Jean Smart & Hannah Einbinder in Strong Season 2 – The Hollywood Reporter

When HBO Max’s hacking premiered a year ago to extremely positive reviews, most of the early excitement came down to uncontroversial reviews such as: “Jean Smart is a divine force of acting greatness, and while we’re not worthy of the same oxygen as her in To breathe, we must cherish these 10 weeks of simultaneous occupation on this floating blue and green sphere we call Earth.”

And, I mean, where’s the lie?


It comes down to

Sharp writing styles and strong performances overcome wavering in focus.

Broadcast: Thursday 12 May (HBO Max)

Form: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins

creators: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky

The concentration on the undeniable greatness of Smart became a minor distraction from more holistic analyzes of hacking that might recognize that, probably for the first few episodes, the series was decent, but maybe not quite on the level of Smart – and that halfway through the season, hacking became a better show overall because it was more of an ensemble, albeit one with Smart being the first among not quite equals.

The second hacking Season feels the show is qualitatively picking up where it left off, now fully aware of all the exceptionally moving pieces at its disposal – but still not necessarily fully prepared to extract value from all those pieces. This comedic exploration of female friendship and mentorship remains just on the brink of something really big.

Narratively, the series by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky also pick up where it left off. Even after the bombing in her final Las Vegas appearance, comedy legend Deborah Vance (Smart) has been creatively revived and ready to hit the road to test her new material, with Ava (Hannah Einbinder) along for the ride, despite her abnormally large hands. Ava, who carries her father’s ashes in a tennis ball can, is also very nervous that Deborah learns about the email she drunkenly sent to the TV producers last season and all her (quite correct) feelings and stories about Deborah shared.

Ava, Deborah and Deborah’s personal assistant Damien (Mark Indelicato) embark on an ambitious tour, accompanied by the savvy veteran Weed (a predictably excellent Laurie Metcalf), aboard a souped-up tour bus. This leaves Carl Clemons-Hopkins’s Marcus managing Deborah’s business interests and personal chaos in Las Vegas, while Jimmy (Downs) and assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter) look after her professional interests in Los Angeles.

A thing hacking has already proven that it can do interesting, if not always smooth, is ready for contrived drama and then avoids dragging the ingenuity forward. So if you rolled your eyes to Deborah’s mind-boggling feigned outrage at Ava having a simple job interview last season (or Ava’s needless decision to keep that interview a secret) or to the cliffhanger regarding Ava’s incriminating email, there’s some consolation. to know that characters on hacking Don’t usually prolong unnecessary secrecy or resentment.

The well-drawn personality types regularly present opportunities for friction, generational conflict, and the kind of sharp dialogue that remains hacking entertaining. At some point, the writers will definitely have the confidence to let that drive the story a little more, rather than relying too much on “What’s going to happen when [insert character] discovered about [insert thing that didn’t need to be a secret]† is inking.

In theory, the tour gives the show’s creative team a constant sense of movement and momentum that the first season didn’t always have, plus a steady stream of opportunities for regional humor and on-the-road laughter. And the tour does indeed bring a lot of good stuff and consistently new situations, from state fairs to a standout episode on a gay cruise that’s not the type of gay cruise Deborah expects.

But at the same time, Las Vegas was home to… hacking an interesting and often fresh sense of place and its replacement with a series of generic flyover locations is moderately diminishing. But again, how many viewers watched? hacking for his grounded treatment of Las Vegas’ glitzy underbelly?

Clever was and remains the main reason people come in and, as is the case with most of the show’s characters, the writers have a very good sense of Deborah’s flaws and strengths, and have their universally beloved star records an extensive array of . Deborah sings, she has a steamy sexual relationship and she continues to dig deeper into the things she did as a young cartoonist to succeed in a male-dominated profession. Smart equally underscores Deborah’s most appealing and unsympathetic traits and will, of course, return to the top of every field for best actress awards for a season about a female comic finding a new voice on and off stage treated with greater attention at every level. and less schtick than the most recent season of The wonderful Mrs. Maisel

No one has ever had to work hard to show Smart’s strengths, but the writers had to learn what the relatively inexperienced Einbinder can do during the first season. “Falling” remains for me the pivotal episode of the first season in showing Ava’s vulnerability and self-destructive tendencies, and making her more than just another millennial/Gen-Z funny person allegedly “cancelled” for a ill-considered tweet, where the show started. The second season makes more use of Einbinder’s physical clumsiness and makes more use of the repetition compulsion that forces Ava to stay with Deborah.

And in turn, the second season understands that hacking is a better show as a true two-hander – Einbinder is increasingly miscategorized as “supportive” for prize purposes – than as a glorified one-woman show for Smart.

It’s not always consistent to figure out how to use the rest of the cast, starting with Emmy-nominated surprise Clemons-Hopkins, who is adrift for a while before showing some of their best material in the last two. of the six episodes sent to critics.

Aware that the Jimmy-Kayla dynamic was favored by some viewers, hacking continues to look for different ways to keep Downs and Stalter close (or keep Downs in front of the camera, as he is a regular co-writer and frequent director). So there’s more of Jimmy and Kayla this season and their storylines always involve welcome guest stars including Ming-Na Wen and Martha Kelly, but those scenes generally feel like auditioning for a spin-off.

The same goes for attempts to bring scene stealers Poppy Liu, as freelance blackjack dealer Kiki, and Kaitlin Olson, as Deborah’s daughter DJ, into the main story, and to bring back artists like Luenell, Jane Adams and Christopher McDonald.

hacking continues to expand his world. It’s not just the Jean Smart show and it’s not just an investigation into cancellation culture or a portrait of an avatar of Joan Rivers. There are plenty of little reasons why Season 2 of hacking doesn’t jump from very goodness to greatness, but plenty of great reasons why that’s not really a problem.

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