UnReal's Season Finale Postmortem: Untangling Love and Lies
Spoiler alert! Do not read on if you haven't watched the UnReal season finale.
The cameras have stopped rolling and love is no longer in the air. As both UnReal and its show-within-a-show, Everlasting, wrap up their season finales, it's clear that no one on the Lifetime drama has gotten their happily ever after.
"No one got what they wanted, but they got what they deserved," says show creator and executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro of how everyone ended the season. However, co-creator and executive producer Marti Noxon thinks that perhaps Anna did find a little happiness there at the end. "Her eyes were opened, she got the last word," Noxon says.
With so much going down in the last episode, we walk you through the main storylines between different characters and asked Shapiro and Noxon to give us some insight into the show's final hour.
Best Laid Plans
After Adam beseeched Rachel to run away with him, both producer and suitor snuck out on their respective partners, Jeremy and Anna, in the middle of the night and headed to a private airfield. Unfortunately for the couple, Quinn happened to be on set, and she intercepted Adam as he was making his not-so-hasty getaway and told him an exaggerated account of Rachel's mental illness. As a result, their reunion in the rain took a sad turn when he told her that, despite his feelings for her, he couldn't leave with her. Hurt and in tears, Rachel caught a cab and hightailed it out of there, heading for the nearest lake so she could contemplate her current romantic situation.
“[Adam’s] feelings at the end of Episode 9 were a hundred percent real,” says Shapiro. “He totally feels that way about Rachel. But what Quinn told him scared him, and taking care of someone mentally unstable is more than Adam can handle.” Noxon adds, "He doesn't know what to do. Rachel's a little too real for him... He talks first and thinks about it later."
Consent & Sensibility
Quinn's day got off to a rough start. First, Brad blew off her pitch meeting, which was followed by a sit down with Chet, Dr. Wagerstein and newly-promoted field producer Madison. But Quinn wan't as concerned with their demands as she was with airing her romantic grievances with her soon-to-be-former fiancé. She admitted with disappointment that she'd bought into the idea that what they had was true love. Later, when a renewed and on-the-rebound Rachel came to plan the Everlasting finale, she teamed up with Quinn to show Chet up in front of Brad.
"It's a pretty potent fantasy; it's hard not to buy into it even if you know better," says Noxon of Quinn believing that she and Chet were truly in love.
The Lyin', the Bitch and the Wardrobe Department
Despite Anna's slight edge in the competition, Grace didn't count herself out of the running, but while she and Anna sniped at each other over wedding dresses, former contestant Britney arrived on set to rejoin the competition, per Chet's invitation. Quinn then informed the clueless executive producer that it was a twist the show had employed three times already, and that she was returning his engagement ring. She then suggested that they focus on producing a good finale, before walking away as he looked on in shock.
Noxon says the final straw for Quinn in breaking up with Chet was "the humiliation of feeling like she finally got what she wanted, but finding out that she was still not enough for him."
Adam informed Rachel that he was thinking of picking Grace to be his wife. Eager to avoid this, Rachel did everything in her power to break up their relationship, even telling Grace that she had slept with him. When this doesn't dissuade the determined contestant, Rachel brings in Adam's grandmother, the only relative who agrees to be on the show. The old woman quickly informed Adam that their family "does not marry brown people," and that Anna would be a more fitting choice because "she knows when to keep her mouth shut." On the day of the big decision, Adam goes with his grandmother's advice, picking Anna over Britney and Grace.
“The thing with Adam is that he’s the kid who hasn’t met his father’s expectations. His grandma accepts him for exactly who he is,” says Shapiro of Adam’s relationship with his grandmother. She also points out that Adam's choice is racist. "I don't know if anyone is going to pick up on this, but his grandma said not to pick the brown person, so he didn’t pick the brown person. That’s not cool."
Public Enemy No. 1
Jeremy overheard Grace and Anna talking about how Adam had left during the night. Following a hunch, he got an unsuspecting Adam to admit to almost running away with Rachel. Upset and finally having had enough, Jeremy followed up Adam's proposal by bending on his knee and proceeding to (very publicly) break up with Rachel.
