By Sarah Osman
The second season of The Sex Lives of College Girls is even more fun and charming than the first.
Welcome back to Essex! Our favorite college freshmen have returned for their next semester (trimester?). Predictably, they still haven’t quite figured out how to navigate their sexuality, coursework, and the various existential crises that come with your first year in college. Thankfully, there is no sophomore slump for these ladies; Netflix’s second season of The Sex Lives of College Girls is even more fun and charming than the first.
The series picks up right as the girls come back from Thanksgiving break. Leighton (Renee Rapp) has decided to fully embrace her sexuality while Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) struggles to find a way to pay for her tuition (because she has lost her scholarship). Bela (Amrit Kaur) is hard at work on her own lady-led comedy magazine and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) grapples with discovering who she is when she’s not on the soccer field. Each of these scenarios challenge the quartet in ways not seen in the first season, and each girl handles them about as well as expected. Much of the charm of The Sex Lives of College Girls comes from how messy the girls are. But that’s what makes the stories so realistic and sympathetic — growing up is nothing if not chaotic.
While the first season found the girls getting to know each other, as well as the ins and outs of college, they’ve now had a few months to settle in. We now know and care about these girls, as well as all the oddball side characters. Each episode serves up the kind of comfort food only college cafeterias can provide. (Who else remembers getting excited for a certain dish? Mine was gyros). Creator Mindy Kaling has provided quite a few comfort shows over the years. Each new entry is an improvement on the others.
Each lady has her own standout moments, but Leighton can be depended on for the most amusing moments. She decides to catch up with her straight roommates sexual conquests by having more than a few of her own. She proceeds to hook up with nearly every queer woman on campus. As her life turns into a telenovela, her roommates and dorm mates can’t help but gawk at the inevitable awkwardness of all the comings and goings. (As one of her dorm mates says, “we are two messy bitches who love drama!”) This doesn’t mean Leighton has replaced Bela as the resident horndog. (Rest assured, Bela has a few flings of her own). But it is hilarious to watch Leighton mismanage every sexual relationship she enters.
Kimberly remains as akimbo and endearing as ever, especially when a new hunk moves in next door. Jackson (Mitchell Slaggert) hails from Kansas, which is treated as a foreign country in a great running gag. Just with her tryst with Nico, Kimberly doesn’t know how to handle her feelings. Yet Jackson has a bit more heart than Nico and has a bit more in common with Kimