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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Season One thread is here.

Welcome back to Essex!

Episodes will release weekly following the release of the first two of season two today, Nov. 17. If you are the first to post about a new weekly episode, please be sure to preface your post with a spoiler warning for the new episode, so people watching later can participate in the thread and not worry about being spoiled about episodes they have not yet watched.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
* SPOILERS FOR S02E01 "Winter is Coming" and S02E02 "Frat Trouble" FROM HERE *

I've only watched episode 1 so far.

At the start, I was a little thrown about when the story picks up. The cars and people being dropped off had me thinking we were starting year two, but it was quickly made clear this was just post-Thanksgiving and so we're still in the first semester of freshman year. That makes storytelling sense given where we left many of the characters. The women do look a bit different than when we last left them, which isn't a problem of course, but added to my momentary dislocation.

Gavin Leatherwood, who played Nico, left the show. One advantage of picking the timeline back up is that it gave them an obvious and logical way to write him out. That storyline wound up being fortuitous given his decision to leave. Seems pretty clear that Kimberly will eventually hook up with the climate outcast as Nico's replacement.

Speaking of hooking up, it seemed inevitable once Bella went to Eric's apartment to get his advice that she'd sleep with him at some point. They got to it a little faster than I expected. I kind of like the match. I liked his character last year and the kind of prickly-with-integrity way the actor played him. And also that Bella is finding herself turned on this time not by physical attraction but by mental and (presumably) emotional draw. As an aside, one the one hand it was going for a broad laugh when the girls got to their suite after break and found Bella there in her underwear. But they've done such a good job developing the characters that it also seemed exactly like the sort of thing Bella would do. "Are those my bottoms?!?" Ha.

I'm also glad they didn't wait any longer for Leighton to come out to her roommates, with Kimberly's encouragement. The show has continued to progress her story with empathy and care. I was half expecting a "whoa, wow, how long have you known" kind of exchange with Bella and Whitney, but the show is better than that and went immediately to happiness and support for her. That was nice.

My two minor complaints about the episode:

I think it seems smart to do a "who am I without soccer" story for Whitney, and she is confident enough in her athletic abilities for it to feel natural that she could go out for water polo and make the team. But she's no dummy, and it felt like they sold out her character for comedy by having her show up having no clue whatsoever about the sport.

I get why Kimberly didn't want to tell her parents about losing her scholarship, but this feels like the show will quickly strain plausibility in her not doing so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Watched episode 2.

I'm far from a prude, but I think I like the show a little bit less when it leans into "everybody takes their clothes off" mode (and I say this acknowledging that my alma mater has a monthly naked-but-for-shaving-cream campus run that I joined on more than one occasion). Thinking here of season one's naked party, and this season's underwear run (underwear? cowards!) in just the last episode, and now the Magic Mike show here. (At least it's equal opportunity.) The more the show goes to that well, the more it feels like it's less for the characters to be titillated by and more for the viewers, which feels a little gross. It's not a huge objection, but I won't mind if we've had enough of that for a little bit.

Wow, Leighton is way out already. I wondered if this would be a thing where she was just out to her roommates for now, but no. Think it's for the best that they went right there, because now we get to see Leighton really exploring her true self. The other characters have beaten her to it to some degree (Whitney: who am I without sports; Bella: who am I without the comedy magazine I so aspired to; Kimberly: who can I be if I can stay here), so time for Leighton to join that party.

Seems like Bella and Eric are not destined to be an actual couple after all. Too bad, their brief scenes together have been cute and fun.

Conversely, I liked that Canaan and Whitney do seem like they are a functional couple. Smart move of the show to have Whitney confess her jealousy and Canaan both admit he had messed up and apologize for it. Either of those could have been spun into increasingly frustrating "comic misunderstandings" and I'm glad they didn't.

Speaking of "comic misunderstandings", we could see Kimberly spilling the beans about the professor's lecherous husband coming a mile away. Pauline Chalemet can make anything funny, but that was still maybe the most Three's Company thing the show has ever done.

