At a recent preview screening of the second season of Netflix's Love, Judd Apatow admitted that the working title of this series was "Trainwreck." That title was appropriated for Amy Schumer's 2015 film, but it's an apt name for show. Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) are not a good match. For some reason, though, they're still trying to form a relationship between the two, and it's the trainwreck of emotions that follow that make this show so intoxicating. You're not watching because you hope something incredible happens — you're watching because you know something terrible will. We viewers are just rubbernecking our way through the series, hoping to see the ramifications of this relationship.
It's not all screeching tires and burning rubber. There's something noble about these two characters pursuing each other despite all signs that they shouldn't. Their inexplicable interest in each other redeems their flaws. Gus is all judgement and prejudice. Mickey is prickly and self-destructive. Together, they bicker. But they don't seem to want to be apart.
The second season explores the autumn of a relationship — Mickey and Gus, despite their promise to stay away from one another, begin to date. There are real relationship moments. Parents enter the picture. They meet each other's co-workers. They attempt to maintain a relationship over long distance. At every step of the way, there's a potential trainwreck.
At the end of season 1 of Love, our two antagonists (for that’s what they are in this moral mudpile of a series) had just enjoyed a kiss and a few confessions. Season 2 takes us back to that moment so we can relive its horror. No matter how many times I see Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) land a wet one on Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs) after her admission that she’s a drug addict, I’m still going to be — mildly — freaked out. Sadly, the move is totally in-character for Gus. In this show, the good guy is difficult to discern, and it became clear sometime last season that Gus is not, in fact, a good guy. The show does away with that character altogether.
“I am an addict. I’m a drug addict, and an alcoholic, and a sex and love addict,” Mickey tells him in the gas station parking lot. (This isn’t new. It happened last season, too, but you’ve got to live through it again, unfortunately.) She then says she’d like to be single for a year. After that, hey, maybe these two can try to work things out. Gus must not have heard her because — I’ll say it again — he kisses her.
After some kissing and caressing, Mickey says, “No! I just told you I needed to be alone.” And there you have it, friends: This is exactly how these two will interact for the remainder of the series. Gus says, “No, thank you.” Mickey comes crawling. Gus comes kissing. And Mickey gets grouchy. (And we’re captive in a carousel of life.)
Subsequently, the two return to Mickey’s house. Love is a bit like a horror movie in that you’re always anticipating disaster. Like, what could possibly go right at Mickey’s house? Of course, we keep watching because we want desperately for something to go right.
Then something does go right: Bertie returns. The chipper Aussie roommate, played by Claudia O’Doherty, has always functioned as a voice of reason — sort of — for these weirdos. She’s busy with Randy (Mike Mitchell), the oblivious and jobless friend of Gus’s.
“I was just watching a Ted Talk,” Bertie tells Mickey. “About city infrastructure.” (She was definitively having sex with Randy.)
Wary of roommate coitus, Gus and Mickey retreat to his place. As luck would have it, Mickey gets stranded at the sprawling apartment complex. If you’ll recall from season 1, Gus lives in the Springwood apartments, a complex full of Los Angeles dreamers. When they return there, the complex is immediately placed on lockdown. How convenient! A convict on the loose keeps Mickey near Gus for the remainder of the episode.Trapped inside the complex, the two start to reconsider each other. (An alternative title for this series: Reconsidering The Person You Shouldn’t Be Dating.) Together, the two hatch a plan to help Mickey escape the heavily policed complex. When Mickey makes a run for it, she’s forced to save Gus, who ends up in a scuffle with the police. And here we are again: Mickey’s saving Gus. This series has always done a nice job of inverting the relationship standbys. Usually, it's Gus saving Mickey, or trying at the very least. In the end, the lockdown forces Mickey to stay at Gus’s, forcing more interaction between the two.
“If we were gonna kiss, it would be right now,” Mickey tells Gus in bed. They're lying prone, facing one another. Like I said, it’s the anticipation of disaster that keeps you on edge.
The universe, it seems, is determined to force these two to fall in love.
And we’re right back where we ended: In bed with Mickey and Gus. They exchange standard morning-after banter. (“I had a dream that I killed Osama Bin Laden,” Gus grumbles. It’s a very Apatow-esque non-sequitur.) At some point in this exchange, it is revealed that Gus only owns one towel. Also present in this episode: Michael Landon and Rachel Maddow, both there as recurring pop culture references. Gus claims he looks like Landon, the star of Little House On The Prairie, and Maddow, the popular MSNBC commentator.
