Season 2 of Feel Good came at a time that was completely vital for me. Having spent the night dealing with anxiety, I searched Netflix looking for a distraction. Feel Good had previously stuck out, having seen clips online and Charlotte Ritchie in other shows, and I decided to commit to it. I expected a fun distraction, and instead got one of the most powerful and brilliant comedy series to come out this year. Its interpretations of gender, relationships, trauma, and anxiety are all light years ahead of the competition, taking a truly modern and nuanced approach. You name it and this series explores it, and does it better than you thought possible.
Feel Good follows Mae, a comedian who struggles with her trauma and narcotics addiction. The character is a partial self-insert of Mae Martin, the co-writer/creator of the show who has said that the character is semi-biographical, representing who they believes they were about 10 years ago. Starring alongside them is George, played by Charlotte Ritchie, who spends the series exploring her sexuality and searching for an identity outside of her relationship with Mae.
We pick up right where the first season left off, with Mae back home in Canada having checked into Rehab, and George left alone in the U.K. unsure of where they both stand. The way the complexities of their relationship are conveyed is beautiful – grounded in reality but always completely nuanced. Both make mistakes, both are at fault at various points, and their flaws and trauma inform the decisions they make throughout. It is a refreshing take on relationships, acknowledging the level of complexity in today’s dating world, and the inherent potential for toxicity in devoting yourself unabashedly to another person.
One particular thread that is handled with a near unparalleled level of brilliance is Mae’s uncertainty surrounding their gender identity, and their realization of trauma that was only hinted at in the first season. These are issues that Mae Martin has faced personally, and while they have not specified which moments of the show are taken directly from reality, they have stated that the issues with trauma, the resulting anxiety, and their uncertainty surrounding their gender identity were all drawn from their life. This realism is evident in the show which makes you consider aspects of these issues from angles you had never considered before. I, for one, genuinely do feel that my understanding of gender, trauma, and of a vast amount of issues broached in the show has been improved greatly by Mae Martin’s exquisite writing.
Another important aspect to note is that it is a comedy, and a hugely funny one at that. The tone is managed fantastically and it never undercuts the dramatic moments, but the comedy in the second season is top notch. It is a large improvement on the first season which is funny in spells but doesn’t have the same through line of hilarity seen here. Lisa Kudrow in particular, who plays Mae’s mother, is a huge comedic standout as a supporting character, stealing nearly every scene she is in. The script is selfless, with a lot of the biggest laughs in the show being given away by Mae Martin to their costars, in particular Kudrow and Ritchie.
One particular scene, however, surrounding the shows depiction of anxiety, stands out from the rest. As mentioned previously, I decided to watch the show as a distraction from my anxiety. I had been struggling with sensory issues all night, and needed something to focus intently on to try and drown it out. Feel Good makes fantastic use of audio and visual cues to demonstrate Mae’s anxiety, and made me feel seen in a way very few shows and films have been able to. They go above and beyond to portray the overwhelming nature of it, the way sound can literally feel spikey and all-consuming, the possibility for it to occur instantaneously and sometimes without provocation, and it it achieved through outstanding editing.
Due to her trauma, when an anxiety attack takes Mae over, their instincts are to find and lie under a bed until they are able to calm themselves. Throughout the season this happens and people are weirded out by it, they will stare at her from above and simply ask what Mae’s doing. Although at a later point in the series, a panic attack takes them while with George, and Mae asks her to join her under the bed. George doesn’t question it for a second and gets under the bed with Mae, later asking what’s up but nonetheless lying there until they’ve recovered. This scene is such a beautiful portrayal of intimacy amongst partners with mental health issues, and is a clear-cut display of the magic inherent in the writing of Feel Good.
It cannot be expressed highly enough how underrated this show has been. Despite seeing little talk of it online, it is a tour de force of performance, themes, and execution with a near perfect second season. It made me question my own anxiety, my relationship with my sexuality, my trauma, and my relationships with those around me, and it could have the same powerful effect on you. When a show can do that while being an absolutely hilarious comedy simultaneously, it is the hallmark of something truly special. Mae Martin has achieved utter brilliance, and should be looked at as one of the singular minds in film and TV moving forward.