First premiering in November 2019, Hulu’s Dollface stars Kat Dennings as Jules Wiley, a woman who finds herself suddenly single after her long-term boyfriend ends things out of the blue. Throughout the five-year relationship, Jules neglected her friendships, ignoring her established best friends and judging any other group of women who could be potential acquaintances before she even speaks to them. She’s been an admittedly bad friend, but in the post-breakup clarity dedicates herself to the most important relationships in her life.
Created by Jordan Weiss, Season 1 of Dollface was not necessarily groundbreaking, but was endearing and heartfelt nonetheless. It wasn’t afraid to explore Jules’ overactive imagination—including the recurring “Cat Lady” to guide her on her journey and an entire episode that uses an homage to The Wizard of Oz—to move forward a plot that’s is otherwise essentially pivoting on who owns a certain pair of shoes. But the fun, eccentric nature of the first season makes this follow-up over two years later all the more disappointing.
After an awkward montage of what Jules and Madison’s (Brenda Song) quarantine lockdown looked like to open the first episode of the Season 2, we’re thrust into the summer of 2021, and—COVID be damned—these girls are living their lives exactly the same. Although the first season aired well before the word coronavirus made its way into the public vernacular, the events of the Season 1 finale are now to have taken place in March 2020—the wedding where Jules exposed her boss’ husband as a cheater is labeled an early superspreader event in a one-off comment. Despite having the choice to simply not address it, this unnecessary, singular mention just brings more attention to how privileged and boring this group of women have become. While they were always affluent and able to afford designer clothes and gorgeous Los Angeles apartments, something feels especially icky this time around. No matter what problems these girls run into (including a global pandemic during which at least one lost her job), nothing stands in the way of the upscale lifestyle they live.
As the new season progresses, things continue downhill quickly. Each of the previously endearing characters is stretched into an unpleasant caricature. The four primary actors are doing what they can, but there’s practically nothing compelling about a single one of their characters. Jules, no longer struggling to regain her friendships, has poured all her energy into her job and finds herself the second-in-command to her Gwenyth Paltrow-esque boss. Jules finds near-instant success the moment she begins actually trying. Meanwhile, she’s balancing two guys she really likes and has to decide who she’ll move forward with. With generally unchallenged success, Jules becomes a stereotypical business-savvy #GirlBoss. Madison, previously a control-obsessed publicity mogul, has been fired from her job and struggles to find clients for her own independent firm. Despite this central character development, Madison never has to worry about finances or downsizing her luxurious apartment or giving up her self-proclaimed addiction to spin classes and expensive coffee. With no stakes, it’s just not interesting to watch Madison try to make her way back to success. Izzy (Esther Povitsky) meanwhile is perhaps the most kneecapped character in Season 2; while her insecurities are what made her so hilariously over-the-top before, she’s now lost any humor, and the series is criminally misusing Povitsky’s charm.
The most intriguing and the most cringe-worthy character simultaneously is Stella (Shay Mitchell). After completing a year at Wharton, Stella returns to LA to intern for a big bank—the job all her male classmates wanted but that she actually got. After two days, she quits to renovate a bar with Liv, a woman she’s just met. Oh, and by the way, they’re also immediately dating? But the tacky tokenism of Lilly Singh’s Liv is sometimes unbearable: she’s a tough, independent lesbian who has committment issues but moves fast with Stella. Their relationship is weird and intense, and it feels like the series has reworked Stella’s go-with-the-flow vibe into a statement on sexual fluidity. It’s an idea that may have played out alright had enough care been taken to think it out, but it appears this was not the case. The shallow brand of #Feminism in Dollface is all about yassss girl energy and rosé all day with nothing but pink fluff beneath the surface. Introducing a poorly written queer couple into this mix does nothing to remedy the situation.
In the season finale, Liv and Stella’s bar finally opens. A bowl of free scrunchies sits on the counter, bathed in the hot pink light emanating from a neon fixture reading: “Dump Him.” All the bartenders are women and there are even three bathrooms to prevent anyone from finding themselves stuck in a long line after a few cocktails with their girlfriends. The bar is named The Gi Spot and all of these fun and ”feminine” features are indicative of everything wrong with Dollface’s unfortunate second season. Cringeworthy and shallow, there’s nothing compelling or thought-provoking here. But hey, it’s got a bright pink light.
Dollface Season 2 premieres Friday, February 11, on Hulu
Kristen Reid is a writer, covering television for Paste Magazine, Vulture, and Film School Rejects. She’s been known to spend too much time rewatching her favorite sitcoms, yelling at her friends to watch more TV, and falling in love with fictional characters. You can follow her on Twitter @kreidd for late-night thoughts on whatever she’s bingeing now.
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