My Take On….CASUAL Season 2

CASUAL premieres today on Hulu with the first two episodes of Season 2.

casual.s2.week6.-727When CASUAL ended last year, after what I considered a perfect first season that introduced us to Valerie (Michaela Watkins), Alex (Tommy Dewey), and Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), I was left wondering how exactly these characters could recover.  How would Alex and Valerie ever find themselves on good footing when her misstep with his girlfriend led to him losing what may have been his only chance at “perfect match” kind of true love?  How would Valerie and Laura recover from the Michael of it all?  And ultimately, how could Zander Lehmann and his team top the engaging first season that I watched in one sitting?

In the first episode back, those questions are addressed head on, and having seen the majority of the episodes so far, I can say without question that CASUAL has found new ways to top itself. The writing remains nuanced and surprising, and the acting, particularly from Michaela Watkins, who can do so much without saying a single word, remains at an all time high. The themes from Season 1 continue into Season 2, and are even more strongly defined.  The continued exploration of family and what that means to these characters, why they are the easiest relationships to forgive and move forward.  The ongoing conversation about love and dating in the modern world – can these characters find love after heartbreak and humiliation?  And how do they do that?

When we are reintroduced to this family, Alex is putting himself through multiple phases of reinventing himself to stop feeling, well, anything, about the loss of his relationship with Emmy.  With Leon’s reluctant help (Nyasha Hatendi, as frustrated by Alex as he ever was and still unsure when they became best friends exactly), he’s in “Phase 3,” the clean-eating, yoga-doing, soul-searching Phase that is hurting more than it appears to be helping him.  After catharsis related to Leon’s ex, Alex seems like he might be ready to face the world again. He throws himself back into Snooger, and gets a little more than he bargained for, thanks to a trio of new faces: Vincent Kartheiser, Britt Robertson, and Britt Lower (completely exasperated Andy Buckley returns as Paul, as well).

casual.s2.week1.-2011Valerie throws herself back into work, bonding a bit with Leia (Julie Berman, a really funny counterpart to Val), and still trying to find her footing in the world. When she’s confronted by the fact that she doesn’t really have friends other than her slowly re-stabilizing relationship with her brother, this season finds Val stepping out of her comfort zone and doing something about it. Drew (Zak Orth, as clueless as ever) doesn’t bring her down anymore, she’s going to make new friends, and she’s going to find what she’s looking for, come hell or high water. New characters like Katie Aselton’s Jennifer and Kyle Bornheimer’s Jack (YES, KYLE BORNHEIMER.  My favorite show + my favorite person? YES) add new layers to the magic that Watkins brings to the screen.

As for Laura?  She’s still trying to figure out where she belongs.  After the scandal from Season 1, she’s looking for a new school, and finds herself at home with a home-school coop, where she makes fast friends that open her eyes to new experiences.  The slow build of her friendship with Dylan Gelula’s Aubrey was a highlight of the first few episodes for me. And of course, Laura and Val’s relationship is one of the most realistic child / parent relationships in TV today.

I could ramble on and on (and I have done my fair share of that about this show over the past few months), but the important thing to take away from this take on CASUAL Season 2 is that spending even a half an hour inside the lives of these characters is a really lovely exploration of self, family, and love that is 100%, maybe 200%, worth your attention.

If you haven’t caught CASUAL yet, Season 1 is available to stream on Hulu right now, and Season 2‘s first two episodes are available now!  Be sure to come back here and tell us what you think!