At Mickey’s departure, Gus says by way of congratulations, “Hey! We didn’t fuck!” This is the Love version of Chekhov's gun. As soon as he says it, it’s obvious that the episode won’t finish without, well, a couple of other finishes. The two agree not to text each other for a week. Again, my crystal ball hollered that this wouldn’t happen.
With that hanging over their heads, Gus and Mickey go about their respective lives. Mickey sours at a neighbor’s dinner party. Gus enjoys a night at a bar with friends. (Another pop culture touchstone of the episode is Die Hard. The show uses the Bruce Willis movie nicely, which is a thing I thought I’d never write.) Gus’s pack of friends is always an enjoyable crowd, but in this episode they exist only in stark contrast to Mickey. They’re jocular fellows, but they’re not complicated women with abandonment issues. He rejects the advances of a friendly girl is cat-eye glasses and looks for any opportunity to talk to Mickey. On the other side of town, Mickey’s stuck as a seventh wheel at her neighbor Sid’s (Kerri Kenny). When the dinner party goes down in flames, courtesy of Mickey Dobbs, She Who Wreaks Havoc takes her leave.
This is when Michael Landon makes his second appearance. Gus catches a glimpse of him on a television and immediately texts his erstwhile ladylove.
“This is an emergency,” he writes. It’s not an emergency — it’s Michael Landon. The exchange is a demonstration of the two’s growing affection. And, shucks, I’ll admit it: These two are cute. In the texting era, these sorts of interplays — “I saw this thing on a television and it reminded me of you!” — amount to pure romantic poetry. Landon serves as a touchstone for the two, a love language, if you will. Gus just wants an excuse to text Mickey. Mickey just wants Gus to text her. By the end of the episode, which spans only a day, they’re eating Korean barbecue together while The Avett Brothers play in the background.
The episode as a whole makes a case for this ragtag couple. The premise of the show has always seemed to be that these two don’t belong together. The thrill of it all is that we’re watching an emotional car crash happen in slow motion. But then there are episodes like this that lead us to believe these crazy kids could make it after all.
So, when they’re embroiled in backseat coitus at the end of the half hour, it’s satisfying.
I’m noticing a trend. These episodes tend begin with the aftershocks of emotional vulnerability. We’ve seen the moment after the kiss, the morning after moment, and now, we’ve got to sit through post-coital car talk.
“I’m guessing you’re not a real ‘sex in public’ guy,” Mickey tells Gus. No, sirree. Later, in his own car, Gus mutters to himself, “You’re an asshole.” Was it an asshole move to sleep with a sex and love addict in her own car? Eh. In this series, it's tough to say.
The third episode expands into the Love universe, something that’s been missing as of yet. One thing that Judd Apatow does exceptionally well is populate his work with the most satisfying blend of oddities. In episode 3, Gus returns to his workplace: the show Witchita, a metaphor of sorts for any show on The CW. He’s a tutor there for Arya (Iris Apatow), a young star. Usually, this setting is the perfect place to make Gus look pathetic. Season 2 Gus is a better Gus, though. Instead, his co-workers look pathetic. The show shoots the episode Gus co-wrote, which involves a complicated stunt. A set mishap causes the stunt guy to fall and break his collarbone. Last season, this might have incited panic in our anxious hero, but Gus manages to ride it out smoothly.
Gus’s boss Susan Cheryl (Tracie Thoms) makes an awkward pass at our antagonist, and — to my immense surprise — he says no. Last season, Gus found himself entangled with Heidi (Briga Heelan), an actress on the show, swept up in her Hollywood status. But new Gus says no to Susan, seemingly without judgement.
“I’m sorry, but I’m involved with someone right now,” Gus says. He’s talking about Mickey.
On the Mickey side, we’re back at the radio station, where her co-worker Truman (Bobby Lee) is MIA. Like Gus, Mickey’s in a new place. Instead of tossing Truman to the wolves — or her boss, played by SNL’s legendary Paula Pell — Mickey goes on a mission to find her wayward co-worker. It’s a slapstick storyline, and one of the more absurd moments of the show so far. In her mission to save Truman, Mickey breaks into an apartment, gets threatened by a female wrestler, and skids out of a parking lot in the middle of a car chase. Truman, it turns out, is a liar and a bit of a disaster. Mickey, wearing a boxy blazer and a can-do attitude, seems to have her ish together in comparison. But her most magnanimous move is when she forgives Truman for all his deceptive capers.
“It’s all good, man. I’ve seen it all,” she tells Truman at work when he apologizes. “I’m letting this off the hook. Fuck it, I’m letting everyone off the hook today.” Forgiving Mickey is new, and here’s to hoping she stays.
