And that’s a considerate thought, if a potentially misguided one. Gus is made of steelier stuff than initial appearances would suggest. Love is very good at dissecting romantic clichés with all its characters – a “trainwreck” like Mickey is also whip-smart and steadily employed, while “nice guy” Gus is prone to petulant outbursts and casual cruelties.
Elsewhere, Bertie, a delightful ray of light counterpart to her roommate’s storm-cloud disposition, still receives refreshing agency, calling out her roommate over Gus-related tensions and developing into her own, complicated person. Later in the season, similarly nuanced treatment is afforded to Heidi (Briga Heelan), a Canadian actress on Witchita whose interest in Gus eventually reveals her to be a deeply fascinatingly weirdo.
Love is a commitment, in terms of character and plot. Some will be turned off by its slow build, particularly during the premiere, which spends so much time getting Mickey and Gus out of their previous romantic entanglements that it scarcely has the chance to bring the two face-to-face. But for every alienating move it throws out, the show has another, more endearing one.
The second installment is much improved, a slackly paced two-hander that finds the pair wandering through L.A., their meet-cute conversations (at moments) recalling Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. There are other bits, scattered throughout the season, that strike chords equally honest and hilarious, from a party-gone-wrong during which Mickey is haunted by an abundance of exes to a seemingly aimless excursion through the L.A. subway (with Andy Dick, playing himself) that unfurls as a sobering analysis of addictive behavior.
But what stands out most about Love isn’t an individual moment of unexpected depth or cringe comedy: it’s the pervasive, raw honesty. This series has something to say, about self-destruction, about growing old, about sexual power dynamics, about the ways in which technological advances has made genuine connection so much harder (a whole episode revolves around the emotional chaos created by an unanswered text), about the innate fallacy of losing yourself in another person, and (shocker) about that grand old illusion called love. Its voice is initially unsteady but immediately distinct.
That’s where the binge-watching angle comes in handy. Digesting all 10 episodes in Love’s freshman run is easy enough; its heavily serialized construction lends itself to such viewing patterns. Like You’re the Worst, another sublime “anti-romantic comedy” with dangerously flawed characters, Love delivers a handful of great stand-alone episodes that still continue the season’s main arc. And though it goes through rough patches, even entire episodes that never gel the way they should, that format maintains the show’s curiously sedate-yet-secure momentum.
As low-key as it is, there’s no avoiding the risks inherent in an endeavor like Love. Authentic chemistry is hard to come by, especially when it’s required to build slowly rather than ignite all at once. But thankfully, there are real sparks between Rust and Jacobs. Whether they’re dwelling in awkward silences, playfully bantering, or falling into bed, the actors let us see their respective gears turning, and every step in their stop-and-start romance feels earned.
Rust, whose character teeters so close to “young Woody Allen” territory that he at one point vocally rejects such a comparison, is a big part of why it all works. He knows which moments to downplay and which to mine for laughs. His performance unfolds gradually, Gus’ early neuroses fading to eventually highlight a guy who’s sympathetic, if self-serving.
Jacobs, by contrast, hits hard and fast, exposing to us the wounds Mickey hides beneath her cynical armor, and never missing a chance to showcase how they smart. It’s still early in the year, but the actress does such faultless work here, particularly in depicting Mickey’s acknowledgment of her addictions and anxieties, that some Emmy attention feels both warranted and likely.
If only the show moved a little faster toward bringing its central couple together. Apatow’s free-wheeling style is predictably over-indulged here, and though each episode loosely addresses one aspect of modern dating culture (be it “first-date blowjobs” or how addictive personalities have an unfortunate tendency to binge on one another), some drag without reason.
Netflix ordered two seasons of Love upfront, and judging by the pace of this first string of episodes, the co-creators are probably already looking beyond that to imagine a season 3 or 4 in which the duo meet each other’s parents or mismanage a shared pet. But as delightful as it is to watch Gus and Mickey learn what they love and like (and loathe) about one another, too many obstacles will feel contrived sooner rather than later. As it currently stands, though, Love‘s rambling introduction is one that most won’t mind accommodating.
Yes, Love's fuse is too long - but once Rust and Jacobs' sparks set it alight, the show's gentle glow is so palpable as to be genuinely heartwarming.