This is a spoiler-free review of Season 2, but contains spoilers for Season 1. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1 here.
The show nobody really wanted is back and has somehow become everything it wasn’t, without ditching the stuff that was good. In Season 2, Friends from College’s ensemble of six characters are still over-privileged, shallow Harvard graduates entering their 40s, but this time round they’re not so utterly hateful and self-centred.
Picking up a year after the explosive ending of Season 1, in which the ongoing affair between YA novelist Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) and his first love, Sam (Annie Parisse) – married with kids and the best friend of his wife, Lisa (Cobie Smulders). The throughline of the season are the nuptials between Max (The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage) and his snooty partner, Felix (Billy Eichner) – “I love him and I want to protect him from… his friends” – opening with their engagement party where Lisa finally surfaces with a new man.
Moving on, the show almost allows itself to become pleasant, with Ethan and Sam tenderly trying out being a couple for real – although when Ethan and Lisa clear their furniture from Max’s garage, boundaries are, shall we say, blurred.
Stand-out episodes include a hilariously bad bachelor party to Atlantic City – male strippers hide in every room – and a Fourth of July party that ends up with a firework destroying a kitchen; kudos to the writers that painting over the scorch marks later becomes a moment of poignancy.
Supporting characters get slightly more to do this time round too. Womanising lawyer Nick (Nat Faxon) – the show’s Joey character – gets involved with a woman his own age (so he turns up stoned and late to her dinner parties) and then moves onto expressing his long-held feelings for… well, spoilers. It all works well, and Nick, fleshed out and less clichéd, has many of the season’s most memorable scenes.
The same can’t be said for Marianne (Jae Suh Park), who continues her thankless task of being this show’s Phoebe, only with less warmth. As in Season 1, she exists purely to make situations more awkward as she blunders about being tactless and unaware. There are, to be sure, many funny moments, but she’s still annoying as all hell, and the plotline with her base-jumping boyfriend is the season’s weakest strand.
It’s nevertheless very watchable and binge-worthy, with many laugh-out-loud moments and a sprinkling of pathos. The end-point for the season is pretty predictable (most people will see it coming in Episode 2) and downright depressing but – unlike at the end of last season – this time, we’d quite like to see how it turns out.
Friends from College: Season 1 and 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.