The second season of Netflix’s hit reality show was rancid and perfect. The show is probably doomed.
If the first season of Love Is Blind presented the burning question of whether it’s a good idea to marry someone you barely know and have never seen, the second one all but answers that query with a definitive no.
The most recent season’s nine episodes followed six unpleasant, recently engaged couples — all of whom met in the show’s specially designed pods, which kept them from seeing each other until after the question had been popped — who seemed doomed to failure. This season had it all: gaslighting, lying, cutting, sarcasm, a man who looks illegally jittery telling his partner he hates her. The editors, producers, and casting agents seemingly pulled no punches; a lot of these people were revealed to be no good.
It all left me with the cantankerous notion that a person should marry someone they’ve met in person and had multiple conversations with, and not under the pressure of a fake reality TV timeline. Go ahead, take all the time you want before you get married!
This is all a testament to the magic of the first season. Despite being skeptical of the idea that people would even agree to get married to someone despite never laying eyes on each other, I was all in on at least one couple — Cameron and Lauren — being together forever married. To be fair, this aired right at the beginning of the pandemic and maybe my emotions were fragile and my need for a happy ending unusually strong. Maybe it just snuck in at the right time. But Love is Blind’s mix of earnest, hopeless romantics, one messy villain, and an audacious premise won me over. I was actively rooting for love and happiness!
I don’t know if the Love Is Blind team could ever replicate the first season, and if that’s impossible, then what exactly is the point? The next batch of couples could be even more incompatible and terrible to one another, but that seems like a different show than intended. Thanks to the show’s growing popularity, the gimmick — not being able to see your future partner — starts to seem a little weak, attracting more and more people who care less about the potential partners who can’t see them than the audience who can. So perhaps this is it, the last good season of Love Is Blind.
Love Is Blind season 2 was like aversion therapy for dating
The biggest difference between the first and second seasons of Love Is Blind is how deeply cynical the second one is. And this is coming from someone with a deeply misanthropic view of everyone on the many, many candid reality shows I enjoy. It felt as if the casting department, producers, and editors were creating a live-action taxonomy of people to avoid dating, rather than couples to root for.
In the first season, against the odds, the show had Cameron and Lauren, a surprisingly compatible, unusually down-to-earth, extremely attractive couple you couldn’t help but root for. They’re still married now. This season, Danielle is a suspicious scold and her fiancé, Nick, has weaponized relationship therapy lingo. She accuses him of cheating, he calls her toxic. She has a bag full of food-related costumes in her closet (because she says she likes to party), he gets in one to tell her what a horribly immature person she is.
Shayne presents phenotypically as a himbo, but harbors a mean streak. He has a complete meltdown when he fails to hit a baseball during the show’s bachelor party episode. His fiancée, Natalie, seems too good for him, but also has a penchant for putting him down. She flirts by calling him stupid.
Individually, Deepti, Sal, and Iyanna are too good for their respective fiancés (especially Deepti, who is paired with a man obsessed with the idea of carrying a woman on his shoulders during a music festival). Watching them navigate and hopefully avoid marrying their partners through the nine episodes of the show feels like watching teens in a slasher movie.
And God bless Shaina, a sociopathic chaos agent who seemed to want to stay on the show long enough to see if she could meet Shayne out of the pods. Her M.O. is impeccable: She feigned loving Kyle, ran away from him in Mexico, feigned loving him again, and then feigned loving Jesus so much that she broke up with him once and for all. No notes.
Each episode, I tuned in to see what fresh horrors these ghouls would inflict upon one another. Whether it be pining for someone else in the pods, or talking about how they and their friends love to dance on tables and break them, or telling their parents how not sexually attracted they are to their partner — each chapter was more horrifying than the last.
None of these people seemed good for each other, and maybe that was the point.
The first season was a little bit magic in that the people they found were all worth rooting for. Besides Cam and Lauren, we had Amber and Barnett who, as messy as they were, made sense together. Giannina Milady Gibelli was obviously too good for Damian whats-his-name, but I wanted her to be happy. And even the forgettable couple — Tim/Ken/Jim/I cannot remember his name and Kelly — seemed like genuinely nice people.
