Listen, I love television. Television: my family, my best friend, my teacher, mother, secret lover. But I’m less and less sure what it is trying to teach me. The Real Housewives franchise taught me how to be a “prostitution whore,” The Good Wife taught me that I could fall in love with someone who looks like Sam the Eagle (Josh Charles), and Abbott Elementary is currently teaching me that it’s acceptable to have a crush on Tyler James Williams because we’re actually the same age and he isn’t actually Chris Rock as a 10-year-old. My life continues to be…an education.
But what is the second season of Love Is Blind trying to say? The finale premiered today on Netflix, capping off 10 episodes of attractive Chicagoans “falling in love” after meeting through a frosted glass wall, and what do we have to show for it? Two couples married after six weeks and the haunting reverberations of Shayne’s warbling cartoon voice banging around in my empty skull? Enough lips frozen by filler to service all of Calabasas? The knowledge that a man named “Shake” lives in the world, largely unencumbered? Hardly seems worth it anymore.
Season 1 of Love Is Blind was delicious: Every pairing was outrageously toxic, inevitably doomed, or actually quite sweet. There was Amber and Barnett, who married and seemed like two of the worst people in the world, but maybe there’s some kismet there. There was Giannina, who was left at the altar by Damian, a man so bloodless that I can’t even think of a good insult for him other than “triangle head.” (Giannina ended up running out of her wedding in tears before eventually falling in a small mudslide, an indelible image that will accompany me to my grave.) And of course, there was Lauren and Cameron, the only couple who seemed legitimately into each other in a way that could exist outside of the context of reality television.
But Season 2 didn’t seem to capture the same magic, instead serving us bland, forgettable face after bland, forgettable face. For example: I know, logically, that Sal and Kyle are different people, but in my heart of hearts, I’m not convinced they aren’t just the same guy photocopied onto new skin with adjusted kerning. I know the perpetually disoriented Nick (who married Danielle, the only way I can keep track of him) had a name throughout the season — I just never really learned it.
I guess we had a few standouts: Shayne, obviously, the bugged-out meathead who looks like Buzz Lightyear if he were an advocate for ketamine therapy. Every single word he uttered was art. “Do you think I’m a dick or what?” he asked Natalie when he confused her for Shaina, the other woman he had been dating in the pods. “I think that’s kind of weird, no offense.” He talked the way a pair of ripped white skinny jeans would talk. I love him; I hope he outlives me a thousand times over.
He did end up with Natalie, a sprightly young woman who spent most of their relationship calling him an asshole — and then left him at the altar. Shaina was fun for a while, mostly because of said love triangle with Shayne and Natalie. But once she told Kyle that she didn’t believe in evolution and he met her disquietingly patriotic parents, it stopped being fun and started being every reasonable person’s nightmare of how a date could end.
But of course, no discussion of Love Is Blind is complete without making sense of the worst couple, Abhishek (“Shake”) and Deepti (“Deeps”), two Indians who have somehow made it to their 30s without having dated any other Indian people. Is it self-loathing? Is it internalized racism? Is it a way to date without worrying about it ever getting serious, because you’re probably not going to bring a white girl home to meet Amma? WHY NOT ALL THREE? Improbably, and yet very probably, these two end up together, an ill-fated romance anchored by not one other similarity. Shake spends most of their courtship calling Deepti his “best friend” while also admitting he has zero sexual interest in her, then Deepti leaves him at the altar, refusing to marry someone who still seems to need convincing that she’s a catch. Great.
(Okay, hold on. I cannot in good conscience continue to call him Shake. It doesn’t make any sense, least of all the spelling. I don’t begrudge anyone a nickname, but Abhi is right there. Is that, somehow, still too ethnic for him? And instead of even going by Shek, or Sheik, which could conceivably make sense, he chose… Shake? What kind of critical thinking is this? I don’t generally advocate for snap judgments, but when a red flag is drawn so clearly, how can you deny it?)
Anyway, where was I? Right. Some brown people need to go straight from the womb into therapy. It somehow takes an experience as radical as Love Is Blind for Abhishek to realize that, hey, maybe being so superficial that you only date white women is holding you back. And that, perhaps, asking the women in the pods whether he would be able to lift them proves that he’s not a well-rounded person. He could have saved so much time in his life if he’d talked to the school counselor once or twice in the eighth grade. I suppose there is one fringe benefit of watching this couple with the chemistry of friendly subway commuters — he literally says that hanging out with Deepti is like being with his aunty — is watching their Indian parents try to understand whatever freakshow their children have dragged them through. They’re polite, but I have Indian parents too, and I know what the internal monologue was even if it went unsaid: Forty years of striving in America just for my loser kid to get her ass grabbed by a guy who says his own name wrong and thinks “DJ” is a vocation.
What’s really strange about Season 2 is the show makes no compelling argument for why any of these people should end up together. There’s no chemistry between any of them, and the couples seem cosmically unsuited for one another. Half of them still seem like total strangers even after they live together. I know Nick and Danielle end up getting married, and certainly there’s some fondness between them, but they also interact like half-siblings who only recently found each other on 23AndMe.
If the argument of Season 1 is that you could indeed fall in love with someone, devoid of all physical context and the trappings of the outside world, Season 2 is about why maybe all that context is important. It’s important to know what your partner looks like. It’s important to like how they look. It’s also important to know what kind of family you’re getting into, what political ideology your partner has, and whether they like yellow or white gold. (A white gold ring for a brown girl? Sal, come on, do a little research.) There’s a reason dating doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
I always thought television had all the answers. It’s never led me astray before. But after this season of Love Is Blind, I’m starting to doubt that reality shows with convoluted premises really can show me the way to find love. If isolation pods aren’t the way to find a partner, what is? Going on dates? With people?? Talking about our past lives and lived experiences??? Privately???? Without cameras or the promise of an opulent and embarrassing wedding at the end????? No, thank you. I’d rather die alone. ●