Episode three isn’t about Gus and Mickey — it’s about where they stand in their own lives. Gus’s show seems to be in turmoil, but he has a handle on his life. Similarly, Mickey’s taking on responsibilities at work, even if those responsibilities happen to be a lazy co-worker.
We end with Gus and his friends enjoying their quirky party game: making up theme songs for movies. This time, the movie is While You Were Sleeping, and the credits roll to the sweet tune of friends singing about Peter Gallagher. (There’s another Judd Apatow pop culture non-sequitur for you.)
The fourth episode is a night-in-one episode. Ostensibly, it’s Gus and Mickey’s first official date of the season. They’re hanging out with the full knowledge that they’re interested in one another. If you’ll recall, last time these two crazy kids tried to go on a date, things did not go well. (They got thrown out of The Magic Castle in Los Angeles.)
What starts out as a casual night-in quickly takes a turn for the unusual. Must be that Mickey Dobbs-Gus Crookshanks factor. It begins with “ye olde drug box,” as Mickey calls it. The newly-sober Mickey (remember: She’s attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) takes out her drugs, as one does. She doesn’t want to throw them out but Gus, ever the uncomfy, thinks they should. For the most part, the victuals get the boot, save for a packet of mushrooms.
By now, you should see where this is going.
“I don’t fully trust someone who’s never tripped,” Mickey tells Gus. “It’s like trusting someone who still has a Hotmail account.”
But, Mickey, don’t you want to trust Gus? Bertie comes home, Randy emerges from the depths of Mickey’s home — he lives there now — and it quickly becomes a mushroom party. Mickey serves as the shroom guide, there to facilitate a good trip.
Television loves a good drug trip. They’re useful devices; allow the characters to release their inhibitions, and the storyline can accelerate. When poorly used, the drug trip is a cheap way to force characters to interact. For Mickey, the shrooms make sense. She can’t take risks, so she asks that her friends do it for her.
Halfway through the night, when the tripping trio is at their most bizarre, Mickey considers joining the crew.
“Seems like you guys are having fun out there. Maybe I should come join you.” She has a mushroom in hand. “Maybe I’ll take this little guy.”
Gus rescues Mickey from herself by eating the mushroom. This could also be a summary for the show itself.
And then Randy, Bertie’s suitor, finds a coyote and decides it is his spirit guide. Set to ominous jazz, Mickey, Bertie, and Gus chase after their very determined friend. It’s all very funny, and perhaps only serves to entertain. (I will say at this point that Mike Mitchell, who plays Randy, and Claudia O’Doherty, are
“It’s cool — it’s like you push me a little closer to the ledge,” Gus says later in bed. (They’re watching Die Hard.)
“Yeah, and you — you pull me back from it,” Mickey says. This is Gus and Mickey at their best: post-adventure, watching a movie with takeout.
All the while, the show loosely explores Randy, who became obsessed with death during the trip. “I might have to kill you,” he tells Bertie.
“Randy, shut up. No, you won’t,” a skittish Bertie responds. This prompted me to wonder: Is Randy going to kill someone in the second season? (This show is weird. That could happen.) It doesn’t happen, though, at least not in the third episode.
Later, Mickey asks, rather plaintively, “Do you think I’m a fuck-up?” It’s an honest moment between the two.
“No,” Gus says. “Not at all.”
If you’re looking for a sweet half-hour of a problem-free romantic comedy, watch this episode. And then watch it again. Dare I call it romance porn? Episode 5 shows us who Micky and Gus could be. They’re considerate, sweet, and all that jazz. Gus drives Mickey to SLAA, where she gets advice from a fellow addict. The question: Should she date Gus? The answer: Timing sucks, and who cares? It seems to tip Mickey towards dating Gus, because the rest of the day is just one big date.
And then they get brunch. Yes, brunch!
They discuss earthquakes. Mickey discusses her first awful job in Los Angeles. Gus tells Mickey what he wanted to be when he grew up. They exchange family lore.
“You getting sick of me, or…?” Gus poses after brunch. (He pays. Mickey does the slow-reach for her purse.)
“I’m not getting sick of you,” Mickey says.
It’s all so cuddly and perfect until the ex-boyfriend shows up. Beware the ex-boyfriend, for he hath the ability to make a perfect day mildly non-perfect. Dustin (Rich Sommer) made an appearance in the show’s pilot — he showed up just long enough to call Mickey a “whore.” This time, Mickey and Gus bump into him at a movie theater, and Dustin’s all furrowed eyebrows and apologies.
And there’s this fun fact: Dustin and Mickey owned a dog together. His name is Buster, and, mark my words, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the canine.
