Modern Love 2×03 “Strangers on a Train” is both a hopeful, brilliant episode of television, and one of the most frustrating hours of the season, because if there’s one episode that leaves you feeling like you need not just 5 more minutes, but 5 more hours of this relationship, it’s this one. And yet the episode establishes just what it means to establish, and then it pans out, leaving the rest to the imagination. It is, in many ways, a little obvious what’s coming. Which, of course, doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have liked to see it.
The magic of the episode is in the chemistry, and also, in the earnestness. Kit Harington and Lucy Boynton play Michael and Paula to perfection, a couple of people who are, on paper, way too different to be compatible, and yet who manage to find not just that spark, but that thread of understanding. We don’t get to see much of them together, but seeing them interact it’s easy to not just imagine them together, but imagine them making each other better.
Of course, this works because the story is well written (Paula’s inner monologue is A+ can confirm) – as most of the episodes are – and because we can relate to the underlying emotions, but also because Lucy Boynton plays that tenderness and inherent desire for a connection she doesn’t believe she will actually get in a way that is deeply touching, and is met beat by beat by Kit Harington, getting to emote so much more than he did in all of those years of Game of Thrones, playing Michael with a kind of earnestness and vulnerability that makes a leading man great.
Modern Love 2×03 “Strangers on a Train” also does a great job at capturing the moment at the start of the pandemic, where none of us had any way to predict not just where this was going, but how long it would last, without getting bogged down by the reality of the last year. This isn’t an episode about the pandemic, it’s an episode set in a specific moment in time, one that we all recognize, and can relate to.
Because we also thought this would be over in a couple of weeks. We also thought we could just pick back up with our lives, with our plans. We also thought it was temporary. And when it wasn’t, we also all just …lost it. And we hadn’t even made the silly decision of meeting a special person and, instead of getting their number, like normal human adults living in 2021, trying to go for a super romantic let’s meet in this exact same place in two weeks plan.
Modern Love 2×03 “Strangers on a Train” isn’t, however, just about Michael and Paula and the different ways they react to the possibility of not seeing each other again, it’s about how people in their orbit react to their decisions, and their feelings. Because the situation presented in the episode is frankly, both unbelievable and a little absurd for anyone who might not be in that situation. And that’s kind of what makes it the perfect rom-com setup.
Though the series is called Modern Love, and the stories featured in this season are inspired by the New York Times Modern Love column, this one is different. It was based on one of the New York Time’s Tiny Love Stories, and adapted into the story we got to see by EP and showrunner John Carney. In a way, this should make it more unbelievable, but the story doesn’t feel out of place within the context of a world where the setup of stories is, sometimes, a little out there, but the feelings …the feelings are always, always real.
In the end, that’s what Modern Love is about, and that’s what Paula and Michael’s journey is meant to signify. Sometimes, you will meet people that you feel like you have nothing in common with, but people that will, nonetheless, feel familiar to you. Like you’ve met them before, or like you should make an effort to get to know them. That’s normal …human. We all crave connections, and the road to making them is anything but straightforward. There is no right or wrong way to find love, just like there’s no right or wrong kind of love.
As far as messages go, that’s kind of a great one, isn’t it?
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Modern Love 2×03 “Strangers on a Train”? Share with us in the comments below!