Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily in Paris Season 3.
Like any American with a penchant for escapism, my time living in Europe is something I daydream about often, and I take any chance I can to revisit those glory days. For the past two holiday seasons, in a cocoon at my mom’s house, blissfully unaware of the passage of time, Emily in Paris granted me this vicarious wish; this year was supposed to be the same. But with this third season of cotton candy binging, I’m just about ready to hang up my beret.
The Netflix series starring Lily Collins was a salve during the worst of our pandemic boredom, but now that most of us have stepped outside the four walls of our homes, the allure of zoning out to an endless reel of Paris’ most Instagrammable sites just doesn’t cut it anymore. What started out as a bingeable, French-ish version of Sex and the City has become a workplace dramedy with too much office and not enough sex or city. So while Emily might win every client’s heart with annoying American ease, she’s lost mine.
Ironically, the third season is designed for Emily to face the most complex choices of the series thus far: Professionally, she must pick between staying with Madeline (Kate Walsh) at Savior (and moving back to Chicago), and joining Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) at her new marketing firm, Agence Grateu (and staying in Paris). Personally, she has to choose between defining a potential long distance relationship with Alfie (Lucien Laviscount) or letting him slip between her fingers. During the first episode, Emily is quite heavy-handedly haunted by the saying, “Not choosing is still choosing.”
The more Emily gains fluency in French society, the harder it becomes to connect with the Midwestern workaholic-fashionista. As her marketing crises begin to blend together and her friend group becomes an incestuous web of France’s biggest business names, it’s hard not to feel like Emily unquestionably and uncritically gets everything she wants in her career, nabbing opportunities from her coworkers—especially Julien (Samuel Arnold)—along the way. Because the outcome is seemingly always in her favor, it becomes senseless to root for her, so much so that I began rooting against her.
In the love department, the season is all about the will-they-won’t-they nature of Emily and Gabriel’s (Lucas Bravo) potential relationship, which Emily swears off to prove her friendship to Gabriel’s girlfriend, Camille (Camille Razat). The possibility of them getting back together would’ve been enticing had Emily’s character even tried to convince us that she actually wanted to be with Alfie, her actual boyfriend, who moved back to Paris for a job—and of course, to be with her. Instead, we see a mopey Emily feeling sorry for what she can’t have, all while trying to convince everyone (including herself) that she’s being a good friend.
What ended up saving this season (at least partially) is the new depth given to many of the show’s secondary characters, especially Emily’s best friend Mindy (Ashley Park) to Emily’s boss, Sylvie. As her singing career climbs, Mindy is caught in a love triangle actually worth contemplating: After reconnecting with Nicolas (Paul Forman), an old friend from boarding school who also happens to be a French fashion exec (because of course), Mindy must choose between him—someone who understands the pressure of her family background—and her bandmate and boyfriend Benoît, someone who supports her passions and artistry. And as Agence Grateu wobbles its way to success, we see the usually tyrannical Sylvie soften, showing a bit of humility in both her professional and personal life, all while being a very hot gracefully aging woman.
For all of this season’s lukewarm drama, the queer plotline that was teased before its release delivered: The chemistry between Camille and the Greek artist Sofia (Melia Kreiling) is palpable, resulting in some of the season’s steamiest make out scenes and the show’s most provocative affair. And just when we think that Camille and Gabriel might get their boring, heterosexual happily ever after, the revelations in the last five minutes of the finale suggest that more fulfilling (and complicated) things are on Camille’s horizon, and Emily, once again, will get what she thinks she’s deserved.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to tell what Emily actually chose for herself, seeing as everything continued to fall in her lap up until the very end. Whether my harsh criticism is born from jealousy about the European life I no longer have or an earnest desire for the show I’m watching to have just a smidge of tension, I guess I’ll just have to wait until next season to see what becomes of the character we’ve made a sport of hate-watching.