AVClub: As UnREAL progresses, it’s starting to focus more on character rather than plotting, and that’s a positive development for two reasons. The first is that UnREAL simply feels like a character study trapped inside a nighttime soap, which is partly a symptom of Shiri Appleby sucking up all the oxygen with her gutsy, stunning performance. Any scene with no Rachel in it needs more Rachel in it.
The second reason is that UnREAL has an authenticity problem. It wants to cut deep below the surface of the reality-romance world, but it can’t bear the sight of blood. UnREAL isn’t an exposé about the making of a Bachelor-type television show, though it certainly presented itself as such early on. The show merely uses the world of Everlasting as a backdrop for its action and as a clever metaphor for the mendacity that seeps into all interpersonal relationships. That’s only an issue insomuch as the button-pushing and emotional wrangling that goes on behind the scenes of Everlasting are given more weight than the people engaging in that behavior and their motivations—besides a steady paycheck—for doing so. “Wife” tilts that balance in the right direction with a tighter focus on shading in UnREAL’s characters and deepening the relationships and rivalries between them.