Made for Love, HBO Max’s story of a woman who impulsively marries a dysfunctional billionaire (is there any other kind?) is back for season 2. Season 1 began when Hazel Green, wife, hostage and muse to tech giant Byron Gogol, escaped him after ten years of living a life of luxurious imprisonment in his secretive high tech work-home-play environment, the Hub. Unfortunately, Byron had already done home brain surgery on Hazel to place a Made for Love chip in her head, which allowed him to track her movements and emotions and to literally see through her eyes at all times.
Hazel struggled to break free from Byron’s control, but then reluctantly returned to the Hub when Byron promised to cure her father, Herbert, of his fatal pancreatic cancer in exchange for a chance to rekindle their relationship. Unbeknownst to Herbert, she and Byron brought him, his synthetic partner, Diane, and their entire home to a cube in the Hub where they’ll stay while he receives cutting edge cancer treatments developed by Byron’s company. Hazel’s plan is that Herbert will never know about the sacrifice she made for
Season 2 picks up with Hazel (Cristin Milioti), Herbert (Ray Romano) and Diane (as herself) adjusting to their new routine back at the Hub. Hazel has to push Byron (Billy Magnussen) to keep the promises he made that she would have more freedom to move around the Hub, control over her own life and access to information. Byron reluctantly gives in and also provides Herbert with the promised state of the art medical care, but he still has many layers of secrets that Hazel knows nothing about. Herbert is drugged to sleep whenever it’s time for a treatment, then his clocks and the sun in his cube are reset as if no time has passed. He begins to question reality when he senses time passing differently from what his clocks show.
The episode begins with Hazel showing Herb around Byron’s home cube. He must have found out what happened in between seasons. He’s impressed with how fancy it is. But he doesn’t understand the glass boxes with Byron’s outfit from their first date and a naked female mannequin torso. It’s supposed to be the outfits both wore on the night they met, but Hazel’s green sequined mini dress is missing. Hazel recalls throwing the surveillance chicken to break the glass so she could remove her dress the night she escaped from Byron and the cube. Zelda the dolphin showed her a secret tunnel after she tried to drown herself in the swimming pool. Hazel wore the green dress because she wanted to die in her own clothes, rather than something Byron paid for, and that was the only thing she was allowed to bring into their marriage.
The difference between the mannequins is also shorthand for their relationship and the objectification of women- Byron fully clothed and in control, but not there (his mannequin isn’t visible), while Hazel was publicly and privately naked. Not just watched by her husband, but her every movement and many of her thoughts visible to Bennett, Herringbone, Fiffany and anyone else with the security clearance to view the cameras in the home cube or access to the results of the copious notes and surveys taken to better understand her mental state. Life with Byron wasn’t just a gilded cage- it was high class, public torture of an enslaved spouse that no one did anything to stop.
It was exaggerated, but not fictional.
Hazel asks if he’s mad that she brought him to the Hub. He reminds her that she actually drugged him unconscious, then kidnapped him and is keeping him in a replica of his house. But she also saved his life, so how can he be mad at her? Hazel hugs him and says she couldn’t bear to lose him.
It’s a moral dilemma. Is it okay to kidnap someone and hold them hostage if it’s to save their life? Byron feels he needs Hazel in his life, just like Hazel says she needs Herb. Herb didn’t ask to be saved. He’d chosen to die. Hazel chose a different path for him, without asking him what he wanted, just as Byron did to her for 10 years. Maybe he chose to die because Hazel was gone and he couldn’t afford health care. Or maybe he still misses her mother and has been living with chronic pain for decades, making a battle with cancer the last straw in a difficult life that he’s ready to be done with.
But Hazel has something else to show him.
Byron lies on the floor with a bleeding head and a golf club resting on top of his body. Hazel says this wasn’t a premeditated thing. It just happened.
Byron brings out this side in people.
Herbert agrees they’re in a pickle. Then Byron says Hazel’s name, like a vengeful ghost or a hissing cockroach. Herb and Hazel jump all the way to the other side of the room before they realize it’s just regular alive Byron speaking, not a supernatural event. They creep back over to him and Herb gives Hazel the golf club, telling her to finish what she started.
Wouldn’t want Byron to lie there suffering any longer than necessary.
Hazel thinks back to everything Byron has put her through. Then she lifts the golf club over her head and swings it down, hard, putting Byron out of his misery.
Cut to title Card. The Gogol “G” shaped like handcuffs turns into an infinity sign. Byron has found something more permanent than marriage.
Hazel and Byron sit at their dining table in the home cube. Hazel has a big smile on her face as she stares into the distance. The cold open was just a daydream. Byron asks what she’s thinking about and she answers, “Golf.”
