HBO Max’s Revamped Love Life Season 2 Delivers a Compelling New Romantic Journey

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HBO Max’s Revamped Love Life Season 2 Delivers a Compelling New Romantic Journey

The first season of Love Life, the HBO Max romantic comedy anthology series from Sam Boyd, was a slightly uneven look at the string of romantic entanglements that a person experiences on the path to meeting their soulmate. Season 1 featured Anna Kendrick, whose peppy energy made her enigmatic character Darby endearing even while her terrible decision making made me want to throw a remote at the screen. Marred by cringe-worthy love interests—especially a relationship with Magnus Lund (Nick Thune) who used and verbally abused Darby and got way too much screen time in return—Love Life’s inaugural season spent most of its time showing us all of the bad decisions that Darby makes on her way to finding “the one.”

To anyone who loves the idea of love, the concept of the show is a worthy pursuit. But focusing the story on yet another young, straight, conventionally attractive white woman would have felt reductive; what more is there to say about that experience? It’s an interesting (and welcome) change of pace, then, that Season 2 chooses to follow a black man in his mid-30s named Marcus (William Jackson Harper of The Good Place fame), who’s in the middle of a divorce. His journey leads him to discover that the road to a happy relationship is not always a straight one, and the complexities of finding yourself and a partner after dealing with the trauma of a broken marriage is as confusing as it sounds.

Season 2 is as much about starting over as it is about finding “the one,” and the two ideas are in constant communication with one another. Not only is the series starting over with a new lead, but Marcus has to navigate what life looks like in the immediate aftermath of a life-altering moment. Marcus isn’t outwardly searching for “the one”—at least, he never admits that out loud—but instead, he’s searching for something who can fill the void left by his ex-wife and distract him from the middling aspects of his life. In starting over as a divorcee, he finally seems to take stock of the other pieces of his life, and finds that they are as necessary to the whole relationship picture.

Anchoring these deeper ideas about love and lust is a great performance by Harper, who breaks out of the nerdy shell of Chidi Anagonye that people may recognize him from. Harper exudes confidence and shares easy banter with his frequent screen partner Jessica Williams, who is equally charismatic. Williams’s character Mia is as perpetually lost in love as Marcus is, both finding ways to self-sabotage or questioning good things when they come knocking on her door. Their will-they-won’t-they storyline also has the perfect rom-com chemistry to keep viewers invested, which is something that was lacking in the first season.

Beyond exploring the themes of love, Season 2 of Love Life also affords Marcus a rich exterior life and dives into more nuanced topics like dating and race, being able to stand up for yourself and what you’re worth at work, and difficult relationships with parents and friends. It’s more of an open dialogue largely granted by the fact that many of the main characters are people of color, for whom these topics are apt and genuinely difficult to navigate.

Occasionally the show loses the thread of where exactly Marcus is in his journey to happiness, adopting a messy structure that mirrors real life’s sometimes overlapping sexual and romantic partners, but doesn’t ensure that every relationship adds something important to the broader story. The third person omniscient narration also feels too heavy-handed and out of place with the overall tone and vibe of the show.

Still, those are small things to forgive for a show whose second season found many of the weak spots of the first and course-corrected for a fuller, more interesting story. Ultimately, Marcus’s journey to happiness is much more compelling than Darby’s, and that is a welcome improvement.

Love Life Season 2 premieres with three episodes Thursday, October 28th on HBO Max.

Radhika Menon is a pop culture-obsessed writer and filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has appeared in NY Post’s Decider, Teen Vogue, and will be featured in Brown Girl Magazine‘s first ever print anthology. She is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan and thinks she’s funny on Twitter.

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