“He wanted to do it publicly so he would never forget it,” says Shapiro of Jeremy’s decision. ”So if he ever decided to get back with Rachel someone on the crew would tell him to remember what he’d said. He wanted to remember that he could never go back to her.”
Rachel woke up in Quinn's bed and the producer gave her a quick pep-talk, telling her to go "do what you have to do." So she did. First, Rachel pulled Adam into a confessional and tearfully demanded answers as to why he changed his mind. He told her that he didn't have real feelings for Anna, and that he'll just annul their marriage at the end of the year. After he left to get ready for the ceremony, Rachel went into the next booth, where Anna was sitting, having heard the entire thing. Rachel asked what Anna would do, and Anna said that she would let Rachel know.
Noxon likens Rachel's transformation from hesitant contestant-nudger to full-blown manipulator to a slowly boiling lobster. "[Rachel] kind of didn't notice that [she] was getting cooked." She adds that Adam's rejection also had something to do with Rachel's manipulation of Anna. "It didn't matter matter who got hurt; she just had to take him down."
The first phase of their plan to bring down Chet in place, Quinn handed over the controls to the slightly-drunk Chet, allowing him to call the shots on the wedding (which was airing live) as Brad, who has flown all the way to London, looked on. But as the bridal march played, Anna was nowhere to be found. Instead, Rachel announced that not only would Adam go home alone, but his spin-off show, Royal Renovations, wouldn't be taking place, either. With the cameras still rolling, Britney offered to marry Adam instead, adding that Chet brought her on the show to sleep with him. With the alcohol setting in and Brad angrily whispering in his ear, Chet was unable to direct all the cameras, so Brad turned to Quinn for help. Being a savvy producer, Quinn quickly cut a deal with the man before taking over and effectively running the whole show.
"Both women are very smart and very good at their jobs. If they want to use their ability to manipulate the people around them, they're going to do a very good job of it," says Noxon of Rachel and Quinn tag-teaming their revenge on Chet and, to some extent, Adam. "Even if nobody gets their 'Happily Ever After,' they each have the satisfaction of knowing that the people who've done them wrong got their just deserts."
Running Away Bride
Quinn quickly caught up with Anna and asked why she left Adam. But before Anna could answer, Quinn revealed a camera crew was waiting for her answer. Anna then seized the opportunity to have her own moment in the sun, declaring to the world that "Adam is not definitely not the man for me."
"We loved the idea of Anna leaving him at the altar," says Shapiro. "In some ways it leaves the door open for Adam to come back.”
Adam told Rachel that Quinn was responsible for calling off their plans. Rachel then revealed that reports of her mental illness were greatly exaggerated, and that he was relieved to have a reason to back out. Later, Rachel was quietly fuming when Quinn tracked her down. Rachel offered Quinn a chance to come clean, but she clearly believed that she helped Rachel. "Love is swell. But it is not something to build a life around," she advised her. Rachel tried to argue otherwise, but Quinn retorted, "Like Mary?" Rachel then responded with a mostly-veiled murder threat, before tearfully telling Quinn that she loves her.
“It's a big moment because Rachel has not said ‘I love you’ to anyone the entire time we have known her,” explains Shapiro. “So for her to feel vulnerable with someone like that is to show Quinn that she’s really betrayed her. [Rachel]’s very hurt, but she’s also very mad." For Noxon, Rachel's admission could be "the 'I love you' before the kiss of death" or possibly, "Rachel recognizing that Quinn did save her from doing something really monumentally stupid."
As for the references to Mary and her murder, Shapiro says Quinn and Rachel’s conversation is the show's way of saying goodbye to that storyline while having the pair acknowledge what happened on an emotional level. “The resonance of what they did and what it means for their jobs will carry on throughout the series,” says Shapiro.
At the very end of the episode Jeremy paid Rachel’s mother a visit to warn her that her daughter is in a lot of trouble. Shapiro says Jeremy’s actions at the end came from a combination of concern and payback for what Rachel did to him. “Jeremy probably thinks he’s doing the right thing, but somewhere in his head it’s also that he’s going to get control of her again," she says.
If you were addicted to UnReal, good news: it has been renewed for a second season.