Modern Love season 2, episode 3 recap – “Strangers on a Train”

By Dempsey Pillot
Published: August 13, 2021
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Amazon Original Modern Love season 2, episode 3 - Strangers on a Train


“Strangers on a Train” might be more about romance than love, but its refreshing relevancy saves it from going too far off-track.

This recap of Amazon Original Modern Love season 2, episode 3, “Strangers on a Train,” contains spoilers. 

In his second directorial effort this season, John Carney not only keeps his distance from the states — for a much more obvious reason — but he opts to explore modern love in favor of modern romance.

A riff on the title of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film, “Strangers on a Train” surprisingly isn’t just about a chance encounter between two people on a train. It’s not about them falling in love either. Instead, it’s about what happens after they meet. As boring as that sounds, Carney makes one of the most entertaining episodes to date.

Modern Love season 2, episode 3 recap

The story starts with Paula (played by Lucy Boynton) as she boards a train to Dublin. As we come to find out, she is on her way home from a shortened semester at school. Along her journey, she encounters a handsome passenger sitting across from her (horizontally) named Michael (played by Kit Harrington). He’s also on an impromptu vacation, and it’s eventually revealed that the entire episode takes place at the very beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not the twist though. The twist is that the episode doesn’t entirely take place on the train. Instead, it takes place in the aftermath of the couple’s meeting.

You see, when the train finally reaches Dublin, figuring that the virus isn’t as big of a deal as everyone else is saying it is, Michael tells Paula that he wants to be old-fashioned. Rather than get her number or social media accounts, he wants them to meet back at the same train terminal in exactly two weeks. Now, I’m paraphrasing, but he says something to the effect of, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” 

As you might expect, he quickly begins kicking himself in the arse once he realizes that the virus is definitely a cause for concern and that he will not make it back to that train terminal due to lockdown protocols. The remainder of the episode documents those two weeks captured from both Michael and Paula’s perspectives.

Now, do the two eventually meet up? Do they get their happily ever after? Well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself because, to my knowledge, this episode is actually the first wholly original one. While every other one is based on the New York Times column of the same name, this one was written solely by Carney for the show. Nevertheless, it continues to capture the essence of the show’s magical message and explores modern human connection in a way that has become more familiar than it should be.

Forget the fact that Harrington and Boynton are our two leads. Forget that the story takes place during the pandemic. Their plight is genuinely interesting. In this episode, Carney raises a question that I’m almost certain the late Nora Ephron would want to know the answer to as well: Has technology, which was created to help us, actually broken us?

While this episode is easily one of my favorites, it falls just short of being perfect for a reason I’m not sure I won’t spoil until my last recap…

What did you think of Modern Love season 2, episode 3, “Strangers on a Train,”? Comment below. 

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