If the first season of Pulling was all about the particular kinetics of a serious break-up—the backsliding, the unfortunate nights out, the feints at friendship—the second season is more about single life once the long relationship is just the stuff of social memory. Donna was the focal point from which Pulling began, and the second series spends more time with the other characters. Karl has recovered sufficiently to go out to a club with his friends and even attract a few ladies that are clearly out of his league. Karen is back at the pub in ridiculous Eurotrash metallics. And Louise is, as always, on the troll for a man.
Which isn’t to say that Donna isn’t in the mix at all. As the episode opens, Donna is stuck at hope with failed jokes to disgruntled pizza delivery employees and a copy of An Inconvenient Truth, trying to coax anyone to go out with her. “The thing about comas is…he’s not going to notice if you pop out, is he?” she wheedles one of her friends. While she consumes alcohol and switches to The Day After Tomorrow—a far more convincing treatise about the rise of global warming—everyone else is out having a night they’d rather forget. Louise, attempting to give Oleg a good-bye treat, gets miffed when he falls asleep in the middle of a blowjob. Karen runs into an old flame who happens to be her worst enabler, a loutish drunk named Billy. After a sampler platter of drugs, they wake up in Karen’s classroom, with Billy completely naked from the waist down. He convinced her that it’s Saturday, but obviously it’s not—and Billy has to run into the woods with no trousers while Karen scrambles to make herself decent as the torrents of elementary school children come into the school.
If anyone had a worse night than Karen, it might have been Karl. He runs into Tanya at the club, who cheerfully enquires after his health. “If anyone deserves not to die by their own hand, it’s you,” she tells him. Gee, thanks? Karl ends up passed out in the bathroom, underwear around his ankles, when the club is shutting down. Tanya, ever the do-gooder whose intentions are less-than-good, rescues Karl from the bathroom and gives in to his sloppy, drunken advances. Cut to Donna visiting Karl’s kitchen where there are ass prints in a pile of yogurt, an empty bottle of chocolate syrup, and a conspicuously placed condom. Karl is antsy about Tanya, not just because she’s Donna’s close friend, but also because she has an effective façade of normalcy but some weird and clingy tendencies behind that—like scrubbing his kitchen for hours after the torrid kitchen sex.
The disastrous incidents from the previous night notwithstanding, Donna is madly jealous of all her friends. “You all had experiences! And stories!” she complains. In a certain light, she’s right—even the worst night out eventually turns into something you can laugh about later. But the day after those nights, it doesn’t feel like that. Donna manages to drag out Karen, who is futilely trying to fend off Billy as lover and enabler, as well as the extremely nervous Karl and Tanya. When it comes to light that Tanya was the one Karl was raunching around the kitchen with, Donna’s first reaction is jealousy, but not over Karl. “You mean everyone was out last night except for me?” she asks incredulously. She then finds a convict with a house-arrest anklet and a paddleboard full of shots, as any decent human being would.
But even post-split, Karl isn’t about to allow Donna to be fondled by a passed out criminal. He stands up to the guy, gets a black eye for his trouble, and Tanya fells the challenger with a Vulcan death grip. He brings Donna home and tucks her in, smiling. It’s a sweet little moment of friendship, and you can see Karl remembering the virtues of being in Donna’s company. He dodged a bullet with the Tanya thing. Until Donna, as a goodbye, throws the paddle from her shots and nails him squarely in the face. “Don’t ever have sex with my friends again,” she proclaims, and then passes out.
Louise, meanwhile, is bent on getting a second chance to excite Oleg. She finds him at the bus station where he’s about to go to Lithuania, and calls him off the bus. It’s a classic romantic movie moment: they run into each others arms, Oleg rips up his ticket and proclaims to stay with her. Except Louise isn’t actually interested in a relationship. The shot from inside the bus stop as we see her presumably explaining that—and Oleg falling to his knees, weeping—is one of the sadder and more artfully done of the series. Season two lacks a few of the charms of the first one—it’s less sharp, and the absurdism of the situations sometimes reaches. But it also does what all good series do in their second season, which is to find humor in the levels of character that we hadn’t previously scene. Billy, in particular, is a favorite addition of mine. Karen works best when she has someone worse than her around, as with Louise’s mother. Billy is an atrocious human, but he might be Karen’s soulmate, too.