There comes a time in every TV viewer’s life when she realizes that it’s simply not possible, nor is it worthwhile, to watch everything. Fortunately, there are some shows you can outright ignore (lookin’ at you, Almost Family!), and some that allow you to binge selectively. One such pick-and-choose binge option is Amazon’s Modern Love, the anthology based on the New York Times column of the same name. Before the show premiered on October 18, Amazon sent out the first three episodes for review — which, in retrospect, was a wise strategy. Those first three episodes are great, while the rest are varying degrees of okay. So in the interest of helping you assemble your own selective Modern Love binge, I’ve ranked all the episodes, from best to worst.
1. Episode 1: “When The Doorman Is Your Main Man”
How I Met Your Mother‘s Cristin Milioti stars as Maggie, a single book critic whose doorman, Guzmin (Laurentiu Possa, charmingly stern), keeps a protective watch over her search for Mr. Right. This is a love story about found family and unexpected friendship, with an ending that will have you wiping away happy tears.
2. Episode 2: “When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist”
The amount of story and emotion packed into this 31-minute episode, written and directed by executive producer John Carney, is truly astonishing. Catherine Keener stars as Julie, a reporter who sits down with up-and-coming app developer, Joshua (Dev Patel) for an interview. When talk turns to Joshua’s dating life and the one that got away (Caitlin McGee), Julie shares a story of her own lost love in the hopes that Joshua can avoid his own heartbreak. Pure, undiluted romantic bliss — and Dev Patel’s hair deserves an Emmy of its own.
3. Episode 3: “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am”
Sensing a pattern here? Amazon definitely front-loaded Modern Love with its three best episodes. While I’m not a huge Anne Hathaway fan (nor am I a Hatha-hater), I found her authentic and enjoyable as Lexi, a woman whose bipolar disorder makes dating — and sometimes even just existing — very challenging. It’s an eye-opening and uplifting tale of learning to love yourself.
4. Episode 7: “Hers Was a World of One”
Also known as “the Hot Priest episode.” When Tobin (Fleabag‘s Andrew Scott) and Andy (Brandon Kyle Goodman) decide to start a family, the adoption agency introduces them to a pregnant free-spirit named Karla (Olivia Cooke). Soon, she and her dog move into Tobin and Andy’s apartment and completely upend their lives. It’s kinda cute, kinda sweet, and there’s a really odd cameo in the middle of the episode, but the story plays out exactly how you’d expect it would.
5. Episode 8: “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap”
Since it’s the finale, this episode tries to make a Big Statement About Love by delivering a twist of sorts in the final minutes (I won’t spoil it), but the A-plot stands on its own. Jane Alexander plays Margot, an older woman mourning the loss of her husband, Kenji (James Saito). It’s a bittersweet tale of late-in-life love.
6. Episode 6: “So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?”
I’ll be honest: This one only ranked so high due to the presence of Julia Garner, who recently won an Emmy for Ozark and was also spectacular in Bravo’s Dirty John. Here she plays Maddy, a young woman who grew up with an absent father and now carries a host of daddy-related issues throughout her day-to-day life. She develops a non-sexual crush on Peter (Shea Whigham), an older man at her workplace — and things get ever more cringeworthy from there.
7. Episode 4: “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive”
Oh, what a disappointment. Tina Fey and John Slattery are usually immensely likable, but even they can’t save this story of unhappily-married people who turn to tennis… not to save their marriage, per se, but the sport makes their union tolerable. It’s grim and depressing.
8. Episode 5: “At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity”
A hot woman (Sofia Boutella) and a slightly-less-hot man (John Gallagher Jr.) spend the night in the hospital after a date-night mishap. A lot of talking and freshman-year soul sharing ensues. By the end of the 30 minutes, even Boutella’s character is asleep.