Feel Good depicts the aftermath of drug addiction in a way we rarely see on screen. This is neither the hedonism of the Seventies hippies, braying coke-snorting bankers, nor the rock-bottom despair of the stereotypical street junkie. Mae is someone that anyone – or anyone’s adult child – could be friends with, despite still struggling to navigate messy adult life in that shadow. It helps that Martin has such a mesmerizing charm that even when they’re being self-destructive, you want to be in their presence.
The second series, now made solely by Netflix, finds Mae and George apart again, with Mae heading to rehab in Canada and George left adrift in London. But, of course, their fiery sexual relationship soon rekindles and becomes a crutch for Mae’s deeper problems. It’s no secret that comedians are some of the world’s most traumatized people, perhaps rivaled only by queers. Humor as a coping mechanism for trauma is a tale as old as time, and all it takes is a quick glance at any decent comedy lineup to see that the cool queer kids practically rule stand-up these days. It stands to reason that Mae Martin, a queer comedian, would have some funny things to say about trauma. Which, as their fictional agent says in Season 2 of “Feel Good,” Martin’s semi-autobiographical dark romantic comedy on Netflix, is all the rage these days.
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.
“Feel Good” accomplishes so much in its tight six episodes that it’s both a blessing and curse that it leaves the viewer wanting more. Raised in Toronto but living in London, Martin has adopted the British approach to comedy, the best of which embodies the Shakespearean notion that “brevity is the soul of wit.” With such an excess of TV on hand, and decision fatigue so bad it’s tempting to give up on the whole endeavor entirely and just read a book, Martin may be onto something with this jam-packed short season. Besides, it’s so damn good you may want to watch it all over again.
Final Score – [8/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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