Netflix’s Love wraps up its story of an unlikely romance with a third and final season that goes beyond the question of will they or won’t they to ask whether or not they even should. It’s probably too soon to tell where Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) fall in the pantheon of great television romances, but the series certainly earns points for knowing to get out while the getting is good, as it’s clear by the season’s end that the show has said pretty much all that needs to be said about this particular love story.
Season 2 left off with the couple committing to one another fully, as Mickey hit a major stumbling block when she slept with her ex-boyfriend Dustin (Rich Sommer). At the start of the new season, the series makes the interesting choice not to address the Mickey’s infidelity right away, steering clear of the trappings such a confrontation that would no doubt result from such an admission. Instead, the season focuses its attention on the couple’s efforts to better communicate with one another as they move past the dating phase and into the no less thorny arena of maintaining a committed relationship.
Because this is the final season, there are times when it feels like Love is merely checking boxes and making sure elements that defined the series in the first two seasons are given some screen time here. But a lot of it feels unnecessary, as Love finds greater success in moving away from what worked before and instead trying something new. That means time spent with Gus and his friends as they concoct theme songs for movies that didn’t have them is only brought up once, with a memorably uncomfortable live performance. But the time spent away from fun and familiar activities allows the show more room to focus on star supporting players, particularly the ever-sunny Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty), who not only realizes it’s time to move on from the shiftless layabout Randy (Mike Mitchell), but finds a potential soulmate in the likable, dependable Chris (Chris Witaske).
The fact that an entire episode is devoted to Bertie as she spends her first birthday in the United States alone is a smart move; O’Doherty has been a consistent bright spot on the series from the start, and a story told solely from her point of view offers a nice respite from the usual. It’s also further evidence that Love’s main storyline was pretty much running on fumes at this point. But what is a nice break for the writers turns out to be a win for the audience, as Love ostensibly recreates that first season feeling but with a different couple who enjoy a wildly different and much more complementary chemistry.
That the show is successful in taking some time away from Mickey and Gus points to where they are as a couple. Though they haven’t been together that long, the start of season 3 is essentially the end of every romantic comedy: after a major setback, the couple has professed their love for one another and are now on the road to something greater — either that or they’ll crash and burn in three weeks time. There are plenty of shows designed to tell a story about a committed relationship and all the trials and tribulations that come from two fundamentally different people making that work. Love isn’t one of those shows; it was always going to work better staying focused on the start of things, exploring that initial spark of interest that turned to lust and eventually sustained itself long enough to hint at something greater.
Even though Love isn’t really interested in examining the story of a young couple’s encroaching domesticity it also can’t avoid going there because the show is basically out of runway. The series touches on questions couples eventually ask themselves, like moving in together, marriage, and even children, but it does so primarily while distracted by ghosts of Gus’s past, which offers up a series of revelations that feel inessential when compared to issues pertaining to the couple’s future. To its credit, Love partially negates those feelings of extraneousness with terrific performances from SNL’s Vanessa Bayer, Kathy Baker, and Ed Begley Jr., who turns in a quintessential Dad performance.
Nevertheless, each new discovery about Gus stretches the seams on the final season's story just a little bit more. An early episode sees a day in which he's repeatedly ridiculed at work, tutoring the young stars of Witchita, end with Gus involved in a road rage incident. It takes roughly nine more episodes for that to pay off, as the season diverts a significant amount of its narrative resources to Gus directing a short film with all of his friends. The film storyline works in additional hints at Gus's pent-up anger, but it's hard to imagine the season wouldn't have been better if it had confronted this side of Gus head-on and earlier.
Ultimately, Love’s final season is a bit like Gus — a people pleaser that sometimes falls short. Though it’s obviously a little light on story, the writers find creative ways to fill the prescribed episode count, focusing more on supporting characters and changing up the scenery by spending two episodes in South Dakota with Gus’ family. And even though it goes a little overboard at times in terms of pleasing the audience with a litany of happy endings for its talented ensemble, it’s overall an entertaining and relatively speedy binge-watch that bids farewell to a charming and unlikely tale of modern romance.
Love season 3 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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