Given how lucky the producers and editors were in that first season, they may have figured that it was time to swerve in a completely opposite direction than give us another edition of love winning out.
This season, it seemed, the show went vibes all-in on the first season’s villain: Jessica. Famous for her baby voice and feeding her dog wine, Jessica clearly did not love the man she paired off with, and had big feelings for Barnett. She was dubbed “Messica” by a fellow castmate. Jessica seemed to be going through the motions of the show’s different stages with her partner, Mark — living together, wedding planning, bachelor and bachelorette parties — all to give Barnett a “pick me, choose me, love me” speech. That speech didn’t happen, but Jessica ended up being a significant presence on the series.
I don’t blame the show’s creators and creatives for picking four or five villains, because the force that is Messica did capture people’s attention. I just wonder if there’s anything possible left in the tank for the series after this unpleasant watch.
Love is Blind is also running up against its own reality show mortality
The half-life of a reality show gimmick is short. After its initial season, contestants on Survivor came in knowing they had to “Pagong” — i.e., keep their original tribe, outnumber the other one, and out-vote them at the merge — the competition. Top Chef and Project Runway hopefuls soon realized that the losing leader on team challenges are the ones to go. It didn’t take long for Big Brother contestants to figure out how to “backdoor” someone into an eviction nomination.
Reality shows often have more than one way to “win,” however, and the show’s stated goal and the contestants’ goals might not line up. Candid reality shows, like any iteration of Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules, don’t have a “winner.” Everyone on them has a goal though: to get their contracts renewed. Those contracts mean more exposure, more fame, and more money. To keep that going and stay on the show, they know they have to keep the drama high and the rivalries spicy.
Similarly, contestants on the Bachelor and Bachelorette try to last long enough to make a name for themselves and get a social media following. Among the cast, it’s called “not being there for the right reasons.”
With two seasons under its belt, Love Is Blind is already becoming more of an avenue for its cast to get famous than it is to prove that love is blind. Just like on the Bachelor and Bachelorette, past contestants parlayed their appearances into big Instagram followings and from there, seek out sponsorships. The Love Is Blind contestants have it a little different in that, of course, they never see their potential love interests.
It already seems like some contestants aren’t bought in on the show’s idea that it’s what’s inside with counts: Shake, for instance, asks women if he can pick them up as a way to gauge relative weight; Shayne asks for intricate descriptions of what his conversational partners are wearing.
It’s not hard to imagine a future contestant getting on the show and putting their best foot forward to the audience watching them to the point that it nullifies the “experiment” that they’re a part of. Future contestants could take notes of what does and doesn’t work on the show — e.g., Shaina telling Kyle she will wear his mother’s wedding ring even though she and Jesus do not love him — and make sure to come off as likable as possible.
That person might be more of a simulacrum of who they think will be more marketable on the TV show, rather than the person they actually are. And if this show is about the rarity of finding your one true love, wouldn’t a more sure investment be in post-show sponsorships and Instagram followings?
The goal for them is to be marketable, to be likable enough to have some kind of payout when the looming reality is that they’re probably going to be dumped. For some — probably most of them — being on the show is fundamentally at odds with what the show is trying to do.
Granted, the show did a very good job this season of not picking Instagram-hungry contestants (although one failed contestant, Tricia, did become a bit of a punchline for repeatedly mentioning how many followers and friends she has; she did not get engaged). As of now, unlike The Bachelor, there’s no larger franchise universe or spinoff shows that Love Is Blind is attached to — a spinoff show with former contestants would undercut the notion of contestants not knowing what one another look like.
These factors may keep the show more earnest, but most of its main cast members now have social media followings in the hundreds of thousands. It can’t be long before contestants may realize that being a dumped sweetheart on the show pays off, or that a faked, showmance marriage might be worth it, if the post-show paychecks are big enough. This trend would make season one seem like even more of an anomaly.
Love may be blind, but fame is not.