Spoilers for Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle ahead.
Too Hot to Handle came to us at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. It was gloriously-timed content for an audience that was still too scared to even take trips to the supermarket, much less go out into the world for a date with a total stranger. While some of us were just barely beginning to make good on our recycled new year’s resolution to give dating another try, the hot-blooded contestants on the new hit Netflix show were diving head first into the dating pool with one intention only: getting laid. Two seasons later, the show still has sex (or a lack thereof) on the brain, and it’s somehow gotten even wilder.
The Netflix original premiered in early 2020, introducing a group of sex-loving singles flying to Turks & Caicos for what they believed would be a wet, hot summer only to find out that their orgies and one night stands were literally finable offenses. At the retreat, all sexual activity was off-limits, with each infraction subtracting thousands of dollars from the collective pot of $100,000 (£74,000).
In the latest installment of the show, which dropped this week, a new group of contestants heads to an obviously fake show called Pleasure Island to live out the holiday of their dreams. Unfortunately, Lana the Sex Police meets them there and puts a stop to the shenanigans before they can even begin. With a starting fund of $200,000 (£148,000) and even more expensive penalties per act, the stakes of this season are the highest they’ve ever been. However, if you’ve seen even one episode of Too Hot to Handle, you know that not even the prospect of losing the hundreds of thousands of dollars can stop a hot girl summer. And this cohort of horndogs takes the cake. I didn’t think it was possible, but Netflix has truly outdone itself by rounding some of the horniest people in the world right now and putting them in one place. Simply put, these contestants do not give a damn.
We watched a lot of drama unfold over the course of the second season and long after it, but season 3 kicks off with pure mess, and, as usual, we can thank the more melanated guests at the retreat for keeping us entertained. Within hours of arriving on the island, we already have our first love triangle. For Izzy, a confident Brit with an affinity for high ponytails, it’s
love lust at first sight when Houstonian and basketball player Truth (real name Robert) steps into the scene. Truth also has his eyes on Jaz, a queen from Virginia Beach who admittedly is a sucker for bad boys with tattoos and commitment issues. Not involved in this particular dynamic but just as dramatic is Nathan, the Cape Town playboy standing at a particularly impressive 6 foot, 4 inches who finds himself the star of the show as new arrivals attempt to turn his head. In the days that follow, even more drama ensues as other thirsty singles land on the beach, further depleting the already abysmal prize pot. Suffice to say, Too Hot to Handle is pure unadulterated chaos — just the way we like it.
Netflix projects have famously been criticised for both their casting and marketing tactics across the board, but the streamer’s reality sector does seem to have taken notes; four Black people in the starting lineup is a significant improvement over the course of Too Hot to Handle’s run. This isn’t to give Netflix cookies for doing what it’s supposed to do by casting Black people. The real test is whether casting directors are 1) recruiting singles that are actually attracted to Black people in order to give them a fair shake at finding love, and 2) giving Black contestants the screen time they deserve while appearing on the show. After observing its audience’s clear interest in Black contestants like Rhonda Paul (season one), Melinda Melrose (season two), and Marvin Anthony (season 2), it only makes sense for Netflix to be more intentional about inclusivity on projects like this, especially since other mainstream efforts to diversify the reality show genre have been mostly surface-level.
Shows like Too Hot to Handle can only benefit from more inclusive casting in the future because they have the potential to cast a wider net of viewers. Even on a show that makes you shout at your television — y’all really can’t abstain from kissing when there’s $200,000 on the line?! — representation does matter because everybody likes mess. So yeah, we should all be able to imagine how we would do things differently at Lana’s abstinence retreat. (Because I would. I really would.)
Season three of Too Hot to Handle is now available for streaming, only on Netflix.