The first season of Another Period was—intentionally—a glorious trainwreck. Part Downton Abbey parody, part Keeping Up With The Kardashians skewer, and part 20th century history lesson, the Natasha Leggero/Riki Lindhome-created comedy instantly impressed with its manic approach to comedy about terrible people in olden times. That was in addition to its uncanny ability to get such a high profile cast (like Christina Hendricks immediately post-Mad Men) and guest stars. And despite how truly awful the characters could be, Leggero and Lindhome’s respective roles as the image-obsessed Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt managed to find some humanity as the season progressed.
So despite being excommunicated from their family and forced to live on the street, Another Period’s first season finale ended with the happy ending of everything somehow working out for Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt. They got what they truly wanted: They were famous. All thanks to a public scandal. As this second season premiere confirms, the sisters’ public shaming was more than worth it just for that result. But instead of focusing on Lillian and Beatrice’s new lives in the spotlight, “Tubman” makes sure that Lillian and Beatrice’s 15 minutes of fame are over before the audience can even really see it play out.
Part of what made Lillian and Beatrice surprisingly more likable as the first season went on was the hilariously painful realization that they could never win, even when they did everything “right” or showed off their particular brand of humanity. It’s a trend that actually continues here in “Tubman;” though, in this particular case, it’s really their stupidity and intense ignorance that sets them up for this failure. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Harriet Tubman (Bebe Drake) stick it to a couple of over-privileged, racist white women? A scenario like that is basically what Another Period was created for, as is the idea of making Tubman an opportunistic celebrity who knows just how to keep said celebrity (as well as how to keep the white people happy). She’s got everything Lillian and Beatrice want: a sad and heroic backstory for mass sympathy (which they tried and failed to have in “Funeral”), fame that lasts in the “fast-paced” world of a “bi-monthly news cycle,” and a definitive brand to go along with it. Plus, she’s Harriet fucking Tubman. Of course she’s tough—she’s been around the railroad more than a couple of times.
Harriet Tubman is also a terrific foil to Lillian and Beatrice, especially since the sisters are so obliviously unaware that she’s even against them in the first place. In fact, as much as Tubman is conning them out of their “walking around gold” and into Niagara Falls, they’re the ones who are too simple-minded to even get their own brands anywhere past “diamonds” (Lillian) or “incest”/”incest baby” (Beatrice, of course). They truly are the architects of their own failure… But I’d be lying if I said I don’t look forward to the possibility of them getting back at Harriet Tubman in the future. Because that’s just the type of show Another Period is, and if you can accept that—and Harriet Tubman’s deep appreciation for her money—then you’re pretty much set with this show.
Back at Bellacourt manor, things are more in flux. “Downstairs,” with the servants: Chair is in a coma and pregnant, Blanche is afraid that she will be found out for her role in Chair’s coma, Peepers so desperately wants to avoid another Chair (coma or not, she’s an integral character) situation when it comes to his hiring practices, Garfield struggles with how to be in a position of authority, and there’s a new servant girl (Flobelle, played by Alice Hunter). That may sound like a lot, but it’s mostly just bits and pieces on the way to Chair giving coma birth and Peepers retrieving Lillian and Beatrice. It’s very much worth it for those moments though: The former gives us such gems as Garfield and Flobelle pushing on Chair’s belly to help her give birth, while the latter has Peepers throw a baby in the heat of the moment. Those are already two ridiculous images on their own, but Another Period makes them even funnier than they have any right to be. Another Period, in general, is a show that’s even funnier than it has any right to be. It’s a parody comedy set in the 1900s, after all.
“Upstairs,” we learn how the “Modern Pigs” piece really hit the Bellacourt family hard, as no one will even work with the Commodore anymore because of the scandal. While the first season struggled to make the Commodore work as well as the rest of the characters—mostly because of his prolonged absence while other characters achieved development—he really works in this episode. He’s also ramped up the melodramatics to match everyone else, which is a great deal of what was missing with the character before. The way he cries out for his “sweet Celine,” as well as his determination to kill Dodo (and then just lock her up in the asylum), are probably the best moments the character has had so far in the series.
“Tubman” is a solid return for Another Period, but for an episode with as much going on as it does, it’s not quite at the series’ base level. That would be a 13, but this episode is still a good 11. There’s not even more than one talking head in the episode! This is essentially a set-up episode for the rest of the season. Lillian and Beatrice get a little more comeuppance, if you will, but they still win in getting their marriages annulled (which is even better than the divorce option they tried last season) and having to date wealthy men to save the family. (But for Beatrice, the Frederick part of that entire situation doesn’t even come up—yet.) And now there’s a new baby (“Kermit. Kermit the baby. The repetition will help people remember his name.”), as well as a new servant we know nothing about, and Dodo is missing. Plus, Chair is still in a coma. And Hamish is… somewhere. “Tubman” is a good starting off point, but the best is obviously still to come.
- My first note for the episode was about how the show has apparently recast Hortense, again, so I really appreciated the “Comedy Central Presents The Three Hortenses” credits stinger for that. Seriously, it’s kind of ridiculous that with a cast as stacked as Another Period’s, it’s only this role that finds itself constantly changing. First, Artemis Pebdani left for Scandal, and now Lauren Ash has left for Superstore. New Hortense is played by Lauren Flans, and we have yet to see what will take her away from this show. Just kidding. But I do hope she is able to do the Hortense name proud. And congrats to Hortense for being the first person or thing in history to be called a “shit sandwich.”
- I’ve been catching up with the Comedy Bang! Bang! live tour episodes on Howl, so Lauren Lapkus has been on my mind a lot more than usual lately. It’s great to see her return after her small part pointing out the Pig Sisters in the season finale. But poor, poor Penelope (like “antelope”). “He’s not crying!” Hopefully the Bellacourts (and their servants) find more ways to ruin her life in the future.
- So after that second stay in the asylum, it appears Blanche now has a split personality. That’s fun!
- I’ve really missed just how much Lillian (especially) and Beatrice love that women don’t have the right to vote. Welcome back, Another Period.
- Harriet Tubman: “But first: Where is my money? WHERE IS MY MONEY?!? … All aboard, bitches! Next stop, Tubman Town!” Tubman’s line about being on money reaches the line of too much winking and nudging, but her entire history lesson (which ends in train-related irony) is very good. Bebe Drake is so great in this role.
- Harriet Tubman: “So I said to him, let’s make it about trains. White folks love themselves some trains.”
Lillian: “We really do.” It’s even better that the episode continues to commit to that line of thinking.
- The baby-throwing scene is great on its own, but it’s even better when you have this on the brain. Non-wrestling fans, I’d like to say I’m sorry—but I won’t, because I need more people to talk to about all things “BROTHER NERO” with me. But really, I’m sorry.
- The lack of Frederick in this episode is glaring when you think about how he’d react to Beatrice’s letter classification. “A is red. B is blue. C is 11. That’s as high as I can go.” (Which reminds me, there’s also a lack of secretly brilliant Beatrice in this episode.)
- Moshe Kasher’s Dr. Goldberg looks good with a shade of passive-aggression. More, please.
- The Commodore may be more melodramatic this season, but he’s still got nothing on Peepers. Exhibit A: The intense way in which Peepers leaves Dodo’s room.
- Lillian: “How do we look?”
Gayle: “Like two white women! Now get down in that barrel. Get in there.” Harriet Tubman’s assistant Gayle didn’t get very much to do in this episode, but he did nail everything he did.