In real life, the end of a love story is rarely a happy one, which is why perhaps it’s good that Netflix’s “Love” has chosen to wrap things up. The third season of the series created by Paul Rust, Lesley Arfin, and Judd Apatow has always had a grounded, near-cynical take on what it means to seek out romance in modern-day Los Angeles. But the series has always been, like many Apatow joints, easy to consume even when things get brutally awkward, thanks to the pervasive tone of an indie romantic comedy (something that may be the result of its director roster including Joe Swanberg, Lynn Shelton, and Michael Showalter).
Of course, the difference between “Love” and your typical indie rom-com is that with 34 half-hour episodes as opposed to an hour and a half of runtime to fill, the story of Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Rust), two unlikely lovers who somehow end up being a perfect fit for each other, has always had a meandering quality abetted by spurts of random elements, like Gus’ amateur band that writes theme songs for movies, the fake CW drama “Witchita,” Mickey’s work at a talk radio station, and the real “Waterworld” Stunt Spectacular at Universal Studios.
That might sound like a bad thing, but those diversions and distractions from the main story of Gus and Mickey are honestly some of the show’s high points, adding an essential level of amusement to what is otherwise a very straightforward tale about two people not in love, but in a relationship. It also helps that those elements draw in other people to populate this fun little version of Los Angeles, one just a minor degree of difference from the real one.
The show continues to make great use of a supporting cast that’s full of surprises, including an episode featuring Vanessa Bayer as a former girlfriend of Gus’ that reveals previously unknown levels of acting talent. (Bayer could easily use her work in “Love” to springboard a shift into more dramatic work. She’s absolutely heartbreaking here.) Meanwhile, Arya (played with dry realness by Iris Apatow) has really blossomed into a fascinating portrait of a teenage starlet, and as usual Claudia O’Doherty steals nearly every scene she’s in.
Rust and Jacobs still maintain the chemistry that makes their romance feel believable against the odds, though in Season 3 it becomes clear that the worst aspect of “Love” as a show is the character of Gus. It’s not that Gus is the worst character on the show, or even a particularly bad person. But he more often than not operates from a position of victimhood that makes him an absurd and unlikable figure in those moments. As it’s occasionally pointed out to him, he does not lack for privilege and opportunities, and every time he gets another chance or lucky break, it’s just a little maddening.
But it’s also pretty believable, to be honest — just another element of this show that makes it alarmingly relatable on a human level. For, even if you don’t frequent the hipster locations of “Love’s” version of Los Angeles, this show does capture something that anyone on the wrong side of 30 can recognize.
In our 20s and early 30s, we tend to make a lot of friends by virtue of proximity and common interest, but there’s a turning point we all eventually hit when we realize that maybe we don’t actually need some of those people around all that often, that maybe their lives and ours have diverged in certain key ways. And that, in turn, leads to the more important realization: That the people we make room for in our lives should be people worthy of our time and attention.
“Love” is essentially a show about that transition point, coming to terms with the realities of our relationships, and acknowledging some hard truths about them. But it may also represent that exact transition point in a general sense. “Love” was a show we started watching because it was on Netflix and it was about romance and featured a lot of fun actors. We spent our time with Gus and Mickey, got to know them, had our fun… and now, we’re good.
Season 3 does manage to end on something of a transcendent moment while remaining as semi-sweet as what’s come before, and we’ll always remember the show with fondness. Everyone involved with “Love” will get to explore new and potentially great opportunities, and we’ll be excited for them. Because sometimes it’s the right time to move on.
“Love” is streaming now on Netflix.