We’re back with the second—and final instalment—of Mae Martin’s equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting comedy series, Feel Good, and with that, our reviewers’ take on it. Did this season fare better or worse than the first? Read on to find out.
TW: discussion of themes of sexual assault and abuse
I’m sad to say that I didn’t enjoy this season as much as the last one. That’s not to say it was bad at all, I just didn’t find it very enjoyable and it felt much more muddled than the last series.
I’m someone who prefers ending things on a positive note, so I’ll get the negatives out of the way. Apart from the final episode, I didn’t really enjoy the scenes in Canada. I found the tone and comedy in those scenes cringey and the scenes themselves felt very separate from the show. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of laughs in this season, but overall the humour felt less sharp and punchy. Whilst Mae’s PTSD was an important theme the show needed to explore more deeply and it was handled well, I think this season just had a depressing tone, without the humour to counterbalance it. I found the scenes with Mae’s agent very contrived and again, rather depressing. Though I guess it shows the issues that still remain in the entertainment industry, such as when said agent pressures Mae to expose a fellow comedian for sexual harassment on a panel show (my least favourite episode).
I just think the pacing was off in this season and it lacked focus in some ways. I think some plot points and characters needed more exploration, such as George dipping her toe into activism or Phil’s whole thing with his estranged dad. I didn’t find Phil very entertaining this season and I felt like the show thought it was being profound with the emotional parts of his arc, but it fell flat for me with the lack of time allotted to exploring that thoroughly. Regarding Mae and George, when George left her patronisingly “woke” boyfriend and got back with Mae, I did get this sense of a message of “toxic and drama-ey people are more fun”, which didn’t sit well with me. Whilst George’s boyfriend was awful, and her relationship with Mae is sweet for the most part, I think we should move away from this narrative that stability is boring, though I guess that wouldn’t make for entertaining TV. So overall, unfortunately this season just felt super contrived, unfocused and depressing to me.
That’s not to say it was all bad. Even though more time was needed and it felt cringey that George was trying to advocate for every social issue there is, George’s stepping into activism was rather interesting. I found it relatable and refreshing that she admitted to her then boyfriend that she used to find it embarrassing to care about things before. I think there definitely was a trend in the last decade that it is “lame” to care or be passionate about things. I think that definitely still is lingering but with performative activism recently a lot of people have started to virtue signal in hopes of being seen as a good person. I liked that we got to learn a bit more about George and that she’s starting to grow as a person, understanding what she wants for herself. I think this could have been explored a bit more and it doesn’t take away from Binky’s awful behaviour in the previous season (oh and why the recast?!), but I thought it was interesting that they developed her a tiny bit more. Whilst her advice to Mae was slightly insensitive, I thought it was a harsh truth that needed to be said and it implies she genuinely wants the best for George.
I think Mae’s PTSD was handled as delicately as it could and it really showed the complexity surrounding abuse. Whilst Mae’s goodbye to said abuser Scott could be seen as confusing and anticlimactic, I actually found it pretty cathartic. There’s no predictable showdown where Mae rips into him and condemns him as this irredeemable monster, instead they acknowledge the heartbreaking reality that they did have genuine friendship and care for each other. A poignant moment in the series is when George and Mae are in a car they broke into in Canada and Mae begins to sob about the life they could have had if Scott didn’t enter their life. It’s a heart wrenching reminder that the awful reality of trauma makes people ponder what their life could have been like. Aside from an angry outburst telling Mae to “get over it”, George is a rock for Mae and I loved where they discussed Mae’s gender identity and George gently requests Mae “tells her the right words to use”. The ending is very sweet where George excitedly explains photosynthesis to Mae, after Phil comments that they’re a couple who are constantly wrapped up in their dramas and for once they actually have a grounded conversation. I highly doubt that they’ll stay together in all honesty, but I think they’re both beginning to grow into better and happier people.
With Channel 4 no longer at the reins, the second season of the appropriately addictive Feel Good landed on Netflix earlier this year and quickly gained the loyal cult status that it deserves. In the last episode of the first season, we were left with Mae and George’s relationship in a tantalising ‘will they, won’t they?’ state – the hopeless romantic in me would have struggled to wait the year or so break in between seasons, so there are some perks to a binge watch. Maintaining the previous format of six, half hour-ish long episodes, this season is just as successfully manageable as it is poignant and thankfully does not suffer the fate of the poorer quality sequel that we’re often braced for.
Unfortunately, this season opens with Mae in the car with her parents. She is most definitely in Canada, she is most definitely going to rehab, and she is most definitely not with George. A few things remain reassuringly certain, however. Mae is still authentically awkward, dry, and corn-like. Lisa Kudrow’s Linda is delightfully left-field and Phoebe-esque without being inappropriately distracting. Malcolm continues to know when to give the most perfectly British knowing glances and annoyingly precious pet names. We know that Mae needs a stint in rehab, but how will they simultaneously tie up all the other loose ends in the outside world?
Spoilers, but they can’t be tied up from a remote Canadian rehab facility, that part of Mae’s story doesn’t last very long. Much like the first season, Feel Good is fast paced; we often return to familiar places but we don’t stay in one place for long. A tale as old as time, Mae craves the stability and comfort of these places, but suffers from the jitters of a modern life uncomfortably full of trauma. This season still boasts a varied supporting cast, including some returning faces, although I am personally devastated not to see the return of the problematically chaotic, but undeniably loveable Maggy. Despite the continued presence of a strong range of characters, with their own complex stories to tell, this season somehow feels as though it has a smaller focus. Simmering in the background of season one, these six episodes focus increasingly specifically on Mae’s past traumas.
Forever left with too few words to sufficiently unpack the nuances of a show I love, you will have to be content in the knowledge that after traversing a rocky path, Mae does successfully confront a lot of their demons. As a result, we do see Mae and George reunite (George has had a whole character exploration this season, too, but it is Mae’s semi-autobiography, after all). We end the second – and final – season with a sequence appropriately soundtracked by Phoebe Bridgers’ Motion Sickness. Honestly, I cried a lot in these last few minutes. I was so sad to see the end of these beautifully written and performed characters, and so happy to see them living the gay cottage-core fantasy in the Toronto countryside, ending this chapter as a little more true to themselves than when they started.
‘Why do some people need so much help just to exist?’ A line that’s rattled around in my head since I first heard it, Feel Good continues not to shy away from the painfully uncomfortable realisations of being a person who might need some help. I have been left wanting more, which means the series ended just when it should have done, though I will be mourning the lack of any future episodes for some time to come.