Speaking of Pauline Chalamet making things funny:
Whitney: "F**k! F**k F**k F**k!"
Kimberly: "Oh no, was your mom assassinated?"
Ha!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
* SPOILERS FOR S02E03 "The Short King" and S02E04 "Will You Be My Girlfriend?" FROM HERE *

Conversely, I liked that Canaan and Whitney do seem like they are a functional couple.
Welp, so much for that. Whitney was obviously in the wrong, again, but I didn't see Canaan dumping her coming. The whole thing was a little ginned up, plot-wise, because they've presented Canaan as a pretty self-aware guy so he would obviously know they are boyfriend and girlfriend already. But as a means to an end, it worked. If they're going to do a season arc in which Whitney is finding herself, it's probably easier to do it more fully if she's not tied down to one guy. I said in the season one thread that of the four girls, I thought Whitney could handle more than they gave her last season, and it seems they decided the same thing this time out. (I tried hard to ignore the question of how the heck she was able to get into his phone to begin with.)

Seems like Bella and Eric are not destined to be an actual couple after all. Too bad, their brief scenes together have been cute and fun.
And, perhaps, so much for that thought, too. Now they seem to be heading that way again. Good. Where it's probably good for Whitney to be free for a while, it's also probably good for Bella to experience being monogamous with someone, and maybe even having actual feelings.

Leighton continues to be a really good character. I like how she has simultaneously become genuinely close with her suite mates and relies on their support, yet also (exclusive of them) still maintains her upper-crusty better-than-you mien, yet also is comfortable moving openly in a minority group (though it hardly seems like a minority in this supposedly small liberal arts college!). There is just a little tension among three parts there and it's giving Rapp some good material to work with.

So I guess we are left to assume that Whitney is a Kappa now, too? My school did not have a Greek system but if that is what fraternities and sororities are really like (even I heightened for TV), I am glad I missed out on it.
 

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Who would have ever guessed that Bela would literally throw herself at the visiting comic? :rolleyes:
As soon as it was announced at the beginning of the episode that Bela gets to be the student liaison for the visitor the storyline writes itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
* SPOILERS FOR S02E05 "Taking Shots" and S02E06 "Doppelbanger" FROM HERE *

Lots of funny bits in these two episodes, more than I can even remember to select some. So instead, maybe a check-in on the characters:

Kimberly -- I go back and forth on who my favorite character is. Usually I think it's Leighton, but right now it is probably Kimberly. Pauline Chalamet gives such a specific performance, and Kimberly is somehow a completely believable combination of naif, nerd, comic, and sex bomb. She was really great in Taking Shots. I wonder, now that she's donated, if that's the end of her financial troubles and that medical subplot too, or if we'll revisit those before the season is over. All four characters had an extended main arc in season one, and the show seems content to do shorter arcs so far in season two, so it feels like we may have left all that in the rear-view. At least she and Jackson finally got to it. That's been such an obvious destination for so long, it would have been annoying if the show had continued to wait it out.

Bela -- Doppelbanger was written by Mindy Kaling; no surprise with Kaling proxy Bela as one of the focal points. The question I always find myself asking is: is Bela, the "comedy nerd", actually funny? Amrit Kaur's performance is, and Bela's irrational self-confidence and big personality are amusing. And she does snap off some one-liners, because this is a comedy series. But shouldn't a funny person be, well, funnier? More observational humor, turns of phrase, whatever? I dunno. They've made the same choice with Eric, who is sardonically funny but nobody's idea of a comedian. It doesn't bother me, per se, but Kaling makes comedy seem kind of grim here. Anyway, no surprise that once Bela and Eric committed, the relationship would hit the skids. It was pretty uncool of him to jump in front of Bela with the comedian, who invited both of them to submit their material. And then not to stay up with her to help her pull her stuff together? Obviously the latter was needed to set up Bela taking the easy way out at the end, which, yes, was predictable.

Leighton -- I keep having to remind myself that this is only the second trimester of freshman year. I get why the show did that, but it also seems to be using the yearlong break between seasons to have it both ways. Only a few weeks have passed since last season in TV time, but we can ignore some of last season because it was also a year ago. Thinking here of Leighton's time in the Women's Center, and her ex-girlfriend. The Center was a pretty important part of Leighton's development last season, and it seems odd for it never to have come up again since. I do get why it is not a foreground presence anymore; she was there as punishment after all, and was happy to have completed her sentence, and her ex presumably still works there. These give the show easy reasons to ignore it now. But again, she learned some important lessons there just a few weeks ago. And she's completely out of the closet. She never thinks about the Center or her ex? Maybe it will come up again later. Not a big deal obviously, but for whatever reasons these questions were on my mind here. Anyway -- since when is Leighton a math genius?

