Since the runaway success of Rian Johnson’s star-studded comedic murder mystery Knives Out in late 2019, Hollywood has been on a mission to pump out more and more projects that blend the two popular genres. It’s happened often enough to be called a trend, but it’s also one that hasn’t yet reached the point of oversaturation. One of the reasons for this is the versatility of the murder mystery, as the formulaic genre can easily be adapted to fit a specific story and style. The success of each project is therefore measured by its ability to reinvent and surprise. Unfortunately for Hulu’s Wedding Season—which attempts to set itself apart by doubling as a romantic comedy—the show quickly wears out its welcome, relying on too many clichés to feel anything but tired.
The eight-episode series starts off promising enough. Rosa Salazar stars as the enigmatic Katie McConnell, an American living in the U.K. who is suspected of murdering her new husband (George Webster) and several members of his smug, wealthy family on her wedding day. The murders occur just hours after Stefan Bridges (Gavin Drea), a British doctor helplessly in love with Katie, interrupts the nuptials in an attempt to convince the bride to marry him instead. This public profession of love naturally makes Stefan and Katie—the latter of whom flees her wedding reception immediately after her in-laws croak—the main suspects in the case, inevitably sending them on the run together.
As they flee from the authorities, the series flashes back to pivotal moments in Katie and Stefan’s brief relationship of three months (yes, really), all of which revolve around a different wedding. Despite a series of apparent red flags—notably Katie’s seeming indifference to carrying on an affair with Stefan knowing he has feelings for her, while she’s engaged to marry another man—Stefan can’t help but be enamored of the woman who randomly appears in his life in what he believes are fated meetings.
For a series that so badly wants and needs us to believe these two people harbor deep romantic feelings for one another—the entire premise of the show relies on viewers buying into the idea that Stefan loves Katie enough that he’s willing to follow her on this dangerous adventure even though he’s not entirely sure she’s not a murderer—there is little chemistry between Salazar and Drea. Of course, it’s difficult to say if others would have fared better given the thinness of the characters. But Stefan is undoubtedly charming, in a Ted Mosby kind of way. Unfortunately, Katie is no Mother, despite having the required level of mystery about her.
And yet, the show’s biggest crime isn’t that its central romance is somehow less endearing than How I Met Your Mother before the wheels completely fell off, but that the reveals about its heroine’s backstory and the storytelling twists the show implements throughout its run have been done already (and done better), leading to a predictable, lackluster mystery on top of a so-so rom-com. Without saying too much, this is mostly a story we’ve seen before, and no one involved seems properly equipped to be able to elevate the series beyond the material, though the supporting cast does do a lot of emotional heavy lifting in addition to serving as comedic relief (Ioanna Kimbook and Callie Cooke are both wonderful as Stefan’s friends Suji and Leila, respectively).
At the same time, the show also seems to want to give Stefan permission to treat his friends like dirt, blowing off their frankly valid concerns, and, worse yet, his commitments to them, all because he’s in love. I’m not saying Stefan deserves to be accused of murder, or accused of being an accomplice to murder, but bailing on pre-wedding events for a wedding in which he is the best man because he’s hopped a flight to Vegas with a woman who refuses to fully engage with him because she’s actually engaged to another man… that’s bound to kick back some serious karma.
All of this is regrettable because the rom-com angle had the potential to set Wedding Season apart from the comedic murder mysteries that have come before. Instead, it makes it easier to point out what it’s missing. It lacks the the slyness and timely commentary of Johnson’s Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, the self-awareness and physical comedy of Steve Martin and John Hoffman’s true crime parody Only Murders in the Building, and the absurdity and style of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s genre-defying The Afterparty.
You can argue the show was always meant to be a rom-com with a side of mystery rather than the other way around, but that doesn’t change the fact that, in my ways, Wedding Season feels typically Hollywood, which is to say that it feels like a product of a system that wants to capitalize on the trend of the moment with as little effort or substance as possible. It’s almost a plug-and-play of tropes and characters we’ve seen before. But if there is a positive, it’s that the pace moves quickly and the writers aren’t the type to drag things out for too long. Problems are introduced and resolved quickly, usually within the same episode, allowing the show to move on to the next obstacle for Katie and/or Stefan to overcome, which lends a breeziness to the proceedings. In the current TV climate, in which episodes can top out at more than an hour (or two, if you’re Stranger Things), it’s refreshing to see a TV show that knows how to keep things moving. It’s just a shame that it does so at the expense of a truly compelling story and well-developed characters.
All eight episodes of Wedding Season are now streaming on Hulu.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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