‘UnREAL’ returns to sharpen its tongue with Season 2

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UR2_PRGallery_03222016_MF_0070Preston Barta // Editor

The slaughterhouse exposé is back with a vengeance!

Last season of Lifetime’s groundbreaking series UnREAL exposed how the manipulative sausage of dating-competition shows like ABC’s THE BACHELOR get made. It offered audiences a fascinating glimpse into the juicy and artificial world of reality television by showing viewers how producers will go to immoral lengths to get what they want from contestants.

L-R: Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby return for Season 2 of UnREAL to give the kind of performances that awards are made for. Photo courtesy of James Dittiger/Lifetime.

L-R: Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby return for Season 2 of UnREAL to give the kind of performances that awards are made for. Photo courtesy of James Dittiger/Lifetime.

It’s not all hugs, kisses and gazing into each other’s eyes. Things get downright brutal on the other side of the camera, and this is where UnREAL makes its mark.

No other show last summer even came close to surpassing the intrigue and twisted nature of Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s writing talents. They managed to pull of a rare feat in a season that’s all about superheroes and crime-driven narratives: It never let up and continuously surprised audiences with their shocking events that unfolded each week.

Season 2 is no different.

After taking the keys to the kingdom, Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) set out to make history by giving their dating show EVERLASTING its first black suitor (B.J. Britt).

This is certainly something THE BACHELOR has never done in its 20-season run.

Race is a topic that most studios tend to gloss over, as black contestants typically don’t make it past the first elimination rounds. (Season 1 even touched on this in its first episode.)

But UnREAL dares to break down the barriers and sail into uncharted territory.

When Rachel and Quinn make a deal with their network, their reign for power is stalled when previous EVERLASTING showrunner Chet Wilton (Craig Bierko) returns to reclaim the throne.

Catfights and curiosity ensues.

L-R: Josh Kelly and Genevieve Buechner star in Season 2 of Lifetime’s hit drama UnREAL. Photo courtesy of Lifetime/Bettina Strauss.

L-R: Josh Kelly and Genevieve Buechner star in Season 2 of Lifetime’s hit drama UnREAL. Photo courtesy of Lifetime/Bettina Strauss.

While devilishly entertaining to boot, this season suffers from a minor case of overthinking, with a false sense of confidence that affects the natural identity of this show. The characters become a little more unlikable (understandably so) and the contestants become a little more one-dimensional (likely to flesh out beyond episode 2). But the series makes up for its shortcomings by taking its characters in unique and exciting directions.

Rachel fights to keep her position as executive producer and is beginning to realize how much like Quinn she is becoming. Even Madison (an excellent Genevieve Buechner), who was promoted from her assistant position to producer, gets a taste of the dark side when she interviews an emotionally unstable contestant and deconstructs her brick-by-brick.

“We don’t solve problems, okay? We create them and then point cameras at them,” says Rachel. This is one of the many shining examples of UnREAL’s allure.

Even when the series goes down unexpected and sometimes undesirable roads, it has you hooked, wanting to see where things go.

Season 2 of UnREAL premieres tonight on Lifetime at 10 p.m. ET/PT and 9 p.m. CT.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.