CW: Self-harm, depression, disordered eating, domestic violence, gun violence.
I like the way the second season of Ginny and Georgia, whether intentionally or not, crushes any remaining tired comparisons to the Gilmore Girls under it’s heel like some discarded chili cheese fries from Luke’s Diner. This season also dispenses with cute hideouts behind loose floorboards and delves deeper into the darkness behind Georgia’s secrets, which were uncovered last season. It further explores the impact of her no-holds-barred approach to protecting her loved ones, draws out more minor characters’ storylines, adds new layers of complication and intrigue, and digs into the complex, messy relationship between Georgia and Ginny. This season feels more confident and interesting overall, but there was a point where I lifted my hands to the heavens and asked, Whither the humor? Perhaps they left it under the floorboards.
Okay, no, that’s not entirely fair. There certainly is a fair amount of humor in this season, like in the first episode when Max (Sara Waisglass) opens the front door wide, looks directly at the camera, and cries in her nasal voice, “Welcome back, bitches!” Her mother (Jennifer Robertson) quickly comes around the corner, admonishing her for calling her grandparents, who have just arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, names, but the wink to welcoming the viewers back is clear, and I’m 100% on board with it. (Side note: I did immediately assume that they were celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving because everyone’s accents still have me 100% convinced this show takes place north of the border.) Max is still fuming that her artsy, dark-horse twin brother Marcus (Felix Mallard) was secretly hooking up with Ginny (Antonia Gentry), while Marcus—when not making some very apt points about Thanksgiving, genocide, colonization, and irony—is spiraling into a dark place and missing her.
Ginny—who, if you remember, stole Marcus’s motorcycle and rode off into the night with her younger brother Austin (Diesel La Torraca) on the back—is trying to deal not only with losing her friend group over banging a boy in secret, but also with the emotional fallout of discovering that her mother, Georgia (Brianne Howey), murdered Kenny, her yoga-teaching step-father. On top of that, Austin and Ginny discovered that Georgia never mailed any of Austin’s letters to his incarcerated father, and has been forging responses to Austin on his behalf. (I’m sorry. All this is full on ridiculous and a little hard to follow in print, but it all does work in the context of the series, which has a lot going on, but also mostly works in context.) Ginny and her brother Austin have decamped to her father Zion’s (Nathan Mitchell) house for some breathing room, which is only kind of working since Ginny is having nightmares about Georgia killing her and she’s continuing to self-harm. I’ve read a fair number of takes saying that Ginny is whiny, annoying, and a downer, which, um, maybe give the kid a break? If we’re going to talk about whiny, shouldn’t we discuss Max? But I’m not actually here to debate whiny.
Meanwhile, Georgia, who believes killing Kenny was her only recourse to protect Ginny from future sexual abuse, and who definitely had solid reasons for not mailing those letters, is in full-on denial about her children being gone. She insists to Mayor Paul (Scott Porter), her now fiancé, that she’s glad for the space and quiet. As if. Georgia has never met a quiet that she likes. And having her children out of her line of sight and away from her ability to manage them obviously makes her squirm. Her entire life is built around weaponizing herself against a world in which she does not think she fits, breaching the boundaries of the upper echelons of society by any means necessary to afford her children better opportunities than she had, and trying to protect the people she loves from harm, often using illegal and sometimes violent methods. A lot of this season is spent with Georgia’s mask kept in place: Georgia smiling. Georgia feigning control. Georgia staying one step ahead of everyone else. And there were times where I wished they would show more of her inner turmoil, which is often hinted at by the quirk of her eyebrows. But, to be fair, they do get there in the end. And I guess a lot of what makes Georgia interesting is how well she uses that façade to scaffold her way up the social ladder. Between flashbacks to her younger self and her current plights, we see Georgia constantly scheming and plotting, for better or worse, to make sure she and her children come out ahead. Paul’s parents are deeply concerned that she signs a prenup before the wedding to protect their old New England money, but Georgia can’t be boiled down to anything as simple as the patriarchal stereotype of a gold digger. Paul represents the absolute standard of security, safety, and rehabilitation for Georgia. If he can accept, love, and even marry her, then perhaps there is room for her in his world as well, perhaps she is not the trash she thought she was, and perhaps, most importantly, her children will not suffer the same trials she did.
