(Warning: spoilers about Season 2 of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend ahead.)
It took about 12 seconds for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to become my favorite show last season. With dark humor, Simpsons-style absurdity, quick jokes, armchair psychology, romantic misadventure and outrageously funny (and inappropriate) songs, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend made the world fall away while watching.
That said, the first episode, which debuts on The CW on Friday (October 21), made me feel like something changed. It's no less entertaining, just... Contextually different, like reuniting with a lover who's been away. Both parties have changed a little. Who is this person now? Who are we now? It's a little awkward. That's how the first installment felt. This show is still very much my bae but, after an initial infatuation (and its accolades and awards, including a Golden Globe) I had to wonder if the honeymoon phase was over.
Season 2 starts right where the first ended: the aftermath of Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) admitting to Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), that their hookup was the result of her diligent strategic planning, not the spontaneous moment he thought. You'll remember that Josh immediately began brooding and doing that adorably doofus squinting he does when confused (so often, bless his heart) and Rebecca instantly knew her rare honesty had backfired. As Season 2 opens, Rebecca is covering her tracks with classic Rebecca manipulation and gaslighting. From there, we jump into that new theme song and then the central premise of this season: Anything you do for love is justifiable - which justifies crazy under the guise of romance.
Last season was about denial, showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna told TVGuide.com, but this one about Rebecca embracing the cultural adage "All is fair in love"...even if said love is a one-sided obsession and the "all" requires accomplices and criminal activity.
So here come the spoilers. Josh moves in with Rebecca, more out of circumstance than a desire to commit to her. Faster than you can say "Girl, you need to set some healthy boundaries," she's making drawer space - a functional, day-to-day chore that whispers "The honeymoon is over," through a megaphone. It's the kind of ceremonial act that would've had Carrie Bradshaw guzzling cosmos from a Thermos. Why am I bringing her into this? Because Sex and the City's Carrie made being whiny, obsessive, controlling and insecure into a six season, two-movie cultural phenomenon whereas, at the outset at least, Rebecca's similar traits didn't seem cute or funny as they once did. She was always this way, of course, but at the start of Season 2 it somehow seemed sad. It's not long before you seriously want her to be doing something — anything — else with her time: especially when Greg gets lassoed back into her loony rodeo to create a love triangle. Rebecca becomes exhausting. Everybody in her life tells her this, point blank.
Thankfully, just as SATC balanced Carrie's insufferable qualities with other people, Crazy Ex moves two people from Rebecca's circle closer into the spotlight, diverting attention from her tail-chasing. Greg (Santino Fontana), who, c'mon, don't you just love? makes a bold step towards self-care with a brave admission and then steps to correct it. (His reveal also prompts a hilarious song, a Crazy Ex Girlfriend staple that remains terrifically intact.) Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) continues ascending into self-actualization, pushing back on Rebecca's nonsense and then, as the season progresses, fighting for her dream in a way that culminates with a bold choice that'll be great TV. Which is not to say Rebecca becomes moot. She's still quite lovable, but her self-involved spinning and terrible decisions no longer swallow everything whole.
Her friends' stories take meaty, weighty turns right at the start and set up many rewarding twists to come. As a result, she gains even more depth and, occasionally, insight. And though they're not in the first few episodes, Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) Josh's ex, returns; as does Rebecca's wonderfully grouchy mother Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh). Special celebrity guests are on the way, and there may be a new boy for Rebecca to get crazy over too.
Following up to a shockingly good first season is enormously difficult; we the people want more fireworks, more surprise, more of the passion that made us crazy in the first place. But relationships aren't always like that. They settle into normalcy that has consistency, and hopefully, deep admiration and respect as well as fun and excitement. Even after time apart and inevitable change, Season 2 keeps all that intact.
Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 2 begins Friday Oct. 21 at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies.)