Sex/Life spoilers follow.
Brad or Cooper? That is Billie's cross to bear in Netflix's Sex/Life. It's the question that torments her every waking moment and chases sleep away as she nurses mugs of late-night liquor while turning it over in her mind.
Fantasy or reality? Adventure or stability? Brad or Cooper?
We, too, are supposed to feel conflicted, as explained by its creator Stacy Rukeyser (via Collider).
"It was really important that it was not an easy choice," she said. "Hopefully people will go back and forth over the course of the season."
Eventually, Billie arrives at her decision and it's both audacious and unexpected. "I'm not leaving my husband...now f**k me," she says to Brad after sprinting to his Soho apartment, buoyed with glorious purpose as the jubilant sounds of Celeste's Stop This Flame signal a new and dazzling phase of her life.
Why choose when you can have it all?
Sex/Life poses some interesting (if well-worn) questions, such as the above. Setting aside her romantic dilemma for a moment, her hunger for Brad is also interlaced with her acute loss of freedom and independence. Billie's role as a wife and a mother has come at the expense of her own career and desires. She remains bolted to her home while Cooper is at liberty to scale great professional heights in the big city. The question of family or career, which is a choice largely faced by women while men have traditionally been able to have the lot, also sits at the centre of Billie's restlessness.
But back to Team Cooper vs Team Brad, there is another option which doesn't once cross her mind: why choose either? Are they really the best she can do?
Sex/Life requires you to suspend your disbelief on more than one occasion but for it to work, you absolutely have to be invested in the two paths that sit before Billie. We, however, would have skipped merrily away from both.
Let's consider Brad. Here we have a man who once exploited his daddy issues to make Billie's miscarriage entirely about him. It was the universe screaming that he wasn't destined to have a child of his own because he was unable to work through his own emotional turmoil, apparently, and once again Billie's own pain was superseded by his. That conversation had also taken place after she caught him snogging the bartender at her cousin's wedding. He later packed her bags and demanded that she leave his apartment.
Then there was a previous altercation in which he took aim at Billie's family, before slut-shaming her.
"You're so curious about everyone else, but what about you," he sneered. "Running away from your redneck mum and dad down in Georgia. Maybe if daddy gave you a little more attention, you wouldn't f**k a stranger on the first night you met him."
To add insult to injury, he added: "You think you're so special. Guess what, Billie. You're not. You're not special, and you're not my f**king girlfriend."
And with that, he jumped into a cab and sped off into the night, leaving Billie to nurse her broken heart in the middle of a busy Manhattan street.
Brad could be immeasurably cruel but given the proximity of those moments to a near-constant stream of sex, with Billie unable to banish those intoxicating memories worthy of a Dionysian hat tip from her mind, they are subliminally romanticised. That's further heightened by Billie returning to the source to drink from the poisoned chalice time and time again.
Now we know what you're thinking. Brad really was suffering. His relationship, or lack thereof, with his biological father, plus the total disdain his step-dad had for him were a constant source of anguish, negatively impacting all of his relationships, including the one he had with himself. And he did seek out his father after a moment of reflection further down the line, combatting his emotional debris, just as Billie had asked him to. We are all capable of change, and there's also a lot to be said for second chances. But let's flash-forward to the present day, where he is still up to some of his old tricks.
Jumping into bed with Billie's best friend Sasha could be considered by some to be murky behaviour, by both parties, which leads us onto Brad both filming himself and Sasha getting hot and heavy without her permission, and passing the footage on to Billie.
Brad's "persistence" – let's call it that – which involves him repeatedly flirting with Billie in front of her husband during a disastrous double date, and him also arriving unannounced at her home, before whipping out a ring and proposing to her, are both couched as passionate in the series. But in reality, they're anxiety-inducing and yet more evidence that Brad's ego really does match the scale of his manhood.
But enough of Brad. Let's turn our attention to Cooper, who is presented as the perfect package throughout Sex/Life, and the antithesis to the man who preceded him. He's lauded by Billie and those around him, from his boss, who would risk her professional stature to steer their relationship into romantic territory, to his neighbour and wife of his colleague Trina, who samples some of what Cooper has to offer during a sex party that goes violently awry.
He's supposed to have our deepest sympathies for the position he's found himself in and there are moments when he earns that pity, but lest we forget the crater that Billie and her husband have tumbled into was borne out of Cooper's complete disinterest in his wife. Billie's desire to connect with her husband always plays second fiddle to his job, their children, football, which Cooper can't tear his eyes away from during one failed moment of intimacy, and virtually any other matter. We can see Billie's desperation but somehow, he can't.
It's also communicated both implicitly and explicitly throughout Sex/Life by Cooper and those around Billie that she should be content with her picture-perfect family and their dream house in the leafy suburbs. She has a husband who worships her, or so he claims at every opportunity, and provides her with all of the trappings of a beautiful life. But it's only when he starts leafing through her journal, an unmistakable red flag, that he is jilted out of his reverie. And regardless of that clarity, you sense that he predominantly attributes the breakdown of their marriage to her inability to be thankful for all that he has given her.
Cooper also blames Billie for his behaviour at the sex party. Despite her visible discomfort and plea to leave, he persists, throwing their marriage into further disarray.
"We all do bad things. We all have a darkness inside of us," says Billy, diplomatically.
"No, I didn't," interrupts Cooper. "I didn't. Not until you put it there."
When Billie defends herself, the look on his face gives the game away. He is a man who is unable to take responsibility for his failure to understand his wife, and it always comes back to Billie concealing that part of her life, rather than Cooper creating an environment in which she felt secure enough to share her truth.
Netflix hasn't confirmed whether Sex/Life will return for a second outing but if it does, there's only one entry we want to read in Billie's journal in regards to Brad and Cooper: thank you, next.
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