Of course, Paul is not the only suitor vying for Georgia’s affections. Zion, her first love and the father of her first child, has removed himself from the competition, but he and his genetically blessed visage will always be in the running because of what he represents. ( I do wish his scenes with Ginny didn’t feel quite so much like an earnest After School Special, though.) And then there is Joe (Raymond Ablack), who Georgia keeps stabled as a friend but is clearly her moody, dark-horse, long-shot romantic interest. This season we learn more about Joe’s background, and about his own attempts to overcome adversity through less than legitimate channels, which leads me to believe he and his very blessed countenance might be the match I prefer for Georgia. Plus, he just seems to really see her. Listen, I’m biased here in part because Paul represents the very traditional version of “making it” in America, because he kind of rankles me, and also because there is a scene where he demands that he be “respected” in his own house, which is actually still Georgia’s house at the time because he hasn’t officially moved in yet. I’m all for mutual respect in a relationship, but when a man starts pontificating specifically about being respected in his home? It’s like he’s hoisting a verbal red flag that is incredibly difficult to unhoist, and I could not look at Paul the same way again. There were other times where I felt like he was talking at Georgia rather than to her, and I just feel like what that woman needs is someone who will be her partner and can gently talk her off the brink when she sees ruinous plans as her only avenue for escape. Picket fences are not the only way to have safety and security and maybe Georgia needs something a little less…stifling, but I may be projecting. Also, while it’s a dead heat in terms of, um, hotness, Raymond Ablack may come out ahead by a whisker. Not that I would ev-AR sink to something that shallow for choosing my team. Horse. Whatever. Metaphors are hard. Finally, I still struggle with their depiction of all the men fawning over Georgia. I get that it’s how her character works and I like the way she uses beauty as one of her weapons, and maybe it’s supposed to be slightly unsettling? I did, however, very much like the moment when someone says, “There’s more dangerous than a beautiful girl.” And Georgia responds, “Sure there is. A violent man.”
And of course, while Georgia is busy trying to move her relationship with Paul forward, her past is actively trying to pull her down. Specifically, the private investigator (Alex Mallari Jr.) is getting closer to sniffing out misdeeds from her youth that on paper appear to be clear-cut crimes, but, when seen in context, are more complicated and nuanced escape hatches from dire situations often constructed by the fucking patriarchy. Judicial system take note. I have to say, the PI character feels mostly overwrought and clunky. I’m glad he mostly appears in the abstract this season and only dips in and out in person a few times. Gil (Aaron Ashmore), Austin’s father, shows up on the scene this season and boy-oh-boy is he a creep and half. In the first season it was hinted that Georgia somehow framed him for crime, but, as usual, it’s actually much knottier than that. A lot of characters on this show are messy and ambiguous, but Gil is a clear-cut bad dude and I wish him nothing but tiny sharp pebbles in his shoes that he can’t find, unexplained gastric distress, and disciplinary actions proportional to his many crimes. I could have done without Zion and Paul puffing themselves up and staring him down in one scene; preening masculinity in the face of toxic masculinity is still tired masculinity.
As this review makes clear, Georgia takes up a lot of space (though if they use the word “force” to describe her one more time, I may compel them to buy a thesaurus), but this season makes clear it is Ginny who lives with the consequences, intended or not, of all of Georgia’s actions. At one point, Georgia tells Ginny that “I may not be worthy of anything, but you are. I took all the darkness and I ate it.” First of all, holy shit! This is a lead weight to lay at your child’s feet. At anyone’s feet. (It’s also a very good line and an impressive image of Georgia, who is always so shiny looking, being filled with darkness.) Like, a therapist could send their children and grandchildren to college on unpacking this sentence alone. And therapy is where Ginny ends up going this season after Zion finds out about her self-harming. Ginny implores him not to tell Georgia because she doesn’t want her to try to fix things, which is fair. When Georgia finds out that Ginny’s racist English teacher (Jonathan Potts) has requested she choose a book for the class that represents the “Black experience” and create a lesson plan for it, Ginny only just manages to avert Georgia planting liquor and porn in his desk in a plot to get him fired.
What Georgia doesn’t realize, and Ginny is only beginning to understand, is the impact that this kind behavior has on her. How, even though Georgia has worked tirelessly to shield her from certain demons, Ginny still has valid experiences with regard to trauma, loss, and racism that her mother may never fully understand. That the way Georgia tramples across boundaries is painful for Ginny. And that being best friends with your mother might be problematic. (Sorry Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.) I like the way the series explicitly says that Georgia, as a white mother, may never fully understand the experiences of her biracial daughter, and the way it calls back her Scarlett O’Hara costume from the previous season— a small plot point that made a huge impact on Ginny’s character. Personally, I like to believe that the series also somewhat calls out the philosophy of “I would do anything to protect my kids,” which certainly isn’t unique to Georgia. Often, between trying to keep children in a bubble from facts, sheltered from nastiness, and ahead of the curve, it can be easy to lose sight of listening to children’s actual lived experiences and needs. Which is what happens between Georgia and Ginny. In Georgia’s constant quest to make the best life possible for her children, she has forgotten to pause and listen to them. The episode where Georgia strong-arms her way into Ginny’s therapy session is among my favorites this season for how it lays out the parameters of the mother/daughter relationship. And, as much as Georgia falters, Ginny also cannot fully understand why Georgia would, say, kill a man dead just because she once saw his hand creeping up her teenage daughter’s thigh. That’s not meant to be glib. To know Georgia’s past is understand why she would immediately spike that man’s smoothie with wolfsbane and hightail it the fuck out of town. Both of these women are layered, complex, and still figuring shit out and I appreciate how the series provides space for that.
