episode that pauses for some sweetness as it charts the pair on a nearly perfect day-long date.

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It says a lot about the series’ approach to drawing its two leads together that it has taken this long to get to this kind of episode. Looking’s similarly framed “Looking For The Future,” in which its central couple chats and wanders around San Francisco, came in the middle of its first season. With Love there’s so much more baggage attached to this extended hang session.

A Day is full of Mickey and Gus learning little things about one another. Mickey notices Gus’ “mirror face,” when he’s driving. He tells her how he used to memorize what films were produced by which studios when he was a kid. They swap stories about their families. Mickey had a relatively affluent upbringing before her dad lost his job; Gus’ family was middle class. When they go see a movie they discover that Gus cries at movies about fathers and sons, and Mickey will get weepy over characters that face death with dignity. Most of it is just chit chat, but it’s evidence that they are letting each other into their lives in a way that’s more than just superficial.

Mickey is still far more withholding than Gus. Even when she asks him what the worst thing he’s ever done is, and he tells her a gross story involving shitting in his own hand at a party, she won’t share her equivalent tale. And yet in some ways it feels like we’re seeing more of Mickey than we ever have before. All these little factoids about Gus are things we would expect from him, but Gillian Jacobs lets a new shade of vulnerability sheep into her performance. You can both see how guarded Mickey is, but also how infatuated she is becoming.

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As Gus willingly reveals his past, Mickey’s ambushes her when she runs into her ex Dustin as she waits for Gus outside a bathroom. The first time we met Dustin he was heartbroken, hostile, and rude, so Mickey was right to brace for the worst. But he doesn’t want to start a fight, instead he just wants to apologize for his behavior—specifically for calling her a “whore” at her friend’s party. Their run-in is ultimately pleasant, and dissolves into sweet reminiscence as they look at pictures of the dog they once shared. It’s all very diplomatic. Mickey later describes the situation to Gus, admitting that she did cheat on Dustin, but insisting that she would never do that to him. She qualifies her actions with excuses, and concludes: ”I’m happy that I did. Because if I were with Dustin now then I wouldn’t be here with you.” It’s an odd statement, and Mickey’s lack of contrition is vaguely troubling. But Gus accepts it face-value.

The rest of the day—save for the poop story—is idyllic. They wander around Venice, go to the beach, and then head back to Mickey’s where they have passionate sex. Before Gus heads home, Mickey confesses that she likes him and he echoes the sentiment. That’s a long way off from the emotion in the title, but it’s the most solidly romantic moment the show has had. It’s happiness that’s bound not to last, and I’d venture to say there’s even something off-kilter about the coda. Mickey tells Gus he can text her whenever he wants. So as soon as he leaves he does just that, bombarding her with messages. She smiles, lost in the haze of the date, but take a step back and its unnerving. They are now all-in and it’s already intense.

Stray Observations

  • Mickey is careful not to refer to Gus as her “boyfriend.” She may be starting to like him more and more but that’s still a bridge too far.
  • Gus called his hand poop “Doody Garland.”
  • This episode accurately conveys how L.A. beaches are often freezing.
  • There’s a gorgeous shot as they pull away from the movie theater of a large Jesus mural looking over them. I wouldn’t venture to read symbolic value into it, but it sure looks great.
  • Please let us have the prequel series of Mickey interacting with the stars of The Hills during her early L.A. days. A taste: “Not when Justin Bobby shows up at your house in the middle of the night crying because he’s the only one who wasn’t included in the spread in Teen Vogue.”

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