This recap contains spoilers about the first episode of the Netflix original series Love, so be aware of that before pressing forward.
Judd Apatow has been criticized in the past for taking a lengthy and slice-of-life approach to his films; Namely, This Is 40 clocked in at 133 minutes and drew flak for its occasional aimlessness. So how does one react to the first episode of Apatow’s new Netflix series Love, which spends 40 minutes of its debut episode with the main characters not even having met each other yet?
Even though Apatow’s previous television work only received appreciation after the fact—Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared are both considered cult classics now—it’s possible that his penchant for patience might be better suited for TV.
In film (or other non-Apatow TV shows), the entirety of this first episode might have been boiled down to a flashback sequence, or a flash-forward featuring parents telling their happy and healthy children how they met, but on a Netflix show, it’s OK to spend a debut episode establishing your characters, because unlike with traditional broadcast television, viewers don’t have to wait a week for the next episode where things actually happen.
They can learn about the leads they’ll be following for the next nine episodes, then immediately launch into watching the next installment, or the entirety of the season if they so choose. That’s the burden of film: directors only have a couple hours to establish nuanced characters and present multiple story arcs. Any longer than that, and they’ll be accused of going… long. But that’s what TV—specifically, Netflix original programming—seems to be made for: Telling stories at whatever pace the viewer wants to watch them.
Yes, the first episode of Love doesn’t seem to get into much of what will make up the rest of the series’ plot (that opinion was formulated after only watching the first episode), but if strong stories are driven by strong characters, then doesn’t the viewer deserve, or even need, to have a good understanding of their protagonists?
The common ground between main characters Mickey Dobbs and Gus Cruikshank is that they are both in some variety of unsatisfying and dysfunctional relationship. Mickey, played by Gillian Jacobs, works at a satellite radio station and is in a loose relationship with her cocaine-addicted sometimes-boyfriend Eric (portrayed by comedian Kyle Kinane, who you might recognize as the voice of some Comedy Central commercials). Mickey settles for him until, during a revelation at a new-age religious service Eric brought her, she realizes that the relative ease of her current situation isn’t worth the lack of fulfillment it comes with.
Gus, played by series co-creator Paul Rust, is a recessive softy who works as an on-set tutor for a spoiled child actor, and is in a long-term relationship until he breaks it off upon finding out he’s been cheated on. He then moves into a new apartment complex and finds himself involved in a threesome, which grosses him out when he realizes, before going too far, that the two girls are sisters.
Their individual stories converge in the final two minutes of the episode, when Gus steps in to help Mickey pay for coffee and cigarettes at a gas station after she forgot to bring her wallet. In terms of plot, there’s not much else to report, because Apatow productions have always largely been about gaining an unspoken understanding about the characters’ wants and motives, but like any relationship, that takes time.
The show’s characters are also very realistic and human, meaning that there is no “Eureka, I’m in love!” moment when the leads lock eyes for the first time. They’re just two people, with their individuality in tact, innocuously crossing paths in the morning at a gas station with nary a romantic thought in the air. Sometimes, that’s what love is.
The entire first season of Love is available to stream on Netflix now.
Editor’s note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.