Streaming Services

Love and the need for reflection

Streaming services have indelibly changed the manner in which we watch and consume TV and film. The widespread viewership and the immediate availability of a newly released series means that critics and writers are increasingly clamouring to be the first to make comment. Thus, albums, films, and entire series are reviewed within hours of release. While this may sate those keen to read the popular verdict, there is something lost in this mode of consumption. Media texts that were previously given space to ruminate, and afford an opportunity for reflection, are watched, reviewed and promptly forgotten about.

What this can often subsequently lead to, is a series which relies on a viewer’s ability to reflect, being misconstrued or misunderstood. Frequently, I have felt compelled to binge-watch a series in order to avoid spoilers, or watch a series over a single weekend due to enjoyment, and then realised weeks later that I have very little memory of the nuances of the series. It was this then, that prompted me to limit my viewing of the third and final series of Love to no more than two episodes a weekend. Doing so allowed me to use the time in between viewings to further develop my engagement with the characters of the series.

Already an established fan of the series, I found the gaps in between episodes emphasised my enjoyment of the series. Rather than simply selecting another episode in a fairly passive manner, I was able to schedule in my viewing time enabling and ensuring that my full attention was given to the series. I looked forward to my next viewing, a feeling that, when binge-watching, is too often lost. Frequently when watching an entire series over a weekend, like I have done with Westworld, the final few episodes pass by in a blur, and the act of viewing takes on a mission-like approach. Watching the last episode becomes an achievement in itself, rather than a chance to see the narrative’s trajectory end.

Perhaps then, this is why comments focusing on the apparent unrealistic nature of Gus and Mickey’s relationship has surfaced, with online comments focusing on the perceived unbelievability of their relationship. While I have always felt invested in their relationship, I can understand how some, when watching episode after episode, may view Gus and Mickey as being mismatched. She, a recovering addict, and he, an on-set tutor, seem to have little in common on the surface. Certainly, their temperaments initially seem at odds with one another.

Yet, the more the series progresses, the more apparent it becomes that Gus and Mickey are not simply perfect for one another, but strikingly similar in their action. Aside from simply getting on with one another, a spectacle all too rare in representations of relationships, they are in tune with one another. Both frequently exist in a state of denial, and it takes Mickey the effort of self-reflection to realise that she needs to be upfront about her addiction readily sharing this information with Gus’ parents. Gus initially attempts to prevent his parents from discovering this information about Mickey, purportedly to protect Mickey from embarrassment, but in reality to protect himself and the image his parents have of him.

Similarly, we discover towards the end of the series that Gus’ continued, and often slightly grating, nice-guy routine is simply a front, an exercise in ultimate self-denial. In reality, he has suffered a huge career embarrassment and is too ashamed to tell Mickey about this, despite his desire for her to be honest with him. In a lesser series, these setbacks would have prompted melodrama, but in Love, they simply allow narrative development. Thus Mickey and Gus feel like real people, and the series wisely does not give in to clichéd moments of drama.

Perhaps one moment in particular that truly encapsulated the subtlety of Love, was a moment in the episode in which Gus’ band performs in a bar. Mickey, accosted by a man while sat at the bar, steals his cigarettes. The man becoming aggressive is rapidly warned off by Gus. As soon as he leaves, Mickey admits to Gus that she did steal the man’s cigarettes, to which Gus replies, he knew. It is this understanding of each other that demonstrates the realistic nature of their relationship. They understand one another. In watching a series through all at once, moments like this are lost in the myriad of other moments. Surely, it is only through taking your time with a series, or revisiting it, that you can really identify and highlight such moments.