From the movies, there’s the beach. Yes, this day is perfect. The couple heads the beach together after realizing that Gus has an unused beach towel in his care.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Mickey asks while they’re there. “I mean, we’re gonna find out eventually.” As dark as this question is, there’s a sweetness to it. It assumes these two will stick together, at least long enough to find out a few dark secrets. Of course, the worst thing Gus has ever done — it involves a pile of human excrement — is goofy. Mickey doesn’t even share her own. (“I can’t play this game with you,” she tells him. “You’re an amateur.”)
They cap the day off in Mickey’s bed. Before Gus leaves, he asks if he can’t text her. He doesn’t want to annoy her, he says.
Mickey gives this promise: “I’m not gonna disappear on you, Gus. Text me whenever.”
After this episode, which effectively makes a case for the two as a couple, this promise seems doable. Of course, knowing these two, it’s going to be a challenge. (Love: It sucks!)
Back to Witchita! Back to the real world, really. Last episode was a romance bubble, a moment suspended in time. In this vacuum, Gus and Mickey function quite well. Episode 6 brings back the rest of the Love universe. These variables doesn’t exactly have a salubrious effect on the relationship. (Few things do.)
It begins with bad news: Witchita’s number of episodes will be cut. In Hollywood, this is a death sentence. For Gus’s job, this is also a death sentence. Success on this show does not last long. This also means that Arya, Gus’s student, needs to find a new star vehicle.
Enter: David Spade as Arya’s father. Mr. Spade, we do not deserve you. Arya’s parents bicker over her next project. Will it be big-budget blockbuster Liberty Down, or tiny indie Lowlands that could guarantee an Oscar nomination? It’s made clear during this exchange that Gus will go where Arya goes. His career is currently in flux, and this does not bode well for the relationship.
Similarly, Bertie and Randy start to fall apart. Last we saw them, Randy was talking about killing Bertie and the Aussie looked nervous. Now, he’s borrowing money from his paramour, never a good sign for a lasting healthy relationship. There’s always been a problem with Randy’s job. Namely, he doesn’t seem to have one. Mickey overhears and, riding her newfound relationship success, gets ready to meddle.
“Don’t you have a job you’re supposed to be at?” she asks Randy. Turns out, Randy’s never had a job. Which means he can tag along with Bertie and Mickey when they head to the mall.
“So, like, you and Gus are going well, and now you’re a relationship expert?” Bertie’s making an astute observation. Whenever Gus and Mickey accomplish something, they rest on their laurels. And then they look down on others who don’t have laurels.
Back on Witchita, Arya’s dad (again, that’s David Spade) seeks Gus’s help. Oh, and then Arya’s mom also seeks Gus’s help. There he is, Gus, stuck in the crosshairs as usual. Arya doesn’t want to do either. Turns out, she just wants to be a teen. When Gus advises her to tell her parents this, she asks if instead, he can tell them. Because Gus is the good guy and he will fight the battles.
Back at the mall, Mickey is also in some crosshairs — recall that Randy borrowed money from Bertie. We find out he borrowed $850, which isn’t an insignificant amount. It’s for his rent. When Bertie takes her leave — she has to go to her job — Mickey lets it all out, accusing Randy of scamming her roommate. They holler at each other. Randy runs to the nearest store to ask for a job. He tells them his name is Randy Farquaad (like the character from Shrek, remember?)
“I know why you don’t like me,” Randy admits. “I know I’m pathetic.” Ah, Randy. We’re all a bit pathetic. The exchange deepens from there. Randy confesses that he’s scared he’ll screw up with Bertie. And then, lo and behold, Mickey relents. She’s also scared of losing Gus.
“He wants me to get better so badly,” she says. Therein lies the pressure. What if she can’t get better? What happens then? The same goes for Randy. What if he never gets a job?
After this seeming resolution, a few things begin to unravel.
Back at the Witchita set, Gus tries to the right thing — and it goes terribly wrong. The parents announce an impending divorce, and Arya releases her inner angst. (Gus still lands a job, though.)
Bertie is hoodwinked at her job, and she doesn’t handle it well. The ever-cool character erupts at a co-worker — “I’ve read the Harry Potter books twice! That seven books twice! That’s fourteen books!” — and, when Randy asks to come over, she declines, citing tiredness. It’s all a sign that our chipper Bertie perhaps isn’t so happy-go-lucky anymore.
The episode ends rather fittingly with Arya, in character for Witchita, throwing a costume in the fire. We’re six episodes in, and the gloves on this show are finally coming off.'