Dr Hau (Angela Lin), the physician who’ll be treating Herb, arrives to go over his treatment plan. She explains that Herb’s painkillers have secretly been replaced with sedatives. Cut to Herb taking his morning pills at the breakfast table and passing out face first into his plate. Diane, who doesn’t miss a trick, doesn’t look impressed with Hazel’s latest scheme.
Bennett (Caleb Foote) and a medical team instantly pop up and invade Herb’s home, strapping him to a gurney and moving him to the cube next door, a state of the art medical facility and treatment center (aren’t those the same thing?). Needles probe Herb as if he’s on an alien spaceship, but his head is on a pillow. Maybe that’s supposed to make up for the lack of consent to these invasive procedures done by strangers. Only healthy people who’ve never been through frequent and repeated medical procedures would think this is an okay or even good thing to do to someone without their consent.
When Herb’s treatment session is done, the medical team wheels him back into the ranch cube, puts him back where they found him, moves the artificial sun backwards to the time he left his cube, and places everything else back where they found it so that he’ll think he inexplicably drifted off to sleep at the breakfast table.
What could go wrong, other than Bennett being creeped out by Diane and Herb thinking he’s developed narcolepsy?
When the doctor finishes explaining the simple procedure they’ve developed for making Herb think he’s crazy while they’re curing his cancer, Byron gives Hazel a gift. He took her high school watch from her bedroom without permission and had it upgraded so that it can show either ranch time, which is whatever wacky time Herb currently thinks it is, or Hub standard time, which is whatever time Byron currently says it is in the rest of the Hub. The time in the world outside the Hub is as irrelevant as ever.
Hazel asks how they’ll explain chemo side effects to her dad. Byron says they aren’t using chemo. The Hub is its own little world that no one leaves, so they aren’t bothered by regulations or other forms of government oversight that might slow their research down. Consequently, they’re decades ahead of mainstream medicine. On the flip side, Hazel has no outside confirmation that Byron’s treatments will work. They mention cutting edge techniques such as gene editing, cell therapy, nanosurgery and molecular vaccines, but they don’t give her any specifics.
A few years ago, when he first sensed Hazel pulling away from him, Byron could have easily set up leverage over Hazel, just in case he ever needed it, by paying off a hospital to tell Herb he has cancer.
Byron explains that he wasn’t working on a cure for cancer. It was a byproduct of other research. “Did you know that cancer cells, on a cellular level, actually become immortal?”
Hazel tells the doctor that Byron is holding her hostage, using her father’s life as leverage. She asks how long the treatment will take, because that’s how long she has to pretend she still wants to be married to him. Dr Hau’s initial estimate is 12 weeks to remission. Hazel says she can handle 12 weeks, but as soon as Herb is better, they’re leaving.
Hazel: “My dad’s cancer is the only reason that I am here.”
Byron: “I know. Can you give me 12 weeks to try and fix this?”
Hazel doesn’t answer him. Instead, she asks Dr Hau when she can have the Made for Love chip taken out of her head. Byron suggests they both have their chips taken out now. Hazel is surprised that Byron has a chip too. He tells her that he had Bennett put one in when he was feeling vulnerable, but he never activated it, because he knew she wouldn’t want him to.
Technically true, since activating the second chip would’ve killed Hazel, but Byron doesn’t mention that.
When Herb wakes up, he’s surprised that he fell asleep and then also surprised that it’s only been a couple of minutes. He gets a glass of water and is further surprised at how good the water tastes- crisp, like mountain air, as opposed to the stale, dry desert water he’s used to. 😉
Personally, I find that cold water in the desert tastes amazing. But Herb’s probably used to drinking water that’s trucked in, while you can bet Byron has his water filtered and ionized in every way possible.
Cut to a meeting to explain FBI Operation 70606. Agent Hank Walsh (Chris Diamantopoulos) tells the group that he’s about to blow their minds, then shows them a slide with three world renowned scientists (Oz Wimmer, Pia Argarwal and Inessa Sukinov) and three not famous worker bees (William Fusco, Marvin Jenkins and Mary Ashton) who all died sudden, accidental deaths this year in the prime of their lives.
Hank: “Terrible tragedies? Or Gogol’s sick recruitment requirements? We believe these people are alive and working in the Hub. And now we’re about to find out. With this guy.”
