The second season of The CW’s comedy show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend manages to build on the success of its predecessor with a typically funny narrative yet more detailed and thoughtful characterisation.
A good second season manages to build on the strengths of the first, whilst expanding the world the show is set in. This season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend manages to do that brilliantly, with a new but equally whimsical and charming title sequence that can only be described as a cabaret show choreographed by Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom). One of the primary leaves the show in what was considered a shock departure at the time, but on reflection was a smart move before their character gets stale. Their replacement is a completely different style of character but one that makes the primary cast even more well-rounded, whilst every other member of their cast, primary and secondary, gets their chance to shine and make their characters more layered. This is not a show that is resting on the critical acclaim of the first season (despite middling initial ratings) but rather picking up what was received well and running with those elements to make the humour tighter and the punchlines snappier.
The general synopsis thankfully remains a relatively simple one: Rebecca Bunch, who moved from her depressing life in New York to West Covina, California, in the hopes of reigniting the summer-camp romance spark with Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), is still hopelessly attached to Greg Serrano (Santino Fontana). This season throws up many more bumps and surprises in this main narrative, not least in the shape of handsome yet excessively driven Nathaniel Plimpton III (Scott Michael Foster), who happens to be Rebecca’s new boss. The second season’s narrative is arguably stronger as it isn’t holding up the show; there are a multitude of shenanigans including an undercover investigation on a beautician, a beauty pageant and the “Devil Winds” – personified by a parody of Frankie Valli. There are still the musical numbers parodying popular culture – who could forget “Period Sex”? As well as adding more colour and depth to West Covina, Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna manage to take enough focus away from Rebecca’s love life that it is always in the background but moments that emphasize it feel fresh still.
This season also further attempts to tackle the lesser visited topic (especially in comedy) of mental health, particularly with Rebecca’s character. Though her therapy sessions are mostly played for laughs (especially when Michael Hyatt steals the scene every time as her exasperated therapist), the layers of her personality and past start to reveal themselves to the audience. Why Rebecca is out of touch with reality and chooses to create fantasy musical numbers in her head (whether the other characters do this even when she is not present in the scene is another thing entirely) and desperately seeks the affection of men who don’t feel as strongly about her can be traced back to one incident in her past, and it is devastating when this is played on screen (it was hinted at in the first season too). The final scene in the season, though infused with the show’s black comedy vibe, is very powerful as it shows Rebecca finally tackling the reason for her thoughts. I do hope that the show continues to highlight this and peel away the parts of Rebecca’s personality, as it is rare that such a layered character takes centre stage in a show that is predominately in the comedy genre.
Following the very strong first season was always going to be a tough task for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, yet the writers arguably manage to top it. It maintains the style and humour that has made the show such a hit with critics in particular, whilst providing a greater number of side-plots that help keep Rebecca’s narrative and development fresh. The second season of this show is a tough act to follow.
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆½
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