Bienvenue to season two of Emily in Paris where the writers basically say: Screw you! We all complained so bitterly about last season but still binged it in droves, so the writers have no hesitation about hurling the same colorful dreck at us again this season. Is that an exaggeration? Maybe. But only slightly. Yes, some side characters have bigger roles this season, and some of them become more likable. But the main characters? They spend most of this season scrambling around furiously for ten episodes only to end up in almost the same place they started. It feels a bit like watching caged hamsters run through a series of tubes for 280 minutes. You know, if some of those hamsters were extremely good-looking, and others inexplicably wore brightly colored fingerless leather gloves. You know what? Never mind. That metaphor got really weird really fast. (Not as strange as some of Emily’s ensembles, but still.) The thing I was wholly unprepared for this season is that somewhere along the way I stopped disliking Emily. What?!? No, it’s true, but it’s also absolutely clickbait, so you’re going to have to read on (or at least skim on) to let me explain.
Emily (Lily Collins) is having a lot of big feelings about the night of hot sex she had with Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) when she thought he was breaking up Camille (Camille Razat) and moving to Normandy, where she would never, ever, ever see him again—because it’s not like she could hop on one of the seven trains a day and be there in about two and half hours. Now, to complicate matters further, he’s staying in Paris to open a restaurant backed by one of Savoir’s oldest clients (and Emily’s boss Sylvie’s ex-lover) Antoine (William Abadie). Plus, it’s unclear where things stand between him and Camille, who has become one of Emily’s closest friends. Can someone still be your close friend if you’ve secretly schtupped their not-quite-ex-boyfriend? Emily is both wracked with guilt and haunted by erotic flashbacks, plus she has clearly fallen in love with Gabriel and he with her, which is quite the pickle, but they talk about it in such an off-hand way that I thought I had mis-heard them several times. Please note that Gabriel has somehow gotten more Genetically Blessed since last season. I’m not quite sure what happened, but clearly all my offerings to the gods and goddesses of the DNA have been worth it. And the blue sweatshirt he wears in the first episode?!? I’m prepared to forgive the costume designers for a lot of their other sartorial…Okay, no. I can’t go so far as to forgive their many other textile-based ocular assaults, but I do very much appreciate what this blue shirt does for Gabriel’s eyes.
My apologies, were we talking about something else? Oh, yes. Emily. Le sigh. Her way of dealing with this Kamasutratric Kerfuffle is to try to quash her feelings for Gabriel, keep being friends with Camille, focus on reuniting Camille and Gabriel (whether they like it or not), and move on with other romantic pursuits. None of that goes particularly well, at least at first. Gabriel keeps telling Emily how he stayed in Paris for her and how much he has the hots for her (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much). Camille is hurt that she wasn’t enough for Gabriel, and suspicious that something beyond the restaurant is behind him choosing to stay. Emily’s first romantic pursuit goes bust before it even begins, but she magically still gets a mostly-expenses paid weekend in St. Tropez out of it—because Emily always fails upward. At the same time, Emily is running around making a LOT of questionable spur-of-the-moment work decisions that spill over into her personal life and vice versa. It’s all very stressful for Emily and you know what Emily does when she’s stressed? She whines. A lot. In English, of course, because while she talks about learning French, she makes almost zero attempts to use it.
While Emily manages to eel her way out of every work fuck up and somehow walk away victorious, things don’t go quite so well when Camille eventually finds out about her tryst with Gabriel. Imagine being held accountable for your actions? How nouvelle. Camille is obviously just wicked pissed, which she’s entitled to be. Her trust has been grossly violated. But the show goes one step further to make Camille a scorned woman who wants to reclaim her man and rain down cold globs of revenge on Emily’s head. How are we still watching this plot-line? And look, I’m not suggesting she should forgive Emily or Gabriel. Never speaking to either of them again would be a perfectly fine choice. But letting Gabriel off the hook—because men and their silly penises, amirite—and seemingly concocting a nefarious plan to undermine Emily, because she’s somehow more at fault?!? Ugh. It’s just such a tired, worn out, boring, sexist storyline where no one wins except the patriarchy. (I almost typed penis-archy by accident.) I can’t believe we had to watch this, and I can’t believe Emily didn’t catch on to what was happening.
None of this is likely convincing you that I stopped disliking Emily. So let’s talk about that. Honestly, it was “la dame pipi” that shifted things for me. In the first episode Emily is eating lunch at a restaurant with Camille and Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) when Camille asks for a Euro for la dame pipi. Emily is completely baffled. Just lost at sea as to what this phrase could possibly mean. And this was when the tide turned for me. I stopped disliking Emily so much and started to passionately despise the writers for using her character to express their dubiousness in the audience’s ability to understand…well, pretty much anything.
I mean, Emily has been going to upscale boozy lunches and dinners and outings in Paris for some time now, and you mean to tell me that she has yet to use a restroom and stumble across a woman staffing said restroom, but now it’s suddenly fucking ubiquitous? Come on. And it’s not like la dame pipi is super hard to parse. PEE PEE, my friends. It has the word PEE PEE, which is pretty fucking universal. This is just lazy and keeping Emily overly naive and incompetent in order to have any easy conduit for any expositional writing. Later, for no reason that drives the plot, Emily can’t really drive a stick shift car? A boyfriend tried to teach her once and it didn’t go well. Why?!? Why can’t she just be competent?!? Why can’t she be slightly more self-aware? Why can’t she whine slightly less? Why choose to give her these qualities? To what end?
The same is true of her lack of French. They have Emily write an apology letter in French WITHOUT ANY HELP, which is a disaster. Shocking, I know. I’m sorry for shouting, but this woman should clearly know her limits, and she has people to ask for help. I mean, she asks Sylvie, but come on, she should know better than that. It’s ridiculous. (And yes, I know it’s supposed to humorous.) If Emily were to learn French what would happen? Either more of the dialogue would be in French or the writers would have to get creative about why people were always speaking English, which has been done a thousand times before in a thousand shows and movies. But no, instead we get Emily held back in her beginner French class, where she gets paired with a British Banker Bro named Alfie (Lucien Laviscount, which is a very good name)—who has an absolutely Genetically Blessed Face, but no desire to learn any French AT ALL. None. He hates the language. He hates the city. Oh sure, some of this is so we can see how much Emily has changed since her arrival, and how many of her middle-American ways she’s already shed. (This happens at another point when an American colleague comes to visit.)
A lot of it, though, is so they can continue the conceit of Emily in Paris Speaking English, and it’s obnoxious. And while I’m talking about Alfie, can we discuss how he basically woos her by standing up in front of the entire class and saying that her clothes are silly and she doesn’t like to have fun. I mean, call ME no fun, but isn’t this basically the same as telling a girl that some boy is pulling her pigtails because he likes her? It is. Why wouldn’t Emily just tell him and his fantastic bone structure to fuck off back to England? Instead she wants to prove to him that she’s actually fun and that Paris is romantic. Gross. No, no thank you, writers. This is not to say that Alfie’s character didn’t eventually show some depth, charm, and kindness, which is somehow even worse because it’s proving their point. So it’s not that I started liking Emily, it’s that I shifted focus of my anger about her character to the writers. How dare they make her so unbearably callow, incapable, and still constantly failing her way into success.
Look, there’s far more to address—the clothes, that whole “Let them eat cake” thing at Versailles, the clothes, peer pressure, a complete lack of logic, the clothes—but there’s simply not enough time (or energy) to cover it all here.
I think if this show were re-pitched as Emily and Her Friends in Paris, I might enjoy it more. The writers seem less determined to make the other characters as inept and annoying. This season Mindy (Ashley Park) gets multiple singing gigs and her own blossoming romance with a man in possession of his own Genetically Blessed Face (Kevin Dias). Some of the better scenes happen when Mindy and Emily are alone, offering each other incredibly generic or just plain bad life advice. Both characters feel their most relaxed, genuine, and playful in those moments. Luc (Bruno Gouery) has somehow managed to evolve from seeming somewhat lecherous last season to Emily’s fun French sidekick who takes her to impenetrable French movies and surprises her with graveside lunch-dates. I don’t hate it. We find out more about Sylvie’s past and she gets a new romance that turns many heads. Julien (Samuel Arnold) was not as included in this season outside of work dramas, but perhaps the writers will get that right next season. They better get that right next season. Also, as this season was largely a placeholder—designed to stir things up before letting them settle back to more or less their original starting point—I’m hoping for some real movement next season.
I know at least one person who has proactively sworn off watching the not-yet-green-lighted third season of Emily in Paris.* While I fully understand her reasons and respect her fortitude and mettle, I won’t be joining her boycott. I don’t have some big speech about why, but I will say that because I’m so unhappy with the writers in so many ways, I feel like I need to witness where they take Emily and her friends next. Plus, you know, I like shiny things, Genetically Blessed Faces, and complaining. C’est la vie. Bring on season three!
*The series has now been renewed for a third and fourth season.