When UnReal first premiered back in 2015, critics lauded it as the renaissance of Lifetime and the kind of TV that made you both love and hate the characters in all the right ways. It sustained the hype until its Season 1 finale, but in Season 2, the critics were less kind.
There was a general consensus that the narrative tried to do too many things in too little time, meaning it blew past plots that should have been defining storylines. The police shooting cliffhanger had to compete with Rachel's (Shiri Appleby) mental health storyline, plus that undercover reporter thing, Jeremy's (Josh Kelly) drunken assault, Quinn's (Constance Zimmer) reproductive woes and a racially charged suitor taking center stage. Critics and fans weren't the only ones aware something was amiss in the sophomore season.
"I was certainly aware of [the criticism]," Stacy Rukeyser, who was an EP on the first two seasons of the show and takes over as showrunner for Season 3, told TV Guide. "What I felt about Season 2 was that — you know, look, we took some really big swings in terms of the stories we were telling, but for me there was a lot of plot that happened, and we didn't necessarily have the time or take the time to sit with the effects of what had happened in an emotional or psychological way."
Pacing is key for a show that lives in short seasons like UnReal, and it does explain why so many plots left a bad taste in critics' mouths. Without the proper time dedicated to developing each plot, you can end up with a rushed storyline that doesn't connect to its audience.
But will Rukeyser and her team learn from past mistakes for Season 3? It sure sounds like they took those notes to heart when penning the upcoming season.
"When I got the bump to be the showrunner for Season 3, that was the first thing that I started with," Rukeyser said of Season 2's pacing problems. "I wasn't going to pretend that the things that had happened in the second season hadn't happened or try to ignore them in any way. I really wanted to sit with them in a truthful way, both emotionally and psychologically, and sit in the hearts and minds of Rachel and Quinn and to think, 'Ok, where are they starting from in the wake of what happened?' And to really take the time in the course of the season to really deal with the emotional effects of all of the things that happened. To get to explore them in an even deeper way, and that's been a really exciting opportunity."
UnReal premieres Feb. 26 at 10/9c on Lifetime.