Love Island series five was the show back to its best – but it may have reached its peak
It was a brilliant series, but it also marks the end of the show as we know and love it
Despite the barrage of criticism the show faced on social media ahead of the series five launch, with many threatening to boycott the show following the deaths of two former contestants, the latest edition of the reality TV goliath has been the biggest yet with record-breaking viewing figures.
But big numbers doesn’t necessarily mean quality – the lacklustre fourth series attracted the highest audience numbers for ITV2 despite fans complaining about how slow the final few episodes were compared to the show’s golden eras of series two and three.
And this series has not been without its controversies – the ‘why-did-Sherif-leave?’ saga attracted nationwide (and almost overwhelmingly negative) attention, Amy Hart’s tears over Casa Amor led to people once again questioning the show’s duty of care, and whispers of producers interfering in storylines were rife after Jordan’s utterly bizarre and sudden interest in India less than two days after he asked Anna to be his girlfriend.
With the success of this series now ensuring two Love Island's a year, we look at whether this summer's offering has been our type on paper, or has it shown us we need to mug it off once and for all?
What has worked well?
We’ve had the best cast of characters so far
Series four fell flat on its face by emphasising its star signing, Dani Dyer, and her romance with stationery salesman Jack Fincham. They were the clear winners from ‘day dot’ and left the other Islanders looking like supporting characters, which led to a loss of interest and a predictable final.
Series five has felt like an ensemble, with each of the remaining finalists embroiled at some point in their own storylines and dramas, with no clear shot at the win.
Unlike in other series, the later bombshells have kept the villa as fresh and as exciting as it felt from the start, with newcomers such as Ovie, Chris, Maura and Greg as likeable and popular as some of our original Islanders, if not more. The casting team has done stellar work in bringing together such an intriguing and charismatic cast of individuals, even if we are doubtful as to whether the final four couples will work outside the villa.
The show has highlighted problematic behaviours and the importance of respect
Love Island has never shied away from showing the ugly side of relationships; series four saw criticism from Women’s Aid following ‘smirking’ Adam Collard’s ‘gaslighting’ of fellow Islander Rosie Williams.
Series five has also seen fans calling out controversial behaviour from Michael’s treatment of ex-partner Amber, Danny’s dismissal of Yewande for Arabella, and Joe asking Lucie to “not hang out with Tommy”.
But the fifth series has also seen strong female characters standing up for themselves and lambasting the boys for their questionable treatment. Maura became a national hero when she told Tom to “go f*** himself” after he said she was “all mouth”, Amber refusing to get back with Michael was praised on Twitter and Anna swayed opinion after she took on Jordan following his flagrant disregard of their relationship.
With the show's primary demographic 16-34-year-olds, Love Island can only be praised for highlighting toxic behaviour and showing mostly impressionable viewers it's OK to call out perpetrators.
Series five has been on full throttle since day dot
From Anton trying to bin Amy to crack on with Lucie in episode one, to Jordan trying to bin Anna to crack on with India in episode 45, series five has not let up on the drama – with some of the show’s most explosive scenes coming as late as the final week.
Yes, this may have been the first series without the once all-important lie detector, but it doesn’t seem to have suffered from its removal, with the headline challenge, the baby challenge and last minute rows making up for the absent, and controversial, segment.
Iain Stirling is still the best thing about the show
Yes, the UberEats promos are annoying ("SAY I’VE GOT A TEXT" has been engraved into my brain forever) but it’s safe to say Love Island would not be Love Island without Iain Stirling's witticisms.
His snarky commentary was on fire this year; gags about Anton perpetually in singledom, cameras being tied to tortoises and puns on Ovie’s name were almost as funny as some of the action on screen.
We may not immediately associate Stirling’s commentary with what’s good about Love Island, but it does explain why the show’s international versions (we’re looking at you Love Island USA) have fallen a little flat. Yes, Caroline Flack may be the face of Love Island, but Stirling is certainly the voice – without him, the show would be dead in the water.
What needed improving in Love Island series five?
The welfare of its participants is still questionable
This series has faced an increased level of scrutiny in the wake of the deaths of series two contestant Sophie Gradon and series three's Mike Thalassitis.
Elements including the lie detector were scrapped, but some scenes still made for uncomfortable viewing. While many hailed Casa Amor the series highlight, watching Amy gush about how she loved Curtis while he sheepishly admitted that he was no longer interested was humiliating. Seeing a woman embarrass herself on a national scale for 'entertainment' left a bitter taste.
The dumped Islanders have praised for those who have looked after them during their time in the villa. But whether these policies go far enough to ensure the welfare of their participants once the show concludes remains to be seen.
The show has struggled to balance humour with drama
Love Island is at its best when you see relationships between the Islanders blossom and grow – with friendships equally as important and enjoyable to watch as their love affairs. Series five has placed too much emphasis on the drama and arguments among couples – arguably a misguided step, considering no-one from series four managed to last six months out of the villa.
Instead, all the funny and heart-warming moments, from Ovie learning to swim to the boys taking part in a Harry Potter-inspired wizarding duel, were relegated to Love Island: Unseen Bits - much to the detriment of the main show.
The cast, brilliant as it was, was still not diverse enough
While it was previously reported producers wanted to shy away from “an identikit cast”, series five was dominated by slim, beautiful Islanders - the majority being models or Instagram stars.
Executive producer Richard Cowles addressed the 'slim pickings' ahead of the series five launch, explaining that the cast had to be “watchable” – and have to fancy each other.
But Cowles’ view seems narrow, and frankly, incorrect – we don’t just want to see models fall for other models. We love love, be it in a villa in the Balearics or an office in London. That’s why shows such as First Dates, Dinner Date and the Undateables are so hugely popular.
So what's the verdict?
Series five was by no means perfect, but it did prove the reality behemoth is crawling back to its best. But, with our annual summer of love now being extended to an additional winter edition, it feels like we’ve finally reached Love Island's peak. With the show reportedly pulling in a staggering £136 million for ITV, it’s going to be a long way down for the broadcaster should the gamble on two shows a year fail to pay off.
Love Island returns to ITV2 next year