Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Transparent binge-watch. From Friday, December 11 through Sunday, December 13, A.V. Club contributor Shelby Fero will be watching and reviewing every episode of Transparent’s second season. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting three reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and three reviews on Sunday. You can weigh in on this episode here, discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page, and track her Pfefferman-addled mindset on Twitter (@shelbyfero).
If the second episode strands our Pfeffermans out in the ether, “New World Coming,” finds them doubling down on the direction they’ve chosen to go. Maura, having chosen not to go home to Shelly the night before, wakes up in her old rommate’s new apartment. How freeing is it, by the way, to get to talk and laugh around people going through the same shit as yourself? Seeing Maura sit around the table with her trans sisters, drinking coffee and lightheartedly referencing a 15G pussy, trills in vicarious liberation. Sarah sinks deeper into whatever “bad girl” side of herself she’s unleashed to cope with her shame: First hitting on Tammy’s ex-wife (an amazing Tig Notaro), then appearing unannounced at Len’s, before masturbating to a semi-disturbing possible-memory-maybe-fantasy of an old high school disciplinarian. Leaning into her relationship with Syd, the veneer of Ali’s facade begins to crack. When Syd asks her what she likes as they lie in bed, Ali defers answering. Sex is easy, intimacy is hard.
Josh entrenches himself in, honestly, a super healthy life. He’s enthusiastic to show Colton his house and old high school, cheerily agreeing to being called “dad.” He brings Colton to the studio for his band’s rehearsal, seamlessly integrating the boy into his work and home life. He even has a moving, heartbreaking for sure, but also satisfying moment with Raquel after her botched proposal. He loses his temper for a moment, a hint of the self-destructing Josh from BA (Before Raquel) surfacing. But when he yells at her it’s not to push her away, it’s because he’s hurt. The outburst is immature, definitely, but he’s only frustrated because he didn’t want her to have to propose. She’s accidentally hit a raw nerve: He’s sick of being the family fuck-up and doesn’t want Raquel to think the same of him.
When Maura introduces Ali to an old poet and professor, Leslie, the sparks of the really fly. Introducing Leslie as an old Berkeley activist, part of the “Berkeley 7,” Soloway and co. plant contentious, and exciting, seeds. In group therapy, Maura laments her actions in the past, admitting “we did hold them back.” It’s only the tip of the iceberg, but underneath that chilling water are all the questions surrounding the privileges–or lack there of–assigned by our anatomical genders at birth, intersectional feminism, exclusionary radical feminism, “womanhood,” and internal vs. external subjugation and loathing. It’s a lighter episode, in a sense, but one laying important groundwork for the rest of the season to build upon.
Most “You’re The Worst” Moments: Josh yelling at Raquel as she sits on the floor below him. Lesley’s annoyance at the word “gender” in “Gender Studies” versus the (I would argue limiting) ”Woman” in “Woman’s Studies” (the most insane sounding term for a class, I’ve always thought, as if it’s all on one side). Sarah hitting on Tammy’s Ex.
Most “You’re The Best” Moments: Raquel citing articles about adopted kids always having to “perform,” –she’s trying so hard you guys! Maura’s quietly admitting that “We held them back.”
Things I’m Nervous About: Sarah’s going to get in trouble for that eye shadow thing instead of everyone just being cool and pretending like it didn’t happen. What it says about me that I can know a transwoman has most likely gone through Hell and back and then through Hell again, and a little voice in the back of my head will still start ranking parts of my body against hers because she’s more attractive.