He puts up a slide showing Hazel and Jay (Sarunas J. Jackson), Hazel’s former bowling alley coworker, sitting at the bar while Herb and Diane were eating their anniversary dinner at a nearby table in the restaurant. From a few seats back in the darkness, Jay stops Hank. They turn the lights on and ask Jay what his problem is. He reminds them that his Twin Sands mission failed and Hazel is back in the Hub.
The rest of the FBI agrees with Agent Jay on this, which is why they’re giving him an all expenses paid undercover trip to the Hub, complete with a job interview that’s already been arranged. They want him to find the missing scientists and workers. If he does, they can get Byron on insurance fraud, labor conspiracy, false imprisonment and maybe more. It’ll be the biggest case of their careers. Hank and his partner Agent Victor Estevez (Carlos Antonio) are giddy at the thought of it.
Hank points out that Jay has already softened up Hazel so that she’s ready to become his informant as soon as he walks in the door. Jay isn’t sure that his two day working relationship with Hazel was enough to convince her to turn on her billionaire husband. Hank and Victor think Hazel is lonely and unsatisfied. She’ll respond to Jay’s incredible sex appeal in a heartbeat.
Hank and Victor think they’re in a soap opera.
Jay has a momentary melt down over how lacking in strategy this plan is and how alone he’ll be in the field, since no one knows where the Hub is or how to get in or out of it. But then he caves and agrees to do it, because his career will suffer if he doesn’t make the brave, foolhardy choice. The dozen or so other people in the room applaud him for being a team player.
He didn’t ask how many other times they’ve tried to send agents in undercover.
Jay is the perfect choice because he already knows Hazel, but he met her during the brief window when Byron wasn’t watching the Hazelcam feed. So Byron won’t recognize him. Bennett did watch during some of that period, but maybe he doesn’t remember Jay or he missed their interactions. Or maybe Bennett has some secrets of his own.
Hazel and Byron lie in side by side brain surgery chairs, as if they’re preparing for a couples massage. Instead, Dr Hau stands between them and says to hold still. After a quick countdown, his and hers robotic arms simultaneously drill into their brains and remove the chips, dropping them onto a waiting tray. It takes less than 5 seconds, just like the implantation process. Since Hazel was drugged unconscious and not informed that she’d be having home brain surgery the first time, she’s surprised at how quickly and easily they can remove the chip.
Hazel asks what will happen to the chips now. Byron and Dr Hau hesitate, but agree when Hazel asks if they’ll be destroyed. They say the chips will be incinerated. Hazel doesn’t trust them to do what they promise, so she chews up and swallows the chips while Byron and the doctor watch. Then she tries to leave, but her grand exit is foiled when she can’t open the door panel because she lacks a control chip in her finger.
Byron explains the situation and asks Dr Hau to put a sensor in Hazel’s finger so she can move around the Hub freely. Hazel refuses to let them put another chip in her body.
Dr Hau: “You mean besides the two you just swallowed? The finger sensor is truly the only method of getting around in the Hub, so…”
Byron offers a work around. He has Herringbone’s severed middle finger from that time they played kidnapper and former boss in LA. He put Herringbone out to pasture instead of giving him his job back and Herringbone gave him the finger as a parting gift. Hazel can use the extra finger to access employee zones. She holds the finger up to his face before she leaves.
Snowpiercer played pass the bracelet with an access sensor that’s normally embedded in a hand. Byron could have made Hazel a bracelet or ring with a sensor in it as well. The finger was a message, just like embedding it under the skin is a message for the employees.
Dr Hau asks how Byron guessed Hazel would destroy the chips. He says he knows her, often better than she even realizes. The doctor shows him that the chips’ data successfully downloaded onto the prepared hard drive before Hazel swallowed them. Hazel’s information is uploading to a network as they speak. Byron’s data is about to begin uploading to its own network. Byron tells her to keep the copies of their consciousnesses together. “It’s more romantic that way.”
I’m not sure Dr Hau is okay with that.
Herb’s truck won’t start, but he can’t figure out why. He tells Diane that he knows the inside of its body as well as he knows hers. Diane doesn’t look pleased about being compared to a truck, but he’s already on the phone to his mechanic, so she doesn’t start an argument.
Herb finds his old atomic wristwatch in the drawer with the phone book and compares the time it shows to the clocks in the house. They’re substantially out of sync.
Bennett answers the garage phone, pretending to be the female scheduler for the mechanic. He has to google what a timing belt is while they’re on the phone. He tells Herb they don’t have any towing and repair slots available until next week.
Then Bennett sends the large white canister he’s carrying up through a vacuum tube. When he’s done, a reflection that looks like Diane startles him. he turns around and the woman, Trish, asks if he’s okay. He says he is and she walks away, shaking her head.
