UnREAL Review: Watch Out, Ladies: Shiri Appleby is coming for the Emmy

Written by Matt Taylor

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I hope Shiri Appleby doesn’t have plans for the night of the Emmys, because, she’ll need to put on her finest dress, walk down the red carpet, and give one hell of an acceptance speech. Her work in this week’s episode – one of the season’s strongest – is nothing short of stunning.

In what might be one of the darker episodes of the series so far, southern gal Beth-Anne was chosen for the take-home date, and brings Darius to Alabama to meet her Confederate flag waving family. But the relationship takes a surprising turn when Beth-Anne reveals she is pregnant, and that the baby’s father is a dangerous convict who she wants nothing to do with. Naturally, Rachel sees this as a dramatic storyline she can capitalize on, but Jeremy’s assault has left her deeply unhinged, and her moral compass is totally out of control.

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Appleby has always been great, but her performance in this week’s episode is on a whole different level. On one level, she displays Rachel at her most sinister, maniacally turning the take-home date into a perilous situation for all involved. But the real beauty in her work is the way she shows how much Jeremy’s assault has destroyed her, and the fact that she manages to make the audience pity her even as she puts Beth-Anne and Darius in danger is a testament to her ability. And, in the end, when she finally decides to not report the incident to the police, her quiet devastation is easily communicated to the audience with her blank face and emotionless eyes. And, also worth noting, is that fact that Appleby directed this week’s episode as well – a truly impressive feat.

The other clear highlight of the episode, however, was a new segment featuring Everlasting’s resident psychiatrist, Dr. Wagerstein (Amy Hill), in which she speaks to the contestants about how they’re processing any rejection. The sequence is absolutely hilarious, and balances out the more upsetting scenes. And the episode’s end is awfully surprising, with another character from the past making a surprise reappearance. And the show seems like it will finally begin to explore the dynamics of the Rachel/Quinn relationship, which will provide enough drama to fill an entire season. So, while Beth-Anne’s family felt a bit too underdeveloped, the episode had so many great moments that it remained a phenomenal hour of television.

The Best Actress in a Drama Series is a stacked category, with heavy weights like Viola Davis, Claire Danes and Robin Wright claiming spots for multiple consecutive years. But the Emmys just have to make room for Shiri Appleby – her performance here, in an impressive episode she happened to direct, is worthy of a standing ovation.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10.