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The Second Season of HBO's 'Togetherness' Is Just as Painful But Only Half as Honest As the First

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 18, 2016 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 18, 2016 |


Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 1.31.19 PM.jpg

If you don’t have enough to keep you occupied on Sunday with the return of The Walking Dead, the last eight episodes of The Good Wife, the debut of HBO’s Vinyl, and the Showtime offerings Shameless and Billions, the second season of HBO’s Togetherness also kicks off this Sunday. The first season was incredible for a certain demographic (white 30-40 something married couples), as it managed to perfectly capture the occasional malaise a marriage goes through after the honeymoon stage and after the frantic first few years of kids, once married couples settle into a groove, which can often become a rut. For a lot of couples, the faltering marriage of Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) hit a nerve and provoked a lot of conversations. It was also a deeply uncomfortable show for some couples to watch together.

The season, however, began to lose some of its footing late, as Michelle’s eye began to wander toward David (John Ortiz), and Brett’s self-involvement veered to the extreme, turning relatable characters into occasionally unlikable ones.

The second season picks up not long after the events of the first season finale, and quickly fills us in on what we missed: Michelle did sleep with David in Sacramento, but quickly regretted it, while Brett’s late season epiphany drove him headlong back into his marriage. Michelle is willing, but she’s also overwhelmed by guilt, and the early episodes are dominated by Michelle’s desire to confess.

The second season — early on — doesn’t stumble, but it does fall back on more classic sitcom tropes, infused with the uncomfortable silences for which the Duplass Brothers are known. That is even more apparent in the relationship of the show’s other would-be couple, Alex (Steve Zissis) and Tina (Amanda Peet). There has been a role reversal there, as well. Alex is looking slimmer and more confident this season, having scored a juicy role in a movie and a recurring role in a sitcom, as well as a new — and attractive — girlfriend.

Tina is immediately jealous, not just because the guy whose heart she broke has moved on, but because the distance between them has strained their friendship. Tina acts out in all kinds of inappropriate and awkward ways, and her brand of confrontation is so uncomfortable it’s hard not to watch through your hands, as though hiding from the bad decisions of the character. It’s recoiling comedy.

Thus far, the second season of Togetherness is still interesting and unique enough to stand out, but it’s also not the same as the first. It’s still funny, but the situations feel more rom-com than genuine, where the humor of last season seemed to be mined from painfully honest places. The comedy here feels just as painful, but only half as honest. There’s enough, however, that continues to land to make it a worthwhile dram-com to continue watching for those who fell in love with the brutal, painful honesty of the first season.


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