Living With Yourself – season 1 review: identity crisis at the heart of a dark comedy
Created by Timothy Greenberg, the Netflix original show Living With Yourself premiered on October 18th. Marvel star, Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, This is 40) acts brilliantly alongside Aisling Bea (This Way Up, The Fall) and… himself. What starts off as a light, witty mystery, will no doubt leave you heartbroken, that is until its questionable end.
Episode one, The Best You Can Be, begins with our protagonist, Miles Elliot, fighting his way out of a grave wearing only a diaper – so, things aren’t going great for him. As we’re taken back 24 hours, however, we learn things were never that great anyway. Miles is struggling with work (not helped by his arrogant colleague, Dan, who is set on dragging others down for his own benefit) and his marriage is crumbling. As revealed later, the Elliots plan on starting a family. Their failure to do so puts a strain on their relationship. To help him, Dan recommends ‘Top Happy Spa’ which he claims has helped him become a better man. Why he might help him out is unknown, but he cruelly tells Miles, “I’m not exactly worried about the competition”. Miles isn’t shown in a good light. In fact, he comes across as mean-spirited and uncaring towards others, especially his wife, Kate. No doubt this is the side-effect of life’s misery and heartache, but it’s hard to like the guy.
After the treatment at the spa, Miles awakes in the grave we saw earlier, and we get a glimpse of the darker parts to come: a wooded area full of graves. After walking six hours barefoot, Miles finally makes it home which is where he first encounters his clone, who is clueless. To find out what happened, they head back to ‘Top Happy Spa’ where it’s explained to them that Miles #1 was supposed to die in the cloning process and be replaced with Miles #2, a happier and better version of himself. The biggest contrast between the two we notice when a stranger appears outside the spa to make crude comment. Miles #1, naturally angry responds with, “fuck off.” While Miles #2, calm and polite replies with, “sir, please…”
It’s refreshing to hear that they know who’s who and that both come to the same understanding: the clone should not take over Miles’s life. Luckily for us, after attempting to ship Miles #2 off to another country, he remains.
One thing that the show manages to do is change your mind multiple times with different points of view. At first, you might be rooting for Miles #1. Afterall, it’s his life. He was murdered and a stranger took his place, that doesn’t seem right. However, episode 2, Made in a Strip Mall, is particularly saddening and enough so to change your mind. Not only do we see life from his point of view, but we hear him tearfully confront the fact that, despite the memories he has, Miles #2 hasn’t actually lived through any of the things he believes he has. “I’ve never kissed my wife.”
Another viewpoint we get is from Kate. Although it isn’t quite as fascinating as watching two Paul Rudd’s argue with each other, we get a closer look at the Elliots as a family. The move into their current house was a pivotal point in their relationship as it was supposed to be the start of their new family and a credenza (with “Miles + Kate” inscribed inside) is a bold symbol of their marriage. At this point, we’re torn. Sure, Miles #1 isn’t a great guy and Kate deserves a Miles #2, but it isn’t that simple. Each episode finds a way of toying with your emotions. Not to worry, Kate feels the same way.
Mrs Elliot soon discovers the secret her husband has been hiding from her and, even though she was first disgusted in the idea of his clone, plans a romantic getaway with Miles #2, all the while Miles #1 believes he’s been helping him with his work. Things seem to be going great for the two of them and they even sleep together, until he becomes a little intense and she breaks it off. “You’re too great, and you’re too loving, and you’re too kind, and it’s weird.” Proving all the more that, despite his flaws, Miles #1 is the only one she will love. It’s a lovely sentiment, but meanwhile things are getting dark as Miles #1 takes Dan to see his own grave; a stark contrast from the funny moments only a few episodes before, like Miles locking his car with a whole door ripped off.
Things can only get better, right? Wrong. Possibly the most heart wrenching scene appears in the last episode. Upon hearing he had slept with his wife, Miles #1 threatens to kill his replica. What we soon discover is Miles #2 was already planning on ending his existence himself. In a rather long scene, with the shot focusing only on Miles #2 in front of a bathroom mirror, the show reaches it’s climax. As the clone puts a gun to his mouth, you’d be heartless not to tear up. However, he can’t go through with it. Instead, he leaves it up to Miles #1 who, it appears, is more than happy to end his short life. Or so it seems.
How can you be sure that you are you?
During a fight, Miles #1 suffocates Miles #2 with a pillow, at which point the audience is led to believe it’s over. Miles can go back to his life all the while appreciating it more without the weight on his shoulders. In a rushed attempted at a happier ending, however, this isn’t the case. Miles #2 is resuscitated and the two of them hug it out just before Kate appears with big news: she’s pregnant. It’s unclear who the father of the baby is, but that’s not relevant. It might seem like it on the surface, but there’s no resolution to the problems they were facing. In fact, it’s only created more.
Each episode felt like a debate. One minute you were rooting for Miles #1, the next Miles #2. For the most part, Living With Yourself was an almost perfect balance of humour and thrill. It’s possible the writers couldn’t decide on an ending that would still put it in the category of ‘comedy’, but in the last ten minutes, it went from Black Mirror-style shock to a FRIENDS finale.
You can stream Living With Yourself on Netflix now.
Images courtesy of Netflix