Television

Love Is Blind Tweaked Its Premise in Season 2—and It Paid Off

A woman wearing a hot dog costume and a man wearing an ear of corn costume.
Danielle Ruhl and Nick Thomas in Season 2 of Love Is Blind. Netflix

When Love Is Blind premiered in 2020, Netflix presented it as a social experiment: “Is love truly blind?” Nick Lachey asked viewers in his most charming voice. The concept was simple: Men and women would go on a series of blind speed dates for 10 days in order to find the one. The catch? Physical appearance was taken out of the equation, with individuals communicating through a wall, unable to see each other. If they found a match, their wedding was planned for just four weeks later.

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In Season 1, the pairings on Love Is Blind largely made sense, with a few exceptions. The show’s “villain,” Jessica, seemed desperate to instead be with a happily engaged Barnett⁠, and Mark seemed almost too committed (until he was revealed later as a serial cheater). But others, like Lauren and Cameron, got a happily ever after that had many fans rooting for them, and even Giannina and Damian seemed like they might make it even after the latter said “no” at the altar. (They dated for two years before ultimately splitting.) Perhaps it was because many people were glued to Netflix during COVID, but it was nearly impossible to look away from the extreme take on reality TV dating.

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With Season 2, Netflix changed its strategy. Instead of asking “Is love truly blind?” the show seemed to ask “Are these people even really here to fall in love?” Less focused on happy endings this go-around, it was more interested in exploiting the anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt that the experiment could perpetuate. Six couples in Season 2 decided they would ultimately get hitched—or at least, accepted an initial proposal. But even with those that committed, the foundations were shaky all around. Watching some of the hurdles that the couples faced within days of deciding to tie the knot were unnerving, so much so that you were silently praying they might not make it to the altar.

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It’s not surprising that Love Is Blind took a different approach in its second season. There’s a reason why shows like The Bachelor and Are You The One? have been able to keep audiences hooked: Each season, these shows make incremental changes, whether to casting, challenges, or filming. While Season 1 cast singles looking for love, Love Is Blind’s second season featured contestants who were actually uncertain about what they wanted at all. The couples felt so mismatched—even unlikeable—that Season 2 was one big wildcard filled with heightened emotions and unpredictability.

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In some ways, this may have appeared to undermine the show’s premise in the first place. But Season 2 of Love Is Blind was still a social experiment, in its own way. The revelation that Danielle had a history of anxiety and deep-seated insecurities gave context to her explosive arguments with Nick. When Iyanna revealed that she was sexually assaulted and estranged from her family, it made complete sense why trust was paramount for her. The stark contrast of Kyle and Shaina’s core beliefs—the former an atheist, the latter a devout Catholic—signaled there would be trouble ahead no matter what. The discovery that Shayne’s father had died just months before Love Is Blind explained (but didn’t excuse) his erratic behavior.

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Showing these intimate details on-screen unearthed who was on Love Is Blind for the wrong reasons and who was wildly unprepared for commitment. Watching Shake, who had proudly asserted he had only dated white women who didn’t weigh above 110 lbs, ask the ladies (including his future fiancée Deepti) leading questions to find out their size exhibited extreme fatphobia. His constant confessionals and admissions that he wasn’t attracted to Deepti—and his comparisons between her and his aunt—were telling of his own internalized racism. Sal may or may not have had a girlfriend during filming (he denies they were still dating). Mallory seemed to be forcing the idea of marriage on herself. And whether or not he realized it at the time, it was apparent that Shayne was grieving and grappling with rage issues.

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It also became clear that some of the contestants were clout-chasers, which complicated the sincerity of the show. In the show’s postseason After the Altar special, Shake revealed that being the villain was “low-key fun at times,” almost as if he planned it all along. Shaina seemed to accept Kyle’s proposal merely for the possibility of more airtime and a chance at breaking up Shayne and Natalie. Sal, who generally seemed sweet, seemingly used every opportunity to whip out his ukelele for the cameras like a guitar at a bonfire. And, perhaps most telling of all, one of the contestants who was barely on-screen memorably bragged about her Instagram followers in the pods. The runaway success of the first season of Love Is Blind may have compromised the experiment’s integrity in Season 2 by attracting a crowd more interested in being on Love Is Blind than in actually participating.

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By the finale, the audience and cast members could largely see through it all. Only two couples said “I do”: Danielle and Nick and Iyanna and Jarette. The others didn’t follow through. Deepti proudly chose herself over Shake; the uncertainty of Sal and Mallory’s relationship made their future ill-fated; and Natalie was rattled by a blowup the night before where Shayne’s anger seemingly came to a head. But the altar wasn’t necessarily the end for the Love Is Blindcrew. The special revealed that Natalie and Shayne had given it another—unsuccessful—try. With Kyle’s flirtatious comment that he wished he had proposed to Deepti and her presence in the background of a TikTok video, fans are speculating the two might be dating. The two successful couples were still enjoying wedded bliss.

Netflix’s new experiment worked. The series is thriving from the drama of personality clashes and people who are there for the wrong reasons—the more trash couples, the better. It’s also telling that the season finale was used to promote Netflix’s newest marriage relationship experiment, The Ultimatum, which promises to put commitment-phobes and their partners who want to get married to the test by having them date other people. Love Is Blind’s finale was the amuse-bouche for yet another unhinged reality romance series. Netflix is betting on chaos—and winning.

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