Single Drunk Female: Freeform’s Best Kept Secret Is Even Better in Season 2

TV Reviews Single Drunk Female
Single Drunk Female: Freeform’s Best Kept Secret Is Even Better in Season 2

Freeform’s Single Drunk Female was hands-down one of 2022’s best television shows. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that fact, however, given its unfortunate name that conveys almost nothing of what makes the show so special. So, allow me to enlighten you: No matter what you initially might think, Single Drunk Female isn’t actually the story of a twentysomething party girl chasing love and laughter in the big city. It’s not the second coming of Girls or a sop to Freeform’s coveted YA demographic—there are no Pretty Little Liars here. Instead, the show’s realistic depiction of the struggles and far-reaching consequences of alcoholism is like nothing else on TV at the moment. And the series just keeps getting better in its second season, a richer, messier, and more complicated exploration of what addiction and recovery actually look like.

The series follows Samantha Fink (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a twentysomething writer who realizes she’s an alcoholic only after her binge drinking has cost her her job, her driver’s license, and her independence. She’s forced to move back in with her mother, go on probation, and face the truth of what her addiction has done to her life. Over the course of its first season, we see Sam take the tentative first steps to real recovery: She joins a twelve-step group, she takes a crappy job to pay the bills, and she tries to make amends to the people she’s wronged along the way. But where Season 1 ends with Sam reaching a year of sobriety, Season 2 asks what comes next. And the answer is both unexpected and wonderful.

A different, less thoughtful sort of show probably would have teased its audience with the threat of relapse, showing us a Sam who was actively backsliding or otherwise struggling to hang on to the hard-fought sober gains she won in the show’s first season. But Single Drunk Female is a much better, and more complicated drama than that, and its second season reflects the same welcome depth and maturity that helped make its first so great. The show never lets us (or Sam herself) forget that she is an alcoholic living with the constant temptation of addiction—and there are multiple moments in which it’s clear she’s at least thought about falling off the wagon—but it also takes care to show us that there’s more to her recovery than the simple act of not taking a drink. Much like her dependence on alcohol was always a symptom of Sam’s larger emotional problems, its absence is also only one piece of her recovery, and one part of the much larger story of her life. And while Season 2 is still focused on the ways Sam navigates this next phase, it also recognizes that her story is one piece in a larger canvas.

Season 2’s briskly paced 10 episodes bring us into the next phase of Sam’s journey, one in which she’s trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do next. She’s a year and a half sober and she’s got a job that doesn’t involve stocking grocery store shelves. She’s trying her hand at dating again, and she’s working to set boundaries for herself and the people in her life, both personally and professionally speaking. She’s learning to navigate relationships without the crutch of alcohol and to take responsibility for her own choices, even when they’re messy or terrible.

But as the question at the center of the series becomes less about whether Sam will take another drink, Single Drunk Female digs further into what a life of recovery actually looks like. (And the answer, by the way, is, just that: A life. With all its assorted failures and struggles and triumphs.)  As such, it means incorporating the rest of Sam’s life, which is as messy as ever in a myriad of different ways. It also means the series increasingly becomes an ensemble piece, weaving stories about the people in Sam’s life through and around her own. But while many of their arcs touch on her alcoholism and how it affects them, Single Drunk Female is also careful to build up the show’s supporting characters into complex three-dimensional figures with stories that are often not directly related to Sam’s struggles with addiction. 

Sam’s sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson) is starting a family with her wife. Her bestie Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington) has a hot new boyfriend, while Britt (Sasha Compère) is dealing with the fallout from her decision to end her brief marriage to Joel (Charlie Hall). And Sam’s mom Carol (the wonderful Ally Sheedy) reluctantly tries attending Al-Anon meetings to help her deal with her own complex feelings about her daughter’s drinking and recovery, which have begun to negatively impact her own relationship with her boyfriend Bob (Ian Gomez). And although Sam and James (Garrick Bernard) may have ended their romantic relationship in the wake of his relapse, his sobriety journey is also a major focus of the season, which does not always follow a straight line. (His friendship with JoJo Brown’s Mindy, who both understands what he’s going through and refuses to humor his excuses for his worst behavior is a particularly unexpected highlight.)

Alcohol is a staple in so much of American pop culture, particularly in media targeted at women. From wine moms to White Claws, drinking is not only celebrated, but it’s also often held up as an aspirational pastime, a necessary social lubricant, and a consequence-free indulgence. But Single Drunk Female is not only a deft, compelling exploration of the dark underbelly of something that’s relentlessly normalized in our society, but a showcase for the hard work of healing from addiction, without judgment or preachy platitudes. Heartwarming and hopeful, this is a deeply human story that reminds us our stories are not defined by the worst choice we ever made, and that it’s never too late to write a different one, on your own terms.

Single Drunk Female Season 2 premieres April 12 on Freeform. 

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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