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Emily in Paris Season 2 Review: Netflix's Rom-Com Is Still Peak Hate-Watch Material

Netflix's rom-com remains highly watchable... and highly infuriating

Elizabeth Morgan
Lily Collins, Ashley Park, and Camille Razat, Emily in Paris

Lily Collins, Ashley Park, and Camille Razat, Emily in Paris

Carole Bethuel/Netflix

Emily in Paris is a lot like that infamous Yelp review in which the amateur critic said they'd been stabbed at an establishment but would consider going back because the drinks were fresh. While there are positive elements to be found in Darren Star's Netflix rom-com — which returns for its second season just in time for the holidays — they come at a price, and viewers will need to figure out if the cost is worth it to them. Because for every sweet romantic overture or ounce of escapism, there is an infuriating narrative choice.

When the show returns, Emily (Lily Collins) is being forced to confront the choice she made in the Season 1 finale to sleep with Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) when she thought he was leaving Paris and she'd never see him again. Now that he's staying in town — mostly because Antoine (William Abadie) invested in his restaurant, but also because of Emily — he hopes the two of them can embark on a relationship. However, Emily is conflicted because of her friendship with Camille (Camille Razat), her first real French friend but also Gabriel's ex-girlfriend.

This is far from a novel scenario if you've consumed literally any media created for women in your lifetime, and Emily in Paris doesn't do much to change the status quo. In fact, it sometimes feels like it goes out of its way to embrace it. The writers feel no responsibility to subvert some of the misguided or tired aspects of the romance genre or popular culture, like pitting women against one another, which is boring at best and harmful at worst. It's also frustrating to see Emily forgo happiness and pleasure in an attempt to appease other people. 

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The show's answer to this, of course, is not to have characters discuss things openly but force them to lie to one another while introducing a second love interest for Emily so she can deny what she wants by trying to move on with someone else. Alfie (Lucien Laviscount) is an English banker and recent transplant whom Emily meets through her French class (oh yeah, she still can't speak French, but at least she's trying?). He is the opposite of Emily: He hates everything about Paris and wants nothing to do with the city. In fact, he can't get out of there fast enough. His dismissive attitude with regards to the City of Love initially frustrates our heroine, who has never met an expanse of Parisian sidewalk she didn't want to photograph, but he's good-looking, charming, and, most importantly, unattached. Things come easy with Alfie since he's relatively baggage-free. 

Lucien Laviscount and Lily Collins, Emily in Paris

Lucien Laviscount and Lily Collins, Emily in Paris


One naturally expects Emily in Paris to follow the basic formulas of romantic comedy — it's popular for a reason and a lot of the familiar tropes and expectations tied to it are the reason many of us engage at all. But even though the series has no obligation to solve some of the genre's more glaring problems, it's also not wrong to hope the show might want to try. There exists a version of Emily in Paris that allows Emily to fall in love without sacrificing parts of herself. Admittedly, this might not be as dramatic in the moment as potentially destroying a friendship over a man, but we're allowed to want and demand more from the media we consume. (And that extends to wanting the show not to make repeated references to and jokes about the fact Emily slept with Camille's 17-year-old brother last season, which is another problem altogether.) 

While that might seem like a lot of negativity, there are things to like. Emily in Paris has always been extremely watchable in spite of its flaws, and that mostly comes down to three things: the chemistry between its leads, which very much still exists in Season 2; a short runtime (Season 2 episodes range from 25 to 37 minutes in length); and an ability to transport viewers to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. That final asset remains in place as we travel from the beaches of Saint-Tropez and the not-remotely-haunting Père Lachaise to the exquisite countryside of the Loire Valley and the opulent halls of Versailles (in addition to the rest of Paris, of course). It's beyond a cliché at this point, but France is another character in the show, and it's easily one of its best.

Also remarkable in Season 2 is Ashley Park as Mindy, who continues to be the brightest star in the show's metaphorical sky (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu as Sylvie is a close second). She's now fully moved in with Emily and embarking on her singing career, first in a Parisian night club and then as a busker. She's often relied upon to be the show's comedic relief, but Park more than carries the emotional load whenever the script requires it, so it's regrettable there isn't more time to properly explore her complicated relationship with her father or how the strain is affecting her well-being. But the small glimpses we do get are well done.

So yes, there are reasons it's hard to completely dismiss Emily in Paris. We might be getting stabbed, but the drinks are fresh. That being said, while the drama and tension between Emily, Gabriel, Camille, and now Alfie might be what keeps the lights on, there will likely come a point in time when viewers decide the good no longer outweighs the bad. For some, that point may have already come and gone. For others, it could be on the horizon. It's up to everyone to decide how much they're willing to handle.

TV Guide Rating: 2.5/5

Emily in Paris premieres Wednesday, Dec. 22 on Netflix.