Most of the eight episodes of Amazon’s anthology series Modern Love, based on the New York Times column of the same name, examine romantic love at different stages: the start of a relationship, the middle of a long and turbulent marriage, the aftermath of missing the one who got away. Several episodes explore platonic love, and a few toe the line between friendship and romance. One, about a woman with bipolar disorder, even explores self-love.
In the final episode, these New York City–set stories receive a coda in the form of an extended montage in which all of the characters’ lives intersect. As a thunderstorm rolls in, Margot (played by Jane Alexander), a widow from earlier in the finale, jogs past a Volkswagen van transporting Karla (Olivia Cooke), a pregnant homeless woman from the previous episode. The same van drives past other characters (a woman and her doorman from the first episode), who then walk past another (the CEO of a dating app, from Episode 2), who sprints past others (the couple from Episode 5), and so on, implying that although the people in Modern Love’s separate stories may be strangers to one another, they’re all connected.
It’s a cute trick, pulled off by body doubles and clever staging. But as a closing meant to tie the show together, the episode fails to deliver any significant conclusions about the nature of love. Instead, by summarizing the tales in one orderly sequence, the finale flattens its eight stories into a bunch of clichés. No matter how the characters’ respective episodes wrapped up, they all get polished, happy endings in the montage: A married couple in therapy (played by Tina Fey and John Slattery), who came close to separating, continue playing tennis, their newfound hobby, in the rain. Have they repaired their relationship further, or are they just enjoying the game? A young woman (Julia Garner) who began a confused relationship with an older man (Shea Whigham) is seen embracing a man closer to her age. Is this unnamed stranger a new boyfriend she met after the events of her episode? Are they on their first date, or their fifth? Modern Love doesn’t care to explain; the camera pans up away from Garner’s character and her beau to glimpse Alexander’s Margot strolling across a bridge above their heads, ending the season.