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Modern Love Season 2 review: An uneven antidote for these dark, troubled times

Modern Love Season 2 cast: Kit Harrington, Anna Paquin, Minnie Driver and Tobias Menzies
Modern Love Season 2 creator: John Carney
Modern Love Season 2 rating: 2.5 stars

Perhaps it’s the law of diminishing marginal utility at play. Or perhaps, after being ravaged by almost two years of unpredictability and global pain — here’s looking at you Covid — we need a bigger, warmer blanket to ward off the chill. Whatever may be the reason, Modern Love Season 2, which may have been workable some months ago, will just not do anymore.

The first season of the Emmy-nominated show had bowled all of us over. With spectacular performances by Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, Tina Fey (in a never-seen-before avatar) and Andy Garcia, Modern Love’s first iteration made its way into our hearts. We understood the deep, cherished friendship that a doorman could develop with a tenant of his building. We panted along with Margot and Kenji as they finished their marathon, and sprinted towards finding love a second time in their twilight years. Each and every episode of season 1 had struck some chord and made us sigh wistfully, grin ear-to-ear or bawl our eyes out. Maybe as we were so enticed by the perfection of season 1 that season 2 pales in comparison. Or maybe, it is the aforementioned law of diminishing marginal utility.

The format of the show remains the same — crisp 35-minute episodes, with eight chapters in total. In The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy, we meet a ‘night girl, a girl who can only sleep during the day’, falling for a ‘day boy’, who is a school teacher and has a day job. Then there is the “A Life Plan for Two, Followed by One”, where we revisit the classic trope of falling for one’s best friend. There is a hint of Wong Kar-wai’s cult film In the Mood for Love in The Waiting Room for Estranged Spouses, which stars Anna Paquin and Garrett Hedlund.

Love, the mysterious, elusive, often misquoted and oft repeated word is at the core of this series. Be it the love one might have for one’s car, as it represents your first love, or the love that overwhelms us when are all teenagers, and getting that one text from the person we are crushing on can turn a terrible day to the one filled with sunshine.

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A still from The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy, an episode in Modern Love season 2. (Photo: Amazon Studios)

The last season had focused a lot on the euphoric, all-encompassing aspect of this elusive feeling. This time, it’s heavy on the messaging. It drives home the point, that maybe not each and every ‘love adjacent’ encounter is meant to be everlasting. In “How do you remember Me”, we learn that maybe some encounters are meant to be just that, fleeting. And we need to hold and cherish them, learn from them. If only it were that easy. There is a reason we play Adele on loop.

The season is more diverse, sure. We see a lot more LGBTQ friendly narratives and people from multi-ethnic backgrounds are featured prominently. This time there are three stories that are set in the United Kingdom. But to be a truly global reflection of love, Modern Love will have to expand its narratives further. Maybe to a country where dating apps are non-existent, or to a place which has like a total of 1000 inhabitants. Or maybe even India, where the term love jihad often pops up in news headlines. How does love blossom in those conditions? That’s a narrative we would like to hear.

The episode to score an almost perfect ten is the one titled “Train”, which stars Kit Harrington and Lucy Bonyton. It’s an homage to every rom-com trope ever, sans the cheesiness and cringe. Even the music is cued up magically when they meet. She is a student of medieval history, he is a ‘tech guy’. Both are on a train to Dublin from Galway and Cupid looms large, along with the shadow of a Covid-induced pandemic.

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Kit Harington Kit Harington in Modern Love season 2. (Photo: Amazon Studios)

Spoiler alert: Hats off to the writers, we don’t hear the word once in the episode. The two connect, and converse till the time the janitor has to ask them to leave the empty train. But, as fate would have it, they don’t exchange numbers, or Instagram handles. Hell, he doesn’t even know her last name. They decide to meet again in two weeks, at the station, for the first train back. But as the whole world knew, everything went into total lockdown, with no trains to anywhere. Did Paula and Michael end up with each other? This perhaps will be the biggest will they/won’t they question after Ross and Rachel in Friends. And as we are already hearing rumours about David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston dating in real life, we just can’t keep calm. With the world still trying to heal, we could do with another heart-warming win.

Train is a brilliantly written episode, and Kit Harrington plays an Irish bloke to perfection. There is a tongue-and-cheek dig at Harrington’s claim to fame. He explains to his brother that Paula is a medievalist. “Oh, that’s like Game of Thrones and stuff,” he responds with a straight face.

The series speaks of love that comes with second chances and forgiveness. All the stories, they do knock on our hearts, but not all burrow in and warm its cockles. That said, in these dark troubled times, the series is an antidote of sorts. It works in fits and starts. Given that all episodes are stand-alone stories, you can choose to not binge watch it. Watch an episode after a particularly tough day at work. You are sorted for the week at least. For the rest of the days, there is always chocolate.

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