The Comeback Season 2 Review

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There was a little while early in the second season that I wondered if The Comeback should have remained one of the most tragic cancelled shows of all time. I was proved wrong pretty quickly.

Season 2 of HBO’s meta-comedy didn’t get off to the best start. The first two episodes weren’t as funny as the show had been nine years ago, and even came off as a bit masturbatory, seemingly celebrating all HBO has done over the years.

But by the third episode, Valerie Is Brought to Her Knees, this series was once again groundbreaking television that dared to be ahead of its time.

Season 2’s premise saw Valerie Cherish (a never-better Lisa Kudrow) cast on an HBO show about the very sitcom she was in during Season 1, Room & Bored. Once again working under Paulie G. (Lance Barber), Valeries found herself playing, well, herself. But she does it so well.

This new series, Seeing Red, got Valerie to bring back her hair-stylist Mickey (Robert Michael Morris) and the producer of her reality show Jane (Laura Silverman). But as the show took up more of Valerie’s time and personal life, her marriage with Mark (Damian Young) begins to crumble.

Season 2 of The Comeback feels like a cautionary tale of the toll show business can take on your loved ones. The writing of Valerie and Mark’s demise was spot-on. It’s rare to have a show where you fear this much for the star couple. But for Valerie’s arc to be meaningful this season, her marriage had to go to some pretty grim places. Valerie Shines Under Stress was particularly strong, giving us a hard-to-watch argument in a restaurant parking lot for the fate of their marriage. But Mark clearly wins when he asks Valerie “Are you even in there anymore?”

With cameras constantly following her, Valerie is never quite her true self, even to us. The only reason we know even a little about who Valerie truly is is because she’s pretty terrible at being a reality TV star. But the end scene of the finale gave us the true Valerie, and what a reward it was.

Of course, as with Season 1, many of the best scenes of the season took place on set. TV may have aged nine years, but Valerie is as clueless as ever. Some highlights of her work life this season include the blow job scene, the green screen suit, and the snakes in the trunk. This was when The Comeback was he funniest, but also most socially astute.

Where Season 1 tore apart the reality TV craze and the dying four-camera sitcom, Season 2 dared us to question what is wrong with the current golden age of scripted television. The Comeback particularly highlighted the exploitation of women on screen this season. Seeing Red turns out to be a pretty sexist show, something Valerie is blissfully unaware of. But this series forced us to think about the ratio of female nudity to male nudity in a show like HBO’s own Game of Thrones. Don’t worry, there’s a long shot of full-frontal male nudity to even things out toward the end of this season of The Comeback. This was a feminist season of television, calling out the number of breasts in Game of Thrones and the lack of strong female voices in The Newsroom. None of these attacks were direct, obviously, but it wasn’t hard to figure out where The Comeback‘s criticisms were aimed.

With that in mind, this season still boils down to a lot of reasons not to make a career out of television. Having been done through one of 2014’s best TV shows, it’s hard not to hope The Comeback will keep going, even though the finale wraps things up pretty neatly. The future of this fantastic series is uncertain. Maybe this is the end. Maybe we’ll get Season 3. Maybe it’ll be in another nine years. Regardless, Season 2 of The Comeback stands on its own as an excellent work of the art in the medium it seems to vehemently against. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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