Whitney -- I guess Whitney is the one character getting a more obvious ongoing arc, in her case self-actualization. Once the snow got over the easy comedy of her getting beaned at water polo and took her exploration more seriously, she's had good stuff going on. I like that she has found a talent for science. (The lunchtime argument between her and Leighton about whether math or science is better was funny. And Kimberly: "Wait, am I the cool roommate now?" Everyone: "NO!" Ha.). Didn't love the mean guy she was partnered up with; I have a hard time believing someone would be that outwardly rude. But of course I guess he has to be, so he can swing the other way when they actually hook up. This subplot is obviously going there, the show title being what it is, but it was a little obvious when they had him take off his sweater for no reason. At least Jackson is already not wearing his shirt when we first see him most of the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
* SPOILERS FOR ALL OF SEASON TWO OK FROM HERE *

I didn't post about episodes 7 and 8. Episodes 9 and 10 to conclude the season are now out, so putting down a marker here for full-season discussion should anyone check in. I've got thoughts that I hope to post when I have time. In sum: season two was not the equal of season one, and had some notable problems. But there were a couple of promising developments and one kind of interesting one in the last couple of episodes that raised the level back up a bit.
 

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* SPOILERS FOR S02E05 "Taking Shots" and S02E06 "Doppelbanger" FROM HERE *

Lots of funny bits in these two episodes, more than I can even remember to select some. So instead, maybe a check-in on the characters:

Kimberly -- I go back and forth on who my favorite character is. Usually I think it's Leighton, but right now it is probably Kimberly. Pauline Chalamet gives such a specific performance, and Kimberly is somehow a completely believable combination of naif, nerd, comic, and sex bomb. She was really great in Taking Shots. I wonder, now that she's donated, if that's the end of her financial troubles and that medical subplot too, or if we'll revisit those before the season is over. All four characters had an extended main arc in season one, and the show seems content to do shorter arcs so far in season two, so it feels like we may have left all that in the rear-view. At least she and Jackson finally got to it. That's been such an obvious destination for so long, it would have been annoying if the show had continued to wait it out.

Bela -- Doppelbanger was written by Mindy Kaling; no surprise with Kaling proxy Bela as one of the focal points. The question I always find myself asking is: is Bela, the "comedy nerd", actually funny? Amrit Kaur's performance is, and Bela's irrational self-confidence and big personality are amusing. And she does snap off some one-liners, because this is a comedy series. But shouldn't a funny person be, well, funnier? More observational humor, turns of phrase, whatever? I dunno. They've made the same choice with Eric, who is sardonically funny but nobody's idea of a comedian. It doesn't bother me, per se, but Kaling makes comedy seem kind of grim here. Anyway, no surprise that once Bela and Eric committed, the relationship would hit the skids. It was pretty uncool of him to jump in front of Bela with the comedian, who invited both of them to submit their material. And then not to stay up with her to help her pull her stuff together? Obviously the latter was needed to set up Bela taking the easy way out at the end, which, yes, was predictable.

Leighton -- I keep having to remind myself that this is only the second trimester of freshman year. I get why the show did that, but it also seems to be using the yearlong break between seasons to have it both ways. Only a few weeks have passed since last season in TV time, but we can ignore some of last season because it was also a year ago. Thinking here of Leighton's time in the Women's Center, and her ex-girlfriend. The Center was a pretty important part of Leighton's development last season, and it seems odd for it never to have come up again since. I do get why it is not a foreground presence anymore; she was there as punishment after all, and was happy to have completed her sentence, and her ex presumably still works there. These give the show easy reasons to ignore it now. But again, she learned some important lessons there just a few weeks ago. And she's completely out of the closet. She never thinks about the Center or her ex? Maybe it will come up again later. Not a big deal obviously, but for whatever reasons these questions were on my mind here. Anyway -- since when is Leighton a math genius?

Whitney -- I guess Whitney is the one character getting a more obvious ongoing arc, in her case self-actualization. Once the snow got over the easy comedy of her getting beaned at water polo and took her exploration more seriously, she's had good stuff going on. I like that she has found a talent for science. (The lunchtime argument between her and Leighton about whether math or science is better was funny. And Kimberly: "Wait, am I the cool roommate now?" Everyone: "NO!" Ha.). Didn't love the mean guy she was partnered up with; I have a hard time believing someone would be that outwardly rude. But of course I guess he has to be, so he can swing the other way when they actually hook up. This subplot is obviously going there, the show title being what it is, but it was a little obvious when they had him take off his sweater for no reason. At least Jackson is already not wearing his shirt when we first see him most of the time.
* SPOILERS FOR ALL OF SEASON TWO OK FROM HERE *

