Hulu Review – Shrill (Season 2): Relationship Boogaloo

Annie returns for another season of dealing with writing, work, and having a boyfriend whose personality is mostly “beard.” 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

At the end of the last season, Annie (Aidy Bryant) quits her job after fighting with her boss Gabe (John Cameron “Angry Inch” Mitchell), her mother Vera (Julia Sweeney) heads to Vancouver to take some alone time after stressing over her father Bill’s cancer (Daniel Stern), and she confronts her stalker (Beck Bennett). As this season starts, Annie and her boyfriend, Ryan (Luka Jones), deal with both of them being unemployed as she tries to get a new job writing, only to find out it’s harder than she expected. She eventually takes her job back from Gabe, with Amadi’s help (Ian Owens), and tries to advance herself within the institution, but finds that Ryan is not helping that. Meanwhile, her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) is dealing with being single for the first time in a while.

Shrill2 - 2Camp
Just like Madonna, she made it through the wilderness.

END SUMMARY

Now, as with last time, I didn’t think that I was the best person to comment fully on this show. Unlike last time, I thought her breakdown needed to go in front of mine. So I present to you, the Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Sofa:

The Faceless Old Woman’s Review

There was a lot I loved in this season that I’m not going to go into detail about (some great development for Ruthie, Amadi, Fran, and Vera, John Cameron Mitchell singing Moonage Daydream!!)

Shrill2 - 1Kiss
This image kind of summarizes a lot for this section.

A lot of what makes this show great is the attention to detail. Like when Annie gets chub rub from walking around a women’s empowerment conference all day. Or when she needs to charge her phone after camping and leans over an entire family in a restaurant to use an outlet. Or when Annie goes to a hospital and people keep trying to give her directions but she still keeps getting lost, because hospitals are fucking mazes. It’s all of these little things that make the show feel real and relatable. 

The “little things” are also where Ryan falls short in his relationship with Annie, even as he attempts to play a real boyfriend who isn’t embarrassed to go out in public with her. He’ll go to a work party with her that he doesn’t really like, but he’ll definitely use that fact later in an argument when he’s not getting what he wants. He’ll give her a gift, but it’s a pillow for her so she can actually sleep at his house, which had been an issue for…months, now? He’ll say “I love you” but he doesn’t actually listen to her when she says that she needs space or that her work is important to her. Also he has a gun??? That he’ll brandish in alarmingly irresponsible ways??? 

(I wish I could pretend that gun bit was outlandish but I know people who have dated men like that. Specifically, I can think of at least two women I know who have found a gun while sleeping in a guy’s bed. Like, under the pillow. I digress.) 

The point is, that Ryan is the kind of guy who is willing to go through the motions of “boyfriend’ but isn’t capable of being a full partner. These things can seem like momentary misunderstandings or minor incompatibilities, but when there are a lot of them, they’re pointing to bigger things.

Ryan can often come off as a slightly clueless but well-intentioned goof in this season. Amadi says, “Yeah, he’s dumb. But he’s got a great heart.” But the moment Ryan says to Annie, in the midst of a work party where she’s having fun and making important professional connections, that he’s made “an executive decision” that they’re going to leave – you remember, “Oh, right. This guy isn’t just stupid. He’s a selfish asshole.” As they’re fighting over the fact that Ryan told his coworker that he and Annie had sex in the office, Ryan says “I just spent, like, two hours at this stupid party for you.” A person whose expectation is “nice thing I did for you is a transaction and you owe me” is a walking red flag.

In the season finale, Ryan says, “You just tell me what to do, and I will do it. I’ll do whatever you want.”

And fortunately for us, the audience, Annie says, “Yeah, but I don’t wanna have to tell you what to do.” She says she doesn’t want to be his mom and she wants a real partner. It brings to mind the various discussions feminists are having re: emotional labor. If you haven’t read the essay by the guy who left dishes by the sink, let me clue you in: it’s stressful and unsustainable if your partner constantly has to be “the manager” of life’s details or “the adult” or “the better half” of the relationship.

Ryan asks her if they can work it out, like they did with the back fence.

A lot of times, when you’re in a bad situation, everyone can see the totality of its shittiness but you. Until something clicks into place and you can see things the way they really are. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Now, after Ryan’s attempts to improve, he reminds Annie of where he started – with a complete lack of respect for her, and her going along with whatever he asked.

“Our very solid foundation for our relationship?” she retorts.

“I’m past that.” Ryan says.

“Yeah, well I’m not.”

She realizes that she’s stuck with Ryan because it feels easier than facing the possibility of putting herself out there and dealing with rejection from men. 

There are different reasons we all stay in relationships that aren’t good for us, but they mostly boil down to: What if I leave and I’ve made a huge mistake? You’re calculating whether all these problems are really as bad as an indefinite period of “being alone.” It’s partially our society’s obsession with being partnered (see: the wedding industry.) But it’s also our very real loneliness.

At the end of episode two of this season, Annie and Fran are at a show and listen to a heartfelt cover of God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. Both are visibly emotional at the performance; Fran because she’s newly heartbroken and single and pretending that doesn’t bother her. I’d like to think Annie was also having a moment of, I want to have the level of feeling this song is conveying and I just…don’t. That is its own kind of loneliness: being partnered but lacking the depth of feeling you’re craving. 

Back in the season finale, Ryan asks in disbelief, “What are you gonna do now, you’re gonna go date other guys?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Annie says. She’s added the little things up.

Joker on the Sofa Review

In the first season, Annie started to try and move forward with her life by speaking honestly about how she felt for what may have been the first time. She found her voice and told everyone “I’m fat and I don’t give a damn what you think.” However, throughout much of this season she’s forced to walk a lot of that back because it turns out that the world is still kind of crap even if you have talent. Despite having what everyone acknowledges as being an excellent voice in her writing, her attempts to write for herself fail almost immediately, as do her attempts to get a job in a creative field that pays, and she’s forced to ask for her job back. Fortunately, her ambition has led Gabe to take her more seriously and try to nurture her talent, including trying to help her find a way to say something when she isn’t sure what she wants to say. 

Shrill2 - 3WAHAM
She gets confusing feelings about a female-driven conference.

The upside to this season, aside from being slightly longer, is that it does put Annie in a number of different positions from the previous one. We get to see her having to apologize to her parents for her behavior, we get to see her try to introduce people to her boyfriend, and we get to see her try to be adventurous in her new relationship. It allows us to explore more of her character and, frankly, some of the situations are just hilarious. Like meeting Fran’s family who all know that Annie slept with Fran’s brother and are very explicit about it, something that embarrasses her immensely. 

Shrill2 - 4Wedding
I want Fran’s family. I’m not ashamed of that. 

The downside is that the Annie we have in this season isn’t much more assertive than she was in the last season. Hell, for part of the season, she’s acting a lot like she did at the beginning of the series, seeming desperate for approval despite the fact that she seemed like she was over that. It’s really annoying to see a character kind of devolve, even if it might be accurate to life. Progress isn’t linear, but it feels like after confronting her troll, Annie kind of devolves and loses herself for an episode or two, which is made more clear by her refusal to acknowledge Ryan’s obvious faults (as my counterpart already stated).

Shrill2 - 5Skating
Ryan commits a felony while at a work event. 

I will also say that Ruthie’s character was expanded in interesting ways in this season, mostly by making her scary and seemingly borderline insane. Every time she’s on-screen I question not only how she maintains her position, but how she is allowed to have contact with normal humans. It’s explained that she was adopted by Gabe and his partner, but her behavior goes far beyond what even being the boss’s child should let her get away with. I mean, she straight-up gropes Annie at one point and it’s laughed off. If Patti Harrison weren’t so damned fun and charming, it’d be even harder to understand.

Shrill2 - 6Ruthie
SHE SCARES ME!

Overall, I thought that the season was fine, but I never really got much more out of it than the last season. However, the ending gave me hope that a more definitive change is coming for Annie.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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