We’re solidly in mid-July, which means one thing: everyone’s social media feeds are filled with wedding photos. Here’s a vineyard wedding! Here’s a posh estate wedding! Here’s a wedding made solely out of mason jars and rustic twigs! And, also, here’s a beachside bachelorette party sponsored by goblets of frozé for good measure. It’s easy to get caught up in the cheesy-but-well-meaning wedding hashtags, Pinterest-perfect decor, and wedding dresses you message your entire group text about. But, Friends From College has arrived and it’s here to confirm that weddings are actually terrible. They're basically a cauldron in which past drama percolates before boiling over.
The new Netflix series takes a stand against the industrial complex than is a walk down the aisle with its sixth episode, "Second Wedding." The installment uses the beauty of a dream wedding to juxtapose just how wildly it can bring out anyone's worst neuroses and behaviors. We begin the episode by finding out one of the core group’s non-essential Harvard friends is getting married for a second time, seemingly to his former mistress. It’s clear things are going to go horribly at Rich (Shannon McClung) and Ashley’s (Alison Barton) nuptials when lead character Ethan (Keegan Michael-Key) doesn’t read the room at all and farts in a pre-wedding pump up session with his wife Lisa (Cobie Smulders), who he met in college, fellow friend from college Marianne (Jae Suh Park), and Marianne’s long-distance boyfriend Tag (Kick Gurry). No one wants that flatulence, Ethan, no one at all. But, sadly, this incident is only the beginning of Ethan’s poor wedding-related judgement.
The writer enters the Harvard wedding hoping to prove he’s "Fun Ethan" for the evening. Obviously, the facade is a desperate attempt to cover up the married man’s anxious feelings for his partner in infidelity, friend from college Sam (Annie Parisse). Before even walking into the wedding ballroom, Ethan accidentally hits an old man in the face and lets it slip he knows exactly how many times Sam has hooked up with ex-boyfriend, Dr. Paul “Party Dog” Dobkin (a wonderfully game Seth Rogen). Party Dog brings out Ethan’s deepest fears, which in turn brings out both Lisa and Sam’s insecurities too.
Paul admits to loving Ethan’s critically-acclaimed, but little-read, novels. That’s when Ethan has to admit he’s left his so-called "serious" writing career behind to write young adult novels "for children," according to a shady Sam. Despite the fact YA is actually an amazing and intelligent genre, the confession is meant to shame Ethan. It does. Things only get worse as Ethan becomes increasingly jealous of how much Sam, and the rest of the wedding, are enamored with Party Dog. While "Fun Ethan’s" screeching gets little love, the entire party can’t wait to howl in support of The Dog. This pushes Ethan to smash a glass into his romantic rival's Champagne flute, shattering everything and cutting his hand open. After Dr. Dog patches up his hand, Ethan hops up on a glowing cube in the middle of the dance floor as a cry for attention. Of course, it breaks. Ethan throws a man on to the floor, ruins the cake, and the celebratory balloons prematurely fall on him. The final straw comes when Paul says he’s interested in rekindling his relationship with a married Sam, which further freaks Ethan out. Party Dog notices his former classmate’s deteriorating mental stability and calls him out on it, saying Ethan is acting like a jealous "baby," because he is.
Soon enough, Ethan is reacting to Paul’s romantic competition by pulling Sam outside and kissing her, despite the fact his wife is inside. They’re caught by Harvard alumni association leads Anka (Heather Burns) and Howie Wexler (Ajay Naidu), who assume Sam is Ethan’s wife. When Ethan’s actual wife Lisa appears, the Wexlers are clued into Friends From College’s central affair. Lisa also realizes something is amiss and confronts Sam in the bathroom about the injustices of cheating. Sam ends up showing her cards too much, defending unfaithful groom Rich — and affairs — in the process. This tense conversations ends up making Lisa (correctly) let her paranoid brain run wild and assume her husband is having an affair with Sam, leading Lisa to have her own affair with yet another friend from college, Nick (Nat Faxon). The kiss also ruins Lisa's stepdaughter Chloe's original Harvard interview in New York City, since Anka Wexler is supposed to interview the young woman.
On top of all of this sexual and romantic panic at Richard’s wedding, there’s a hidden level of racial tension too. Alumni obsessive Howie Wexler is a Black man, and he zeroes in on Ethan as a fellow man of color, as he and his wife tell the novelist, "You know what might be up your alley? Our upcoming jazz brunch with the Harvard Black Alumni Association." Ethan is decidedly not interested in being invited to events solely based on his race, and attempts to avoid the brunch. Later, when Ethan is grooving on the dance floor, he runs into Howie and another unnamed Black man. Howie visibly beams over the fact that there are three Black men in one place, excitedly pointing at all their faces. Ethan not-so-subtly dances away. The writer may be Black, but he's not hanging out with fellow Black people simply for the sake of hanging out with Black people.
There's still more awful aftermath from the wedding once everyone heads home. Marianne's boyfriend Tag gets swept away with all of the alleged romance of the reception — especially taking Lisa's emotional description of marriage to heart — and decides to propose to his girlfriend. Instead of waiting for even a few hours, Tag pops the question the moment he and the rest of the crew get home. Marianne is infuriated by the proposal and her friend's involvement in "talking" Tag into it. "Stop trying to make me you! I have chosen this life, and I like it," Marianne screams. She's so fed up with her friends' behavior, she throws Lisa and Ethan out of her apartment for good.
If you plan on going to a wedding anytime soon, we would probably recommend talking to no one and avoiding all eye contact. At this point, it's probably just easier.
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