UnReal returned to Lifetime on Monday, February 26, and for those of you who weren’t totally on board with season 2, take heart — season 3 gets back on track with the show that took the TV world by storm two years ago. Part of the reason season 3 looks to be so good is that the “suitor” is actually a “suitress.” Caitlin Fitzgerald steps into the role of Serena, a Silicon Valley mogul who has never quite managed to find a balance between being a successful businesswoman and finding a partner.
The executive producers told Brit + Co at the 2018 TCA winter press tour that Serena will be sort of a stand-in for both Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) this season, as they continue to struggle with their personal demon… and each other.
Executive producer Stacy Rukeyser says that part of the reason Rachel brings in a feminist suitress is that she wants to prove to Quinn that a strong, high-powered woman can also be lovable, which of course backfires a bit when Serena proves to be too much for most of the men vying for her affections.
“I really do believe that a smart, strong woman is one of the scariest things in the world to half or more of America,” says Rukeyser. “It’s complicated. How are you supposed to be as a woman? At work you’re supposed to be rawr-rawr, go-get-’em, demand your time, reclaim your time or whatever. But then you go out on a date and you’re not supposed to be like that — it’s intimidating, you have to make some space for the guy, make him feel important. It’s complicated! How are we supposed to be and who is the right partner for us?”
Rukeyser adds that while a woman is obviously not defined by having a partner or being a wife, she does think that a lot of people (including Quinn and Rachel) want that kind of connection.
“I do believe we’re all looking for some sort of connection. And should a woman like [Serena or Quinn or Rachel] be in a power couple with another Alpha male? Should she be with a Beta male who’s going to take care of the kids? How do we figure out our lives now that we have choices? And I don’t think there’s an easy answer, and that’s what we’re exploring through Serena,” says the EP.
But another thing the show is exploring, which goes hand-in-hand with wanting a human connection, is Rachel’s personal struggles with men, especially given the revelation in season 2 that she was raped by one of her therapist mother’s clients.
“We finally ask, ‘What the f*ck is wrong with Rachel?’ and we try to answer it and the answer is ‘a lot,'” reveals co-creator and EP Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, adding that it’s the addition of a legitimate mental health professional to the set of “Everlasting” that finally lets Rachel make some headway in this department.
“Quinn has brought Dr. Simon [Brandon Jay McLaren] here for Rachel, and he is a real-ass shrink and he is going to do a real-ass job … [Rachel goes] on a whole journey to discover where the quote-unquote darkness comes from and unpacking the revelations that came up last season, in terms of what happened to her when she was a child and her mother’s response to that, and figuring out what is wrong with Rachel and why does she act the way that she does and the discovery that it’s never just one thing,” says Rukeyser. “Going through therapy for the first time, she tries to come up with the silver bullet, the one thing that will make her feel better, and the truth is, to become a healthy adult is actually a lot of work and takes a long time.”
Part of Rachel’s journey, however, is coming to grips with the part she played in Coleman and Yael’s deaths at the end of season 2. Yes, Jeremy (Josh Kelly) was primarily responsible, but did Rachel coerce him to act the way he did? And what about the repercussions of him becoming violent with her? Needless to say, those two have some serious things to deal with.
“Rachel is not being honest about one big thing, which is that she may have produced Jeremy to do what he did to Coleman and Yael. She is not facing her own personal responsibility in what happened,” says Shapiro. “Jeremy comes back and is sober and has gone through anger management and is thinking he has done everything that Rachel wants him to do to make amends and she won’t even admit that she had any part in his decision, so she does need to come to terms with that and face the truth of that, and Dr. Simon helps her get there.”
And while Jeremy will never be a romantic interest for Rachel again, he is still a big part of her life — and the big questions are, should he even be in Rachel’s life and should he still be working on Everlasting?
“Over the course of the season, Jeremy has to come to terms with what he did, to really accept the fact that he killed two people for Rachel, for this place. And how will he ever be able to live with himself?” says Rukeyser.
UnReal airs Mondays at 10pm ET/PT on Lifetime.
What did you think of the season 3 premiere? Tell us @BritandCo!
(photos via James Dittiger/Lifetime)