Sometimes, even the nicest-looking person reveals their true nature when something doesn’t go according to plan for them. What’s interesting in Fair Play is that when Emily and Luke were together, everyone always commented on her looks. They say it’s weird that such a beautiful woman would end up with a guy like Luke. Interestingly, Luke just says she might have some other things going for her too. There doesn’t seem to be an actual reason for Luke to propose in this secret (somewhat sexual) relationship. It’s understood that Emily wants, or rather, needs, them to get promoted so that she can tell people about their relationship.
Fair Play‘s Luke is a little less paranoid because he’s a man, and Emily would be considered a trophy rather than a distraction. Ironically, Emily is the better player, and when she gets the promotion first, it doesn’t sit well with Luke at all. Even in the first instance that she tells him that she’s getting the promotion, he wonders if the boss tried something funny with her. When she says no, his mind goes to all places except a promotion for Emily. Since the beginning, he’s been dismissive of her struggles, her skills, and her ability to do better than him. But as Fair Play progresses, it becomes rather clear that her intuition when it comes to work is a thousandfold better.
Luke unravels slowly because, at first, he thinks Emily is just being promoted because she’s a woman. Then, when she is thinking about the two of them and suggests helping him get the next promotion, it hurts his fragile ego. He starts becoming passive-aggressive, making it seem like Emily is the one who is being condescending to Luke. It’s almost as if Luke becomes blinded to her intuition and straight up thinks that the boss has a thing for her. When she clearly proves that she is a fantastic decision-maker, he feels more insecure. When it comes to losing the $30 million, at that point in time, Emily still trusts Luke and his judgment. Although we can’t say for sure that Luke chose to give her the wrong deal on purpose, he was unwilling to do the legwork to make sure it was the right one. That alone gives reason to be speculative.
Interestingly, Campbell tells Emily in front of Luke that he’s caused problems before, but she still tries to support him as a good partner. On the other hand, Luke feels like it’s a competition between him and her and ends up making impulsive decisions. Then, when he has to clean up the mess he’s made, he suggests doing something illegal. Up until this point, Emily has had blind faith in Luke. She would never think he’d sabotage anything she’s working on. Technically, both of their jobs depend on it. But when Luke makes the real blunder, it’s Emily who gets the blame because she’s the decision-maker there. Campbell says some nasty things, proving that he really doesn’t value Emily all that much. To fix it, Emily does her own research rather than just listening to Luke. He pesters her to do the illegal thing, but fortunately, at the end of the day, she chooses to do the right thing and go by her instinct.
During this time, Luke has slowly stopped feeling attracted to Emily. Not only does he avoid her advances, but he actively chooses to do other things when earlier they used to hang out or just enjoy each other’s company. When Emily gets a call in the middle of the night from Campbell, Luke interrupts Emily’s conversation without fear of getting caught. What he expected was for Emily to fall to her knees and apologize when she made the big mistake. He was hoping desperately for her to be wrong, rather than seeing her flourish. Again, she proves that she’s the right person for the job. And all of this comes after Luke comments on Emily’s “presentation” of herself at work. It’s as though he can’t think of anything else, so he calls her a “cupcake”. This whole thing is laughable, but Emily can’t see that. She really thinks there’s something wrong with the way she dresses.
Luke tells Emily that she doesn’t know how to assert herself. In reality, he’s just projecting his feelings onto her. Luke needs the training, not her. However he presents himself, whatever he learns from terrible men who mooch off foolish people like himself, he will be inferior to Emily. Luke doesn’t know how to play the game right, whereas Emily knows exactly how to get to the top. It doesn’t have anything to do with their genders. It’s Luke who has been seeing it through that lens. He feels threatened by the capabilities of his own girlfriend, so he wants to make excuses to prove she’s incapable.
In the third act of Fair Play, Luke really begins to see himself as being mistreated. He gets on his knees for Campbell, who wants Luke to quit on his own. Luke is blind to that side of things, but when it comes to Emily, he thinks she’s being put on a pedestal. At the start of things, Emily sees Luke as the perfect guy for her. She thought he believed in her and didn’t feel insecure being with someone in a cutthroat workplace. Emily trusts Luke enough to share the same space with him, even when they’re both highly emotionally charged. That’s when he assaults her, as if that’s going to prove that he’s more powerful than her. As if pushing her face down gives him the upper hand. He can’t beat her in the workplace, so he’ll physically put her down as revenge.
Emily, on the other hand, doesn’t give up easily. She gets Luke on his knees because it seems only a physical manifestation of their power play can prove to him that she’s the better person in all ways. Luke’s misogyny is ingrained in him, and till the last moment, he doesn’t see any other way Emily deserves a better position than himself.