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Review: Netflix's 'Love' wins in its final season

Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs in<em> Love.</em> (Photo: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix)
Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs in Love. (Photo: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix)

Love returns to Netflix for a season that finds young lovers Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) in a good place romantically. This in itself is a tricky challenge for a TV series: Where’s the conflict if things are going well for a couple? Turns out, this is no problem for the endlessly inventive Love. The new season as conceived by co-creators Judd Apatow, Rust, and Lesley Arfin takes full advantage of its Los Angeles setting, locating episodes in a wide array of places: backstage at the filming of a teen TV series; in L.A.’s underground wrestling scene; a weekend road trip to Palm Springs; and an emotionally exhausting wedding (not theirs).

In the past, Mickey has struggled with the realization that she’s an alcoholic, and her love life has been such a complicated, unhappy mess that she came to think she was a sex addict too. In the new season, Mickey is sober and discovering that one big hurdle is feeling secure enough to admit she may actually be happy. You can feel in Jacobs’s performance everything that’s gone on with Mickey up to this point. Jacobs has made her character the kind of person who’s always ready to toss aside easy comfort to dive deeper into any situation or relationship. Being with Mickey can be thrilling — at any moment, she can be brashly funny, fumingly angry, or daffily romantic — which also means she can be exhausting. Jacobs has found a way to play that character in such a way that Mickey is endlessly surprising rather than easily irritating.

Gus is a writer and would-be director whose career has been going exactly nowhere; living in Los Angeles, surrounded by wealthy successes in the entertainment industry as he labors at a menial job as a tutor, hasn’t exactly making him feel any better about himself. A big chunk of the new season addresses the idea that, while he seems like the steady, sensible one in their relationship, Gus has always been just as deeply screwed up as Mickey is. In this final season of the show, there’s a reckoning with his own neurotic behavior, and Rust shows himself fully up to this challenge as an actor.

Love also delves more deeply into its supporting cast. Claudia O’Doherty gets a number of lovely showcases for her Bertie, Mickey’s whimsical Australian roommate. The idea is to make her something more than whimsical and Australian, and Love accomplishes that very well, as her relationship with her boyfriend — the dim, ursine, and almost-lovable Randy (Mike Mitchell) — takes unpredictable turns. There are also a couple of excellent episodes spotlighting Iris Apatow’s Arya, the teen TV star whom Gus tutors. Apatow — daughter of Judd — has a way of communicating a groundedness that’s wise while maintaining a spikey adolescent edge. The new season of Love made me ache once again with nostalgia for its L.A. setting — few TV shows make the city look so cozy and inviting. If Mickey and Gus don’t remind you of passionate or frightening or warm moments in relationships you’ve had, you’re a cold fish indeed.

As it happens, I watched the final season of Love just before watching another upcoming Judd Apatow production — his staggeringly great, two-part HBO documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, coming up on March 26 — which left me mightily impressed at the range of Apatow’s ability to tease truth, pain, and drama out of comedy. Spend this weekend binging Love — oh, and before you go searching the internet for it, I’ll save you time by telling you that the beautiful song that closes out the 10th episode is Loudon Wainwright III’s 1985 tune “Lost Love.”

Love is streaming now on Netflix.

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