Hulu has finally dropped season 2 of Shrill but unfortunately, it disappoints in more ways than one.
The storylines are slow-going and the episodes are sluggish. Despite setting up potentially great scenes — like Gabe’s salon or Ruthie’s roller derby party — Shrill can’t manage to deliver a fully entertaining episode in the way that it should.
But the biggest issue is the way the show fails to give Annie and her best friend Fran the agency they so clearly crave.
Season 2 is intended to feature a newly-empowered Annie, who has quit her job and bravely confronted her troll face-to-face. She’s finally coming into her own with a budding career ahead of her and a newfound confidence in her body.
But that confidence is rarely realized after she returns to her old job at The Weekly Thorn and quickly becomes the same shrinking violet she was at the beginning of season 1. It’s not long before she’s sucking up to Gabe and making her voice small when she should be speaking her mind.
It’s not until the very last episode when she has a one-on-one lunch with The Thorn‘s publisher that she kind-of-sort-of starts to realize she is a talented writer with a lot to offer.
Perhaps even worse is her relationship with her loser boyfriend Ryan, who is so very clearly below her. The series follows the couple as he continues to embarrass her in front of her friends, her family, and worst of all, her colleagues. She does eventually dump him, but not because she realizes she can do better, but rather because she’s angry over his decision to tell their coworkers that they had sex in the office.
Of course, nobody expects Annie’s journey to be linear. After all, who is 100% confident 100% of the time? But Annie’s life seems almost stagnant for 7 episodes without much build-up to the finale.
Unfortunately, the series doesn’t just fail Annie but also fails Fran. Fran’s main storyline this season is as a newly single woman who is trying to find confidence as an independent woman. The premise is great, but the execution, not so much.
All of Fran’s scenes feel like afterthoughts that Shrill is merely trying to squeeze in between Annie’s story. As a result, Fran’s story loses its potency. When we should be proud of Fran for taking herself out on a date or for throwing herself a party, we end up feeling nothing because Shrill hasn’t allowed us to get invested in her.
The only redeeming thing about this season is the way the series has slowly shifted its focus away Annie’s body.
Of course, there will always be situations that affect Annie differently because of her weight, like the moment she’s expected to squeeze into a size medium t-shirt at WAHAM because that’s the largest size they have. But these moments are weaved in so seamlessly that it feels a lot more natural than it did last season.
It’s a refreshing and welcome change to see the series move away from talking purely about Annie’s size. The episodes about body positivity in season 1 were wonderful, don’t get me wrong. The fat pool party will always be one of the best (and only) scenes to ever feature big bodies on TV. But Annie is more than just a fat chick and it would do her a disservice to focus solely on her body every episode of every season.
But in lieu of these great storylines about Annie’s growing body confidence is, well, not much. Shrill tries to fill the space with stories of Annie’s career and her relationship, but they aren’t quite sure how to do so.
On paper, Shrill should be great. Aidy Bryant and the entire cast is genius. Lindy West is helping to write the show and she’s one of the best feminist journalists of our time. But the show continues to give their characters great set-ups without any follow-through.
If Hulu decides to give Shrill a season 3, they should definitely tell their writers to kick it up a notch. Because this laid back storytelling method is definitely not working for them.