I didn't post about episodes 7 and 8. Episodes 9 and 10 to conclude the season are now out, so putting down a marker here for full-season discussion should anyone check in. I've got thoughts that I hope to post when I have time. In sum: season two was not the equal of season one, and had some notable problems. But there were a couple of promising developments and one kind of interesting one in the last couple of episodes that raised the level back up a bit.
So posting this after having watched the whole season. On your original points here, I completely agree with you on Kimberly. She's my favorite character and she pulls off ALL of what you said. She's obviously grown sexually from the rather prudish character of S1 to much more of a sex bomb in S2 (though, as you point out, it's the same year, which I think was somewhat of an odd choice that production made, it might have worked better as S2. Bela is my least favorite character, and I find her kind of over the top and a bit obnoxious. I agree, she's just not really funny and she plays off this "only I THINK things are funny if I say it's funny" vibe which I don't like. And her over the top sexuality is actually kind of off putting to me. Glad she got a bit of comeuppance from the nerdy comedy person and having her realizing that sleeping with a star to get ahead was not a smart play. Leighton...well she DOES wind up back at the women's clinic and with her girlfriend she met there after all (just a few episodes early on that) after her dalliance with someone who's exactly like her. Reminds me of the Seinfeld line when he dates the person who on the show who's like him.....(paraphrasing) "I can't marry someone who's like me....I hate myself!" I think Leighton realized that she needs someone who's not like her to keep her grounded. As far as Whitney, I find her the most uninteresting of the four. She's just kind of, there. They are trying to make her into a super smart athlete, and that's fine, and I guess she's trying to get out of mom's shadow, but, I just don't find her all that compelling a character.

I didn't think S2 was as good as S1. I thought it got a little better in the last couple of episodes, enough to keep me watching another season.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I didn't think S2 was as good as S1. I thought it got a little better in the last couple of episodes, enough to keep me watching another season.
I wasn't ever at risk of dropping it (assuming it continues), but I agree that the last couple of episodes ticked back up again and has me more interested than I might have been in the potential third season. I never did get around to posting about those last couple, but they were solid.

I think I am back on Leighton as my favorite of the four. I'm very glad they brought the Women's Center and Alicia. Those plotlines can go wherever they need to now, but to have just dropped all that after all the time the show and Leighton invested in it in season one -- which, again, was the same college year as season two -- would have felt wrong. This is the best version of Leighton. She can still appreciate the things from her snobby upbringing but she has learned to appreciate the people from the new world she has entered.

Kimberly is the runner-up. Can't really imagine not liking her, but I'm not sure I think she would have gone after Canaan knowing Whitney's history with him. Technically he is fair game, but friendships aren't made up of technicalities. Didn't like her doing that.

"Just kind of there" is a decent way of describing Whitney. As I've posted, I really liked that the show took her on a journey of self-discovery this year; she's virtually the only one that had a real, season-long arc. And it did lead somewhere, since she seems to have figured out what she's interested in and what she wants to study. Maybe it's just that "the sex life of a biochemistry student" isn't quite as interesting a topic.

And it was a very interesting choice to make Bela an actual bad guy. Not sure how else to describe her, given her sabotaging The Catullan's print run (though Eric got even with her for that), to cheating on Eric with the comedian (granted, he jumped the line on her in giving the guy a submission packet, but still), to taking credit in the interview for the entirety of the Foxy, to absolutely -- and cheerfully -- crushing the hopes and dreams of that aspiring writer. as though doing her a favor. This wasn't an impulsive young person making some mistakes. Thiis was a ruthless narcissist purposefully treating everyone around her like garbage. On the one hand, her feeling like she has burned all her bridges and needs to transfer is a fitting comeuppance; on the other, her realizing how terrible she has been and just slinking away makes her even more pathetic. Obviously she will not transfer, any more than Kimberly was going to leave after losing her scholarship. But whatever (probably quick and pat) salvation that is coming her way probably will feel unearned.

As for the season as a whole -- a TV podcast I listen to, which was a fan of season one, called season two "for people whose brains are falling out of their ears", meaning "not exactly deep". The host went on to say, pretty accurately, "every scene is eight seconds long followed by a drone shot". There was some of that in season one, but the first season was less frenetic directorally and in editing and not every scene had to end in a punchline. There was already less of substance happening in season two, and this creative approach made it feel even emptier. I hope the show relaxes again in season three.
 
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