“Difficult People” wrapped its second season Tuesday (Sept. 6) with “High Alert,” which saw the intrepid New York gang at a wedding that turned into a funeral with a little Julianne Moore and “A Christmas Carol” thrown in for good measure.
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It was a solid season finale, but let’s dig in about what “Difficult People” did well in Season 2 and what could have fared better.
‘Italian Pinata’ – A+
Season 2 was pretty strong start to finish, but “Italian Pinata” tops the list. Billy (Billy Eichner) and Julie (Julie Klausner) find their people in New Jersey, which was a nice little turn for the Manhattanites. Plus, there’s the B-plot of Arthur’s (James Urbaniak) PBS hierarchy that ultimately leads to a terrifying clown chasing a woman who is scared of clowns. “I didn’t know there would be a clown, and I certainly didn’t know that he would give chase.”
The ‘Hannibal’ plot – A
The show was dropping a lot of hints about Billy’s trainer Felix (Joel McHale) actually being a cannibal who was fattening Billy up for consumption, it still managed to be a hilarious and unexpected reveal. McHale’s shouting of how he’d cook Billy as he was getting arrested was particularly awesome.
The season finale – A-
The leads on this show are difficult people — it’s right there in the title. But no one wants to watch a show where they don’t show even a modicum of growth and the season finale deftly handled both Billy’s sadness about being alone and Julie’s sadness about her career not taking off the way she wants it to. The only minor missteps were Amy Sedaris’ return as Rev. Rita, which didn’t quiiiiite work in this episode, and the slut-shaming plot of Julie’s 9/11 essay.
No, Arthur shouldn’t slut-shame Julie — and neither should anyone else — but Julie also glossed right over Arthur’s totally appropriate concern about their relationship being on display in the essay with her giving him any kind of heads up. It honestly felt like that was Arthur’s concern way more than Julie’s sex romp, so that could have been written a little differently.
But big thumbs up for giving viewers a slap-fight between Urbaniak and Richard Kind.
The guest stars – B+
Just like in Season 1, “Difficult People” boasted an impressive roster of guest stars in Season 2. From the aforementioned Moore, McHale and Kind to Nathan Lane, Mark Consuelos, Abby Elliott, Method Man and Debbie Harry, it was a constant game of “who will pop up next?”
But every so often on “Difficult People” a guest-starring turn doesn’t quite land. Case in point — Tina Fey and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Fey’s subplot of directing Marilyn’s (Andrea Martin) video will never really went anywhere, and LMM felt very shoe-horned in. Yes, “Hamilton’s” been everywhere in 2016, but the way he was written into “Carter” just didn’t work for us.
The trans truther – B-
Shakina Nayfack joined “Difficult People” in Season 2 as Lola, a transgender woman who believes in a variety of conspiracy theories. The problem is, the show already had one supporting character who is mainly seen only at the diner and whose job it is to spew off one-liner jokes and be the target for Billy and Julie’s disdain in the form of Matthew (Cole Escola).
So Lola feels a little bit like gilding the lily there. We’d rather see more of Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nate (Derrick Baskin), or at least give Lola more to do. The essence of “Difficult People” is taking these unlikable people and making them hilarious and likable and people viewers care to watch grow (even if it’s only a tiny bit). If the show can’t do that with the Lola character in Season 3, we’d rather just keep learning more about Matthew, Denise and Nate’s lives.
Arthur snark – D
Arthur is easily the best person on the show. Not necessarily the best “character” — though he is a great character — but best in terms of being a good person. So the show needs to be careful when it gets a little heavy on the Arthur snark. At one point in the season, Julie shushed her boyfriend and told him the soulmates were talking; in another, Julie tells Billy he’s the only man who’s ever meant something to her life while Arthur is right there.
Things like that don’t really play for laughs. Julie and Billy’s snarky nature is great — it’s one of the best reasons to watch the show. But it feels a lot meaner when it’s directed at the one really good person in their lives who puts up with a lot of crap. So … just be careful there, show.
Overall, though, Season 2 was just as good — if not better — than Season 1, so keep on keepin’ on, “Difficult People.” We look forward to Season 3.