This image is from the official trailer for “The Ultimatum,” distributed by Netflix.

Following the release of “Love is Blind” season two earlier this year, hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey return to the gig on Netflix’s newest dating show, “The Ultimatum.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Netflix show without a new twist, and “The Ultimatum”’s twist is perhaps the most absurd I have seen. The show features six couples in their early twenties who are all ready to put their relationship to the test. One member of each couple was ready to be engaged while the other was not, so one respective partner presented the other with an ultimatum: marry or break up. “The Ultimatum” aims to help couples make that decision by getting six pairings together who are at a similar stage in their relationship and letting them mix-and-match partners. A free-for-all dating pool probably isn’t the healthiest way to handle things (maybe couples therapy would’ve been a slightly better option), but at least it made for some entertaining television. 

The show’s basic structure first allows a few days for each person to couple up with someone new. Then, those new partnerships live together for three weeks, then the original partnerships live together for another three weeks and, finally, each couple is given the ultimatum: marry or break up. Over the course of the first eight episodes, tension is high, emotions run wild and, to nobody’s surprise, the number of red flags continues to skyrocket.

The first dramatic event of the season takes place a few episodes in when two of the six couples spontaneously decide to get engaged right before the re-coupling is to take place. In the more acceptable of the two proposals, the partner who was given the ultimatum accepts and proposes to his girlfriend. In the other one, however, the girlfriend, who originally turned down her boyfriend’s proposal because she didn’t want to have kids (something which in no way changed in the few days she was on the show), gave in and agreed to marry him. There are still two more episodes yet to be released, so maybe an update of a happy marriage will come soon, but I won’t hold my breath.

More chaos ensues over the remainder of the season as the new and old pairings live together, and each original relationship seems to only become more and more toxic after the couples are reunited, making it hard to believe that marriage seems like the right step to take for any of them. While production can certainly spin any story into being far more dramatic than it was in actuality, the amount of fighting, lying and gaslighting seems larger than in most other reality shows. One of the original ultimatum-givers who was ready to be engaged at the beginning of the show ended up calling it quits after the re-coupling because both partners were no longer interested in the other.

Yes, it’s reality TV and yes, things were probably spun out of proportion, but “The Ultimatum” still seemed to exceed all other dating shows in producing a truly dramatic and messy experience. The show is basically glorified cheating, so I don’t know what else I expected, but the extent to which the show was a pure trainwreck was nonetheless shocking. If nothing else, “The Ultimatum” was a perfect portrayal of what reality TV is and what a healthy relationship is not.

Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at