What Nobody Understands About The Quinn/Rachel Dynamic On UnReal

Photo: Courtesy of A+E Networks.
In the season finale of UnReal, Quinn snarls with jealousy as she watches the suitor of her reality TV show walk off into an astonishingly real happily-ever-after moment. “True love?" she says, looking shocked. "Who gets that?”

But if there’s one thing season 2 of UnReal has taught us, it’s that Quinn actually does get that: She has it with her protégée-producer, Rachel. It just doesn’t come in a package she, Rachel, or we in the audience are trained to recognize. I’ll admit it: When I first started watching UnReal, I was a major Quinn/Rachel shipper. What can I say? Those two have amazing chemistry.

And hey, a queer girl can dream. But with each new episode it became increasingly clear that no sexual relationship was evolving between them. I was bummed, though not for long: A way more interesting flavor of romance was rising to the surface. Not sexual — intellectual. Because the thing about these women is that they’re too smart for their own good. Quinn, the creator of uber-successful Everlasting, is a master of human psychology who can manipulate anyone into an emotional pretzel. And Rachel can go from making a contestant shit her pants to discussing feminist theory in five seconds flat.

They’re crazy intelligent. But that doesn’t win them as much power as it should on set, because the TV industry is an old boys’ club that rewards dick size more than it does brain cells. Since there’s not a lot of room for women at the top, Quinn and Rachel keep falling into the competitive-female-friends-fighting-for-oxygen trap that we know all too well.

But the same thing that makes them competitors also makes them almost unbearably precious to each other: No matter how much they fight and backstab and verbally slit each other’s throats, they love each other to death because they’re each other's only equals. Quinn knows that Rachel is the only person who can keep up with her, so she’s desperate to keep her close — and vice versa. These women walk around through their jobs and their lives carrying a deep intellectual loneliness. If they didn’t have one another, that solitude would be crushing. This is what makes Quinn and Rachel (platonically) in love with each other. It’s what makes them jealous of any dude who tries to break that bond; hence Quinn sabotaging Rachel’s relationships with Adam and Jeremy and Coleman, and Rachel getting jealous of Quinn’s boy toys, Chet and Booth.

It’s actually amazing how many TV critics refuse to see things through this lens of female friend-desire, and how many weird theories emerge as a result. Here’s how the A.V. Club recapped last week’s episode: “Quinn can’t have kids (but did Rachel’s suspicious looks in the viewing room mean that she had something to do with the phone call from the doctor?).”

Um, what? Those “suspicious looks” were obviously eye-daggers of jealous hate directed at Booth, who was in the viewing room standing annoyingly close to Quinn, WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BELONG TO RACHEL, DAMN IT. All of season 2 has been about Rachel and Quinn trying to define this strange thing between them. A couple episodes back, Rachel even says to Quinn, “You’re, like, obsessed with me. You need to get over me.” Electrifyingly, Quinn plainly declines. As in: Nope, I refuse to break up with you."

By the end of the next episode, Quinn is getting even more direct as she screams in Rachel’s face, “I love you! I love you! You’re fired!” In an ultimate act of self-sacrifice, she’s finally ready to let Rachel go, even though it’ll be hella lonely on set without her.

It’s a proclamation that shows how far Quinn has come from the end of the first season, when a teary Rachel, splayed on a lawn chair, tells her: “I love you. You know that, right?” Lounging beside her, Quinn averted her eyes before replying: “I love you, too, weirdo.”

Now, Quinn doesn’t need to look away from that love anymore and doesn’t need to make a joke of it. She’s willing to stare it right in the eyes — and fight for it. But there are some fights even Quinn can’t win.

Although she and Rachel do their best to stop Coleman from going to the press to air Everlasting’s dirty laundry, he gets away in a car with disgruntled contestant/undercover reporter Yael. But just as Quinn and Rachel accept defeat, Rachel’s ex Jeremy comes in with a crazy confession (and a crazy beard to match). He’s run Coleman and Yael off the road. Rachel and Quinn won’t go to jail after all.

Not that I condone Jeremy going berserk and actually murdering two human people (murder is bad, you guys). But I’m really glad my girls got off the hook.

In a final scene that perfectly mirrors the last episode of the sophomore season (writer-goddess Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, we see what you did there), Rachel and Quinn are lounging on those lawn chairs again. Only this time, their men — Jeremy and Chet — have literally come in between them, chilling on their own lawn chairs between the two women. This physical arrangement accentuates the season's premise: The men are just filler. Over their heads, Rachel and Quinn exchange a searing look; they're only truly interested in each other.

I miss their babely brainlust already.
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