Let’s just get this out of the way: Stephen DeMarco is not a good guy. The male lead in Hulu’s Tell Me Lies (Jackson White), is at his best, a walking red flag and run-of-the-mill fuckboy, and at his worst, a toxic, misogynistic, manipulator who’s borderline emotionally abusive to the women around him. And yet, he’s at the center of the series’ very unbalanced lead couple; and by virtue of this, fans are inadvertently predisposed to root for Lucy (Grace Van Patten) and Stephen. Except they — and their relationship — are both pretty terrible. They’re horrific at communication, they both lie to each other and their friends, and they limit each other’s growth. Which is why Bree (Catherine Missal) and Evan (Branden Cook) are such a breath of fresh air.
While technically in supporting roles to Lucy and Stephen’s off-the-rails, back-and-forth love story, Bree and Evan are a foil to the series’ main pairing. Throughout the first season, viewers get to watch as they connect over their shared vulnerability, openly communicate about their feelings, and ultimately embrace each other for who they are. And in a show that centers toxic relationships, it’s important to see a relationship like Bree and Evan’s — and to root for it.
When the audience is introduced to Bree and Evan, eight years after they first meet and at their engagement party, it’s not difficult to see that they’re a very different couple than Lucy and Stephen. For Branden Cook, who plays Evan, it was clear that this pairing was the antithesis to Stephen and Lucy’s relationship, one built on dishonesty and gaslighting. “Lucy and Stephen are not only toxic but chaotic,” Cook tells Refinery29. “Stephen has built his relationship on cheating and lies while Lucy ignores all of the red flags. Ultimately they are following their lust instead of their gut, and it’s having negative effects on both of them.”
Many of the friends group’s relationships revolve around Lucy and Stephen, and Bree and Evan are often relegated to the side, overlooked by their friends who are caught up in their own drama. As Missal’s Bree tells Evan at the lake for a long weekend to celebrate his birthday (he buys his own cake): “Our friends are stressful. I love them but I feel like we just don’t understand each other sometimes.”
While a difficult realization, this shared experience is part of what draws Bree and Evan together. “It was the right time for them to experience each other but also they provided something for each other that no other person had — someone to care,” Cook says, “someone to see them deeply. And that's what I think each of them were looking for.”
And part of seeing each other deeply involves an open line of communication. One of the most refreshing aspects of the duo's relationship is that they actually talk to each other (I know, wild!), and do it transparently. When, at the lake house with their friends, Evan accidentally reveals to the group that Bree grew up in the foster care system, instead of shoving it under the rug or failing to address it, Evan directly apologizes to Bree. They talk about Bree’s reasons for not sharing this info publicly. As Bree tells Evan, she wasn’t embarrassed of her upbringing, rather: “I don’t go around telling people my business if they don’t ask…if they wanna know more, they’ll make that clear.”
The next morning when Bree reveals her romantic feelings to Evan, it’s similarly done in a frank, matter-of-fact way. It’s a stark contrast to other couples in the show — and many viewers may know IRL — whose intentions and thoughts are often convoluted or misinterpreted because people aren’t really saying what they feel. Bree and Evan’s transparency and open communication allows them to get past the BS and connect in a way that others around them, who rely on secrets and mixed messages, aren’t able to.
For Cook, “Evan and Bree have built their relationship on being honest and vulnerable with each other, without anyone else being involved.” This honesty and vulnerability is evident in their interactions from the onset whether Bree shares she’s a foster kid , something she hadn’t shared with anyone else, even her close friends and roommate Pippa, or when Evan opens up to Bree around the pressure he feels to maintain a certain image, bemoaning that “everybody thinks I’m so nice.” At that moment, Bree validates his feelings, and tells him that he can essentially be whoever he wants to be, even if sometimes that’s not “nice,” because, “I’ll still like you.”
This kind of open vulnerability, something Lucy and especially Stephen view as a weakness, is ultimately what makes Bree and Evan’s connection so strong and healthy — and enjoyable to watch. When Bree and Evan are finally physically intimate at the lake house, you can’t help but be excited, because they’re both entering the encounter fully aware of the others’ thoughts and intentions. As opposed to many of the other physical encounters in the series — like Bree and Tim, Lucy and Max, and even Lucy and Stephen— Bree and Evan know what they’re getting into, and who they’re saying yes to, and that makes the decision to sleep together all the more sexy and healthy. Because honestly, what could be sexier than baring your deepest insecurities to someone and then having them still accept you?
“There are no games. Their intentions are pure,” Cook says. “Watching toxic relationships can be fun and exciting but I think showing the balance of something healthy as well gives people hope and provides them with an example of how things should be in real life.” Bree and Evan’s relationship is the kind of relationship we deserve ourselves. And that’s definitely worth rooting for.