At this point, we’re pretty familiar with Gus’s job, partially because the Witchita set is so ripe for humor. This episode invites us into the world of Mickey’s job, which is a slightly more painful place. Mickey works at Gravity, which will soon become Gravity Sub Zero after a merger with another radio station. The episode, then, surrounds the gala celebrating the merger. Mickey brings Gus, which invites the usual tensions surrounding these events.
For starters, you may recall that Mickey once slept with her coworker Dr. Gregg Cutler (Brett Gelman). This was last season Mickey and she did it to keep her job. Things did not end well. Prior to the gala, Dr. Greg comes to Mickey to let her know that he’ll be bringing a plus one. He assumes she’ll be distressed by the news.
“It’s okay if it stings a little bit,” Greg tells Mickey, referring to his bringing plus one. (Allegedly, her name is Kristen and she’s huge in young adult publishing.)
“I’m gonna be honest with you. You disgust me,” Mickey retorts. Oh, Mickey.
Then there’s the question of how they’ll label themselves. They agree to tell everyone they’re “dating.” If pressed, Mickey says she’ll admit that, well, she could sleep with other men but she chooses not to. Ah, the blurred lines of romance.
When the actual event arrives, Gus is inevitably left alone. Mickey flits off to speak to a her boss, leaving Gus to meet Dr. Greg Cutler. (This is a bad idea, Gus. We repeat: Do not talk to this man, Gus.) At first, the banter is friendly.
“I’m German, Catholic, and from the Midwest. It’s like a Neapolitan of repression,” he tells the radio personality. Then they hug. (“I feel like it would be weird if we didn’t hug,” Greg says before they do.) The bromance is brief because — how could we forget? — these two men slept with the same woman. Dr. Greg’s appearance in this episode functions purely to dismantle the fledgling couple, so it’s only a matter of time before the bomb hits.
Meanwhile, a questioning Bertie runs into Chris (Chris Witaske), Gus’s good friend, at the same gala. Bertie’s unsure of her relationship with Randy, and begins to bond with Chris. (Their profound exchange: “I mean, who’s your waiter?” Bertie asks him. “Huh, I never thought of that,” he responds.)
Back in less profound spaces, Dr. Greg lands this bomb on Gus: “I fucked her, Gus.” He’s referring to Mickey. He says what we all fear to be true when he accuses Mickey of being a “user.” Now, Dr. Greg is a crazed character, but he’s saying something that we fear to be true. Is Mickey a user? Is she using Gus to lend meaning to her life? It’s absolutely possible, nay probable. But the show poses the question: Is that all that terrible? To an extent, we’re all users.
When Mickey realizes what’s happened, she confronts Crazy Dr. Greg. Yes, she’s screaming in the middle of a gala, but she’s also defending Gus, so the moment is heartwarming.
“He’s the best thing in my life right now,” she says. This could either debunk or corrorborate Dr. Greg’s claim that she’s using Gus to add meaning to her life.
There’s a new couples challenge in town, and his name is Mickey’s dad, Marty Dobbs. This is the first time we, the viewer, will interact with anyone outside this show’s small LA realm, and it poses a knotty dilemma for Gus and Mickey. At this point, the two have been dating for maybe a month. Mickey hasn’t seen her dad for almost three years.
Mickey, high off the fact that this relationship seems to be working, invites Gus to meet her dad. Gus agrees, albeit reluctantly, and the whole uncomfortable shebang begins.
When we do meet Marty Dobbs, it becomes clear that perhaps Mickey wanted Gus there as an armor of sorts. (In a way, isn’t that why we all bring our significant others with us various places?) Marty Dobbs is crass. He’s a little gruff. He pitches an app to Mickey: “It’s like Uber, but better.” He hits on the waitress. He recounts a tale of childhood tomfoolery that sets Mickey off, and all the conflict kicks Gus’s savior instinct into gear.
When Mickey escapes for a smoke, Gus reveals that she’s currently sober and attending meetings for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
“AA?” Marty asks, incredulous. “Again?” This is a classic mistake: Gus tried to intervene. He tried to resolve the conflict, and, in doing so, only invites more.
After Mary flees for the airport — his stay amounts to all of a few hours — Mickey rounds on Gus. They bicker, but this time it feels like a couple’s fight. They’re arguing, but because they want to stay by each other’s side. Mickey’s angry because Gus removed her anonymity. Gus is angry because he feels useless in this position. When the hollering is over, Mickey gives him a way out.
“I’ll give you a ride home so you can have a break from me,” she says, looking to the side.
“I don’t want a break from you.” They hug, and then head to the airports to watch planes take off. (There’s a metaphor here for their relationship successfully taking off, I think.)