As a new rule, I never ask a couple how they met—especially if they are gay. Too often the question leads to a high level of discomfort or confusion when asked. In 2017, social media and dating/sex apps, along with the many ways lovers develop connections, can give way to unorthodox routes for connecting compared to past generations. Terry Torrington’s web series, Love @ First Night, produced by SlayTV, challenges the origins of its main characters’—Jayden (Ramad D. Carter) and Spencer (Kyle Price)— connection. Viewers are forced to question the couple’s romantic foundation and overall stability.
Terry and his partner, Sean Torrington, co-creators of other web series like No Shade, produce A-list Black queer digital content. Their works are visually and narratively compelling. Hands down.
With each project they undertake the task of illustrating how LGBTQ people of color relate to one another while existing in a world that brings both joy and pain. Having just concluded the finale of Love @ First Night’s second season, it is fair to say the Torringtons have demonstrated consistency and growth. In the series’ second season, Terry extends the breadth of their brand by combining compelling story-telling and artistic verve.
WILL LOVE WIN OR LOSE?
The season opens with Jayden, who struggles to be transparent about everything, being haunted by a nightmare. In the dream, his abusive former lover Orlando (Winston Reed) plays a central role. He invades Jayden’s bed, a metaphor for the new sacred space Jayden now shares with Spencer. The scene depicts the many ways we sometimes carry our past relationships into our present and future.
In the dream, Spencer welcomes Orlando by suggesting a threesome in what appears to have been a mutually monogamous relationship. Drama! The scene sets the narrative for the season by causing viewers to question whether or not Jayden and Spencer will maintain a healthy relationship or invite in the conflicts that surround them. I was waiting for the couple to fuck up. You have to watch, however, to find out if they did.
Each episode, approximately 20 minutes long, is a combination of comedy and gritty drama, which revolves around the couple’s core group of friends. The characters display their struggles with trust and vulnerability. Their friendships, like most Black gay cliques are not without a fair amount of shade, but they show up when needed despite the endurance of artificially-manufactured disputes and natural disasters.
IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT LOVE
The journey of friendship and love is at the heart of Terry Torrington’s writing. The series gradually unlocks a sequence of events and discourse that appear trivial, but these are the details of human interaction that often make or break our relationships.
In the middle of the season, for example, Spencer’s flirtatious and handsome coworker Mark (Nigel N. Clark)) gives him sage advice by telling him: “Falling in love, that’s the easy part. It’s everything else after that, that’s when the real work comes in.”
This advice is complicated for a couple whose love flowed so naturally at first, but wasn’t easy to sustain. Torrington’s work in this moment pushes us beyond the instinctual attractions we encounter into the complicated work of building solid connections. That work is hard as shit and even harder to depict.
If there’s a flaw to the show’s art it’s in the stark divides and individuality of each character. With each hardship that unveils, one must wonder what binds the couple and their squad together? Their collective drama entertains, but also speaks to the lack of support many LGBTQ romantic relationships receive from friends and family. What benefits will Jayden and Spencer reap from their commitment to love? Can love transform a community or are couples doomed to be at odds with their single counterparts?
The season ends with multiple cliffhangers—including an unknown medical emergency. Ian (Terry Torrington), who arguably may be the only supportive friend to Jayden and Spencer, ends up hospitalized— by what, we don’t know. With Ian’s sickness, and additional dramas that ensue, viewers are left to wonder if the couple has suffered enough or if their love will prevail.
Web series seek to share stories or even speak to the times in which we live. I look forward to Season 3 to see if Love @ First Night will help viewers continue to envision new ways of connecting, being and thriving even as all hell breaks loose around us.
Check out the dope ass trailer below:
Bryan Epps, a Newark native, is an innovative community and institution builder.