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Throwback Thursday - UnREAL - Return



Just this week, over the course of 24 hours, Hulu, Amazon and Stan all released the fourth and final season of UnREAL in it's entirety. For some of these outlets, it seemed somewhat spontaneous, with only up to a day's notice to the press that all eight episodes would be available. For Hulu, both the announcement of season four being available to stream and the announcement that this was indeed the final season (as some suspected) came almost simultaneously. Some viewers will definitely have noted that the majority of the show aired on Lifetime first, so it's a little strange that it's Hulu who is the one seemingly yanking the plug at the end of the day.

Personally, season four was a return to form for me. After a critically acclaimed first season, the show lost it's way trying to bank on what they already had and then develop it further. In this case, more was less, as the further out there the writers were pushing the drama and characters, the more the show's quality declined. Some people may not agree with me, but after a disappointing second and third season following the enjoyable first, I think the writers have tried their best to come full circle and deliver in their final season. I'll be sorry to see the show go, but what better way to end a journey, than to revisit how it all began?

There is no other show on television like UnREAL. Sure, you may have your shows with a bit of dramatic cheese like The Royals and Imposters, and sure you may have the actual 'reality' shows that UnREAL so clearly parodies/satirises like The Bachelor and all it's associated spin-offs, but can you tell me there's another show that blends career-driven women with dubious moral compasses at the forefront, the cheese of a 'reality' dating show but also the somewhat realistic behind the scenes drama that goes along with it? I certainly can't think of another show like it (only those that incorporate some elements) and I don't think we'll see one for a while. That's one of the reasons why 'Return' packs such a punch.

Within the first few minutes we're introduced to our main characters - Quinn and Rachel - who are seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum. Quinn appears in control and on top of the world whilst Rachel appears dismayed, dejected and like she'd rather be anywhere else. As this is the pilot, we get out first glimpse at both Rachel's past, and the dynamic and power balance between herself and Quinn. The relationship between Quinn and Rachel is the cornerstone of the entire show and underpins multiple plots through the entirety of the 38 episode run, so it's no surprise that even in this first episode we get to see both ends of their relationship; the caring, protective nature of Quinn towards Rachel and the manipulative, blackmailing side that leaves Rachel in Quinn's debt. It's as though they can't live with each other sometimes, but also can't live without each other (or the show).

UnREAL itself follows the making of Everlasting, essentially The Bachelor where one suitor dates a house full of women and gets rid of them one by one until he hopefully falls for the final girl. I roll my eyes at these type of programs, but so does UnREAL. It knows how manufactured the set up of Everlasting is and it exploits it for all the dramedy it's worth. Adam isn't doing this for love. Quinn and Rachel aren't doing this because they believe in love. It's all for money or exposure, but that doesn't mean that love won't find them if this episode gives any indication by the chemistry between Adam and the girls, Rachel and Jeremy and even Rachel and Adam.

Obviously, as this is the pilot, it's underpinned with introducing the audience to the characters, the setting and what's to come for the rest of the season. One of the big things is the manipulation of everyone in order to produce something worthwhile. Again, absolutely everything is manufactured, so how is it possible to ever have something real? UnREAL shows both sides of this and proves that whilst mostly everything is fake, there are still moments of reality. It's a wild ride, as we see characters yo-yo between different emotions, and just like them we're thrust into a world we did not expect. 'Return' does an excellent job of setting up the depravity that is at the centre of the show, but also the moments of heart that exist there. Even though these characters do terrible things, and manipulation at this point is second nature to them, they're still somehow likeable and the audience still roots for them. It's a testament to great storytelling, acting and writing and it was proven by the awards that were given after the first season's conclusion.

Do you have fond memories of the pilot? Does the episode still hold up for you? Let me know in the comments along with your favourite moments from 'Return' and UnREAL as a whole.

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