Wellsbury is that beautiful small town television series creation that is both incredibly white and wealthy and also perfectly diverse enough when needed. For example, Ginny has a Black woman as a therapist, which is impressive. I mean, being able to find a decent therapist at all is impressive Or maybe she goes to Boston for that? It’s a little murky. This season also allows more room for Bracia’s (Tameka Griffiths) character to grow and expand, and thankfully not just as Ginny’s Black friend. In fact, Bracia takes more of a backseat in discussing Ginny’s ongoing struggles with her racist douche of teacher, and the show instead uses Max’s initial indifference and unawareness as an effective foil. Hunter also pops in occasionally to voice the pressure he feels to be perfect and fit in all the time. And also to voice his undying admiration of Ginny. (I’m still not Team Hunter. Because it’s wholly normal for me, a fully grown woman, to have an opinion about these fictional teenagers’ romantic choices.) There’s a whole subplot about the high school musical, in which Bracia has the lead and Max the supporting role, which is filled with juicy romances and quite lovely steam-punk inspired costumes.
It’s to the show’s credit in its treatment of its teenage characters, no matter how minor, with respect and interest. (Though it’s not to my credit that I still get confused between Press (Damian Romeo) and Brodie (Tyssen Smith).) There are moments that are called back from last season or earlier this season and pulled into a conversation or argument that make the whole thing feel much more natural and realistic. In one scene, Abby (Katie Douglas) is drunkenly yelling at Norah (Chelsea Clark) and says how hurt she was when Norah sided with Max during an earlier fight. It’s been episodes since anything was said about this, and Norah looks as shocked as I felt, but this is how people really talk about things. They don’t hash it all out in one episode. The same is true of things like Abby’s disordered eating, which wasn’t forgotten this season, but also wasn’t given a starring role. Isn’t this how things work? It’s still there. Still happening but, until it reaches a breaking point, it will just simmer along.
What was pushed to the front this season was Marcus’s struggle with depression. It’s somewhat jarring the first time an episode is narrated by him, but the perspective of it being something biological and uncontrollable and that subsumes everything else is not one I’ve often seen laid out so plainly in drama and I appreciated it a great deal. His family, wholly unlike Georgia’s approach, deals with it rather matter-of-factly, expressing their concerns for him, increasing his medication, talking to his therapist, and keeping an eye on him as much as possible.
You know what I appreciated less, though? Cynthia’s (Sabrina Grdevich) whole storyline. First of all, I felt like I was watching a tennis match, the way her opinion about Georgia kept lobbing back and forth. Or maybe it didn’t change, but Cynthia kept changing what she would do for Georgia? I don’t know. Her entire character feels somewhat mushy and undeveloped to me in a show full of characters where even minor ones seem to have clear motivations and backstories. I just don’t understand what Cynthia is doing, and I feel like someone different is writing her from one scene to the next.
Plus, she has a dalliance with someone that makes absolutely no sense for either of them. I honestly looked like a dog tilting its head in confusion the whole time it was going down. And then how it ended made no sense, including the speech the other person involved made about ending it. It was not a good break-up speech, and it felt oddly creepy from a character who is not supposed to be creepy. I was absolutely befuddled. Also, while on some level I understand what happened between Cynthia’s husband and Georgia, it made such big logical leaps and bounds that I pulled some muscles trying to go along with it. It was a point where the show really lost me and I’m not sure exactly how they’re going to demonstrate that it was a valid choice going forward. (I’m sorry. This is all very cagey to avoid spoilers.) And while I’m complaining, let me add that the end felt rushed and crushed into place. Like they had run out of time and space, but still had to drag this thing across the finish line. I wish they would have let it end someplace earlier in the story, but I also get the need to cram in all in case Netflix doesn’t renew it for a third season. Because goodness knows Netflix… Well, that is a rant for another time and place. But to close out this fairly long rant—er, review—I think the second season of Ginny and Georgia adds depth and nuance to the characters and intrigue to the plot, though they really need to try to put the horse back in the barn with whole Georgia and Cynthia’s husband situation, AND they need get Joe back in the race. Meanwhile, I clearly need to spend some time coming up with some non-horse racing related metaphors before next season.