Review: Netflix’s Feel Good is heavier going in season 2, and that’s okay

The second and final season of Mae Martin and Joe Hampson's complicated romantic dramedy gets deeper and rougher – and still earns every laugh


FEEL GOOD: SEASON 2 (Mae Martin, Joe Hampson). All six episodes available to stream Friday (June 4) on Netflix Canada. Rating: NNNN


After a brilliant first season, the chaotic love story of recovering addict Mae (Canadian comic Mae Martin) and straight-identifying George (Charlotte Ritchie) returns for a second and final season, exploring the fallout from the couple’s breakup.

Written once again by creators Martin and Joe Hampson, Feel Good picks up right where it left off, with Mae going back home to Canada and checking into rehab. (It doesn’t go well.) Back in London, George does her best to move on, throwing herself into activism and a new relationship with a fellow teacher (Jordan Stephens) whose emotional maturity is awfully appealing after Mae’s freight-train intensity.

But it’s not long before the couple are back in one another’s lives, and dealing with each other’s issues all over again: Mae’s stint in rehab brings out a streak of PTSD that won’t be repressed any longer, and George’s complicated family dynamics lead her to realize she doesn’t even know what she wants her future to look like.

A more ambitious story

Feel Good takes on quite a lot in season 2, expanding on topics teased in previous episodes and adding heavier questions of gender identity and internalized abuse. (The real Martin identifies as non-binary; the fictional Mae is still figuring that out.) It’s heavier going this time, but that’s not a strike against it: the show has grown, and Martin and Hampson’s focus has shifted accordingly.

Luke Snellin, a veteran of the Toni Collette psychodrama Wanderlust, directs all six episodes, and they’re just a little flatter and rougher: the world feels harder for both of our heroes. Pleasure and happiness are still possible – George’s enthusiasm for her newly embraced sexuality is a great running gag – but it won’t come without effort.

And while this all sounds pretty heavy, Feel Good remains a comedy. Martin and Hampson find laughs in the corners of scenes, using jokes to ease tension – or indicate how badly something is going. There are scenes where people we care about double down on bad ideas and make a situation infinitely worse; there are scenes where someone finally makes a healthy choice, and you want to reach through the screen and high-five them for it. And there are the truly daring moments, where the show has to admit it doesn’t have all the answers, and some problems can’t be solved in the space of an episode.

Fully realized characters

I did say it was heavy, right? But Feel Good works on its own specific terms: Mae and George are fully realized characters, and we can root for them to figure their stuff out and properly reconnect even as we wonder whether that’s really the healthiest thing for either of them. And we can still enjoy Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis as Mae’s flinty, fussy parents… even if the production’s COVID-necessitated version of Toronto won’t fool anyone who actually lives here.

Oh, right, COVID. The first series of Feel Good premiered on Netflix last March, the week the world shut down. The second series arrives just as we’re starting to talk seriously about emerging from the long, long lockdown. I choose to be hopeful. So does this show.

@normwilner

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