Trish is played by Alissa Nutting, executive producer and showrunner of Made for Love the TV series, author of the original Made for Love novel and model for Diane, Herb’s synthetic partner. No wonder he’s creeped out.
Jay, now going by Jasper, is escorted into a dirty security office that’s part of the outer layer of the Hub. It looks more like a disorganized construction site office than the sleek, minimalist spaces that characterize the Hub. He’s greeted by a security officer who’s expecting him (and who doesn’t introduce himself), then quickly outfitted with vital signs sensors for an interrogation to ensure he has the proper attitude and commitment before he enters the Hub proper.
Supervisor: “Question One: What do you think happens to us after we die?”
Jay is taken aback by the seriousness of the question and jokes about skipping the small talk. The questioner remains blank-faced and silent.
Herb calls Hazel in to watch the amazing efficiency of the toilet flush. It’s gained water pressure overnight, creating a newly satisfying flush experience. Herb can’t get over it. “It’s like the plumbing fairy visited last night.”
The hard water ring at the water line in the toilet is a nice touch.
Hazel suddenly “remembers” that she tinkered with the toilet the night before and got it to work better. Herb tells her she should look into becoming a plumber, because they make a lot of money and she has a talent for it.
Dr Hau continues to monitor the upload of Hazel and Byron’s Made for Love chip data, scoffing a little when she recalls Byron saying he wanted it to be “more romantic.”
Jay’s interrogation continues:
Supervisor: “Should technology for a post human existence be available?”
Supervisor: “Do you believe in the potential of a nonphysical reality?”
Jay: “Yes, yes. It’s the future.”
Supervisor: “Any family or romantic partners whose absence could cause moderate to high stress?”
Asking for a friend.
Jay: “No, no. I’m a lone wolf.”
Supervisor: “One more. Who was your celebrity crush in high school?”
This one is said with some excitement, so it’s probably not for blackmail purposes.
Jay: “That is easy. Paula Abdul. Still is.”
The supervisor’s testing device makes chirping noises indicating Jay has passed the audition, so he pulls out a packet of HR forms for Jay to sign.
Supervisor: “Here you’ll find nondisclosure agreements, identifications, liability forms, the end-of-life agreement, beneficiary documents…”
Jay stops him to ask about the end-of-life agreement, a nonstandard form.
Supervisor: “Correct. Hub employees will be the first to transmigrate to Gogol’s virtual biosphere. But in exchange for immortality, your former identity must cease to exist.”
Jay: “Oh. Great.”
The Pasture cube is only the beginning. On the plus side, Jay’s case has practically solved itself. On the downside, I have a feeling Byron intends for himself, Hazel and Herb to live happily ever after in Gogol’s virtual biosphere. This new information makes it seem doubtful that letting them leave is part of his plan.
Hazel wakes up on the couch and checks Hub time vs Herb time, then checks to make sure Herb and Diane are in bed asleep, since it’s the middle of the night for them. She finds Herringbone’s finger in the freezer and waves it in front of the portal to the rest of the Hub. After a couple of tries the door opens and she’s free to wander alone on her first unscheduled solo visit backstage in Byronworld.
She loves the skylights in the halls, even though she knows they’re underground. She not as impressed by the way Byron’s employee’s stare and whisper, but ignore her when she speaks. She finds another portal that shows a beautiful pasture scene, but she’s denied access when she forgets to wave Herringbone’s finger at it.
The restricted message shows a map of the Hub and where she’s currently located. That’s handy. But Hazel doesn’t seem to notice. Byron depends on these gaps in her situational awareness and probably had her taking naps and reading light magazines instead of reading books and talking to other people during their marriage to ensure she’d stay this way.
A worker named William (Weesam Keesh) finally reacts when she pulls out the finger. He’s William Fusco, one of the missing persons the FBI is looking for.
By this time she’s gotten Byron’s attention and he arrives in the hallway. When she asks him to tell the workers they can talk to her, he makes a Hub-wide announcement through his wristwatch, telling them she’s taking a more active role from now on and they’re encouraged to interact with her.
The workers react to him in sync, like overly cheerful robots. Fiffany, Herringbone and Hazel must have been the last few people inside the Hub who treated Byron like a real person.
Byron tells Hazel that he’s glad she’s out in the working part of the Hub. Then he steers her away from the section she was interested in, toward what he wants her to see. It smacks of a distraction away from an important secret.
Sure enough, he takes her down a dark hallway to someplace isolated, then tells her to enter the date they first met into a keypad. She does, after telling him it’s a day she’s regretted for most of her life. She enters 1192012- November 9, 2012. So the show takes place in late 2022 or early 2023, since they got married the night of their first date and Hazel escaped ten years later. I didn’t keep track of how long she was out of the Hub in S1, but it seemed like it was only a few weeks before she went back.
The door that the keypad opens leads out onto a small balcony, which is attached to the fake side of a house. They’re surrounded by a night sky filled with constellations. Byron steps off the balcony, onto the roof, and tells Hazel this is his childhood home. This roof was his escape and thinking place. He built it to remind himself of where he, Greg Benson, came from. It’s the only place in the Hub without cameras. “It’s the only place in the Hub that nobody knows about except me. It’s my sanctuary.”
What was the Home cube, where he held Hazel hostage during their marriage and ostensibly lives?
He tells Hazel that the rooftop is hers now, so that she’ll have someplace she feels safe. He promises he won’t come in again unless she asks him. Note that once again she has to fit into his world. She currently lives in her father’s cube and visits Byron’s various spaces. Byron can reconfigure a cube in minutes, the way he did for the reporter in S1. But he doesn’t make Hazel her own sanctuary because she’s still his possession, just like Diane is Herb’s doll. Making her cage bigger and telling her she can say no occasionally doesn’t change the basic parameters of their relationship, especially since he took her father hostage in exchange. Herb could be visiting the Hub for his treatments and living at home. Byron doesn’t need to hold anyone hostage.
He said there aren’t cameras in the Sanctuary (as opposed to the Pasture), but he didn’t mention microphones. It would be logical for Byron to have voice activated audio recorders embedded in his thinking spot, so that he could easily dictate his ideas. The recordings would only be accessible to him, just like his sanctuary, since these would be his ideas for new products and he wouldn’t risk betrayal by anyone. So he deliberately made Hazel think he had no way to surveil her in that space, when he can probably record her speech. As long as she visits alone for quiet contemplation, it doesn’t matter. But if she visits to plot against him, he’ll know.
Hazel wakes Herb and Diane up in the morning with breakfast in bed. Herb assumes she’s softening him up before she asks for something. Or because she broke something- maybe the truck. She assures him that she’s just repaying him for all of the times he makes her breakfast.
Guilt has absolutely nothing to do with it.
After Hazel leaves the room, he asks Diane what’s going on, certain she’s involved with whatever Hazel is up to. Diane doesn’t answer. She can be trusted to take secrets to the grave.
Back in Dr Hau’s lab, the Made for Love chips finish uploading and processing. Somewhere in cyberland, virtual Byron and Hazel are born, naked, in soft focus and without genitalia. They are alone together in a white void and are happy to see each other, greeting each other by name. They stand face to face as they adjust to their new lives, weaving slightly and holding their arms out for balance like Teletubby versions of themselves.
The closing song is Lucy Ellis’ cover of Just the Two of Us.
It wasn’t just Hazel who disappeared into the Hub- everyone who works there now makes a permanent arrangement with Byron which extends beyond “til death do us part” and into eternity. Was Hazel a test case to watch how the outside world reacted to her disappearance and then use that data to figure out what Gogol needs to do to extricate future employees from their lives as seamlessly as possible? Did Byron intend for Hazel to be the first test subject to attempt to ascend to immortality, until he decided she’s his muse? Or is she one in a long line of fake Mrs Gogols that Byron has used as test subjects, but he actually conned the rest and kept them secret?
The show has made it clear that Byron considers Hazel and his employees his property to do with as he pleases. Hazel only gained a small amount of power over him in S1 because she escaped with a valuable product in her head and he realized he has some kind of feelings toward her, mostly possessiveness and competitiveness.
Herringbone’s line to Hazel as she went into the restaurant cube for their first date, that Byron doesn’t do his own killing, is still relevant.
How close is Byron to transferring human consciousnesses to his virtual immortality biosphere? So far, we’ve seen Fiffany and Herringbone sent to the Pasture cube with their bodies relatively intact and their souls still attached. That’s not immortality, as the way they run from the virtual beasts illustrates.
And we’ve seen mock ups of Byron and Hazel’s minds uploaded into a blank cyberspace. Those might be immortal, if their power source and hardware are maintained indefinitely, but they also aren’t Hazel and Byron, just facsimiles, which is proven by the fact that the real Hazel and Byron are still in existence.
Killing Hazel and Byron when those facsimiles upload still wouldn’t make the facsimiles the real, original Hazel and Byron, keepers of whatever spark of life they hold that’s unique to each of them. No matter how precisely their memories, thoughts and reactions are recreated, consciousness is more than a preserved collection of data.
Images Courtesy of HBO Max.