Love Life is back on BBC One and with a new season comes a new protagonist with a wealth of romantic problems.
When we heard that HBO’s Love Life was coming back to BBC One for a brand new season, we almost couldn’t believe it. With Anna Kendrick’s season one character, Darby, all set in the love stakes, what was season two going to be about?
Well, series two follows new lead Marcus Watkins (William Jackson Harper) whose journey of romantic introspection begins after he befriends the magnetic Mia Hines (Jessica Williams) at Darby’s wedding reception.
From the first few moments of the episode, which is appropriately titled ‘Mia Hines’, we get a sense of the familiar comfort of Marcus’ own marriage to Emily (Maya Kazan). But it’s only when speaking to Mia outside – and commenting on the cringe-worthy dance moves of the (majority white) people inside – that he starts to light up.
They exchange pleasantries, quick wit flowing seamlessly between them despite having only known each other for a matter of moments. He talks about his book editing job and it’s through that role that he reaches out to Mia after the party.
Marcus crafts an email (multiple times) asking for her opinion on a book. First, he leads with a joke then he goes for a curter tone. But finally, he opts for a casual email that is definitely anything but casual. He’s stood in his bathroom, having just turned down sex with his wife, and is running the tap to conceal the fact that he’s standing on his phone in the bathroom and not showering.
His multiple message crafting attempts are quickly met with a response from Mia who actually texts him back the exact joke he originally wanted to send. His wide grin says it all: he’s in trouble.
The days go by and he finds comfort in the fact that he knows they’re both in relationships so doesn’t “see the harm” in texting. But friendly text messages don’t leave you avidly checking your phone or smiling cheekily, right? It’s a weird series of events to see unfold on the small screen and harks back to the taboo of shows like BBC’s Cheaters. You know what you’re watching is morally questionable but you can’t help rooting for these characters to find their happiness.
As Marcus says to Mia on their spontaneous evening trip to the MoMA: “This isn’t illicit, you said it yourself, ‘We’re just hanging’.”
But within Mia there’s a spark that Marcus wasn’t expecting and a feeling of “being seen” that he just doesn’t get with Emily. Mia presses him on the topic of not only dating Black women, but seeing Black women as relationship-worthy. It’s something he’s never thought about but quickly opens up about the fact he feels he’s just “ended up with Emily”.
You can’t help but wince and it’s the flow of such natural – but superb – acting like this that makes the series feel just as real and authentic as the first. It’s also what leaves you laughing hysterically at these relatable relationship dynamics in each episode. And a series that strikes that perfect balance is one we most certainly can’t get enough of.
Watching Love Life, you find yourself gushing like you’re stood in the tense flirting scenes yourself, or smiling at the flurry of sarcastic exchanges between Marcus and Mia. You’re left feeling impatient for something to happen and honestly, will soon find that you can’t stop watching.
But really, it’s the slivers of smart dialogue throughout this first episode that will leave you wanting more – and perhaps reflecting on your own love life.
In one scene – where Marcus tries to rationalise his growing feelings for Maya by reflecting on his marriage to Emily – with his best friend Yogi (Chris Powell), he says, rather profoundly: “We fell in love with these versions of each other, right? And now, the dust has settled and bro, we’re just us.”
But that’s not what relationships are about, Yogi tells him, you have to work at them and “choose happiness” rather than focus on the negatives that are only visible now his interest has been peaked by another woman.
While the big, bad topic of love and dating runs throughout the series, it’s precisely the subject matter, the on point delivery and natural comedy that makes Love Life one of the best romantic dramas on TV right now.
The first two episodes of Love Life season two air tonight on BBC One at 10:40pm, with further double episodes airing weekly hereafter. All episodes are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.