Shrill comes to an end and it leaves us wanting more.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2)
Following her breakup with idiot Ryan (Luka Jones), Annie (Aidy Bryant) is finally trying to meet new and interesting, and frankly better, men. At the same time, her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) is in a stable relationship with her former crush Em (E.R. Fightmaster. Yes, that’s their actual, not stage, name). Annie is still the new star of her newspaper The Thorn, which is dealing with a series of financial issues that put her future in jeopardy, despite her friend Amadi (Ian Owens) and her boss Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) working to save it. Unfortunately, not everything is going to go according to plan in Annie’s life, either personally or professionally, and maybe some of it is going to be her own fault.
I’m going to start by saying that every show should be lucky to cast someone with a name as awesome as E.R. Fightmaster. I know the name has absolutely no impact on the actual show, but seeing it in the credits every time gave me a warm feeling in my heart. And you need that warm feeling this season, because, while it’s amazing, in some ways it’s one of the most depressing seasons of television. Part of why it can be that way is that Annie and Fran are very well-crafted characters with actual, believable flaws. Unfortunately, those flaws sometimes drive the viewer insane when you watch them make mistakes that you know they would commit but that you know are going to hurt them. We like these characters, but they are human and they do stupid, human, things.
The biggest thing about this season is that Annie, now equipped with confidence, is also still filled with insecurities. Unfortunately, because she’s trying to move forward boldly, she fails to really recognize these problems or deal with them in a healthy way, which results in her getting hoisted on her own petard. It’s a relatable feeling to get caught up in trying to do something and not see the downsides of your actions and the show does NOT pull any punches on it.
Overall, still a great show, but I think someone else may have more to say than I do.
THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN WHO LIVES ON MY SOFA
This season of Shrill had its joyful moments, which I’m always grateful for. My favorite part of the season was the girls’ night out sequence in “Retreat.” I know a huge part of that was missing that experience of going out with a bunch of lady friends and getting drunk and being silly. It’s not actually an experience I’ve had as often as I’d like, but it’s undeniably the exact opposite of quarantine – being spontaneous, going from bar to bar, making friends with strangers and sharing food with them, hanging out with friends in groups…boy, I really miss hanging out with friends in groups.
The ambiguous end of the show was sad for me and I’m sure for others. I don’t believe that everything has to be wrapped up with a neat little bow (Although I thought and still think that the ending of Stuart Little was absolute bullshit). I know the show’s creators didn’t find out this would be the last season until they had already started shooting the season. So with all that taken into consideration, I don’t think this was a bad ending for the show. I cried hard at that last scene, and marveled that usually this kind of “crying at a show” is reserved for touching romantic scenes, and this scene was about a platonic friendship. I’m upset on Fran’s behalf, but it honestly felt like she had screwed up way less than Annie and might be able to salvage things. And I know from Lindy West’s interview with Bitch Magazine that she didn’t want to fix Annie’s life with a relationship. “It was important to me to tell especially young fat women that romantic love will not save you. When you’re denied something or told you can never have something, it’s really easy to idealize it and put it on this pedestal, and I didn’t want Annie to end up being saved by a man, because you can’t be. In fact, if you don’t find love with yourself and really figure out who you are, you will actually undermine any romantic connection. You can’t be half of a person, and the idea that somebody else is your other half is toxic.”
I completely agree and I’m glad the show didn’t take that route. I don’t think any of this ruled out a happier ending for Annie (or Fran!). I’m so invested in the characters of this show, and in what it means to have a show with a fat female protagonist, that I wanted a happy ending for Annie, and I don’t think she needed a relationship to have one. The season 2 finale when she broke up with Ryan was a prime example of that, and I wonder if we would have had something a little happier if the show had gotten just one more season.
At the same time, it feels bad to lay all of my hopes for a fat positive protagonist at the feet of one show. It would be better if we just had more of them.