Credit “Wedding Season” for not taking the easy opening. It takes a lot of confidence to start up an eight-episode season with an “I object!” moment. It’s how the show introduces us to Stefan (Gavin Drea) one of 2022’s unluckiest characters, and not just because his gambit to break up the wedding of Katie (Rosa Salazar), the woman he loves, is dead on arrival.
His hopes at whisking Katie away for a fairy-tale ending aren’t the only thing that dies that day. At the reception, Katie’s intended Hugo (George Webster) and a number of his family members keel over on top of their chicken/steak/vegetarian option. While she somehow manages to escape unharmed, Stefan is hauled into an interrogation room to share everything he knows about the woman suddenly leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.
There are glimmers in “Wedding Season” where you can see a fun mystery crime comedy shaking hands with the meet-cute that kicks off Stefan’s infatuation. A handful of flashbacks show the few-week stretch where Katie (wearing her engagement ring the whole time) and Stefan have a whirlwind affair that takes them away from the streets of London and brings them dangerously close to a handful of other, non-murder felonies. In these segments, Katie’s looming marriage to someone else carries just as much (if not more) anxiety that the eventual conspiracy that sends the two on the run.
For the most part, “Wedding Season” is a combination of two shows that can’t get out of each other’s way. There’s enough early crush chemistry in Katie and Stefan’s hijinks that the “escaping from the law” half of the show can’t help but overcompensate by getting more outrageous with each passing episode. The body count grows and Katie becomes less a person than someone that an increasing number of people project their infatuation onto. By the time Stefan says of Katie, “I don’t think I ever really knew her,” it’s clear he’s not the only one.
The thriller side of “Wedding Season” — with its shootouts and stabbings and handcuffs and double-crosses deployed in various combinations — is all escalation without much sense of build in between. It doesn’t take long for Stefan to realize that he’s in trouble with more than just Detectives Metts (Jade Harrison and Donahue (Jamie Michie) chasing him and Katie. Things get bigger here almost because they have to. Those car chases and standoffs become more the suggestion of danger than situations where Stefan or Katie or any of their friends are actually being threatened.
Aside from one or two intriguing wrinkles, “Wedding Season” spends a large fraction of its runtime going out of its way to hide Katie’s true intentions. It amounts to a few solid hours of Stefan and everyone he meets all coming up with their own theories for how and why her brand new in-laws are all dead while she escaped unharmed. After that much time, when the truth eventually trickles out, a lot of that meaningful energy has dissipated along goofier side tangents and some outrageous action setpieces.
Drea does his best to sell Stefan as someone who can acquit himself OK in matters of love and escaping death, but the constant cycle of danger and relief and some new unforeseen problem starts to wear thin over the course of eight episodes. The show always gets an extra bit of life when Katie switches from being an enigma talked about in testimony to being someone we see control her own fate. “Brand New Cherry Flavor” and “Undone” have proven that Salazar is more than capable at holding her own in genre-defying series. Here, she and Drea seem to be having fun playing with the tonal back and forth, but ultimately the show doesn’t have as much for them to help keep any emotional throughline to latch on to.
Not only does Katie get lost in that shuffle, but Stefan’s friends largely do too. The banter-y inner circle that’s a staple of many a quality rom-coms rarely gets its own room to grow. Some of them (namely Ioanna Kimbook as the friend group’s perpetually flirt Suji) do get a moment for themselves to stand out for a reason other than telling Stefan to snap out of his crush-induced funk. “Wedding Season” seems to only check back in with them when they can serve a purpose.
That series-opening episode, written by creator Oliver Lyttelton, lays the groundwork for an ultra-charming romantic comedy setup, a spirit that pops up in “Wedding Season” in a handful of other lavish and thoughtful tableaus. (There’s one particularly colorful ceremony, set in an unconventional wedding location, that’s the season’s visual high water mark.) This is show not without its dashes of sincerity among the winking.
It’s just the imbalance between that sweetness and the mayhem that throws “Wedding Season” into more chaos than it can control. The season’s last few episodes draw out the last few remaining reveals before an ending that almost feels like it’s from another third, disconnected show. But in that resolution, there’s another few minutes’ glimpse of a “Wedding Season” that’s focused and free from distraction. It’s those moments that make it almost tempting to say this one is worth taking the plunge, for better or for worse.
“Wedding Season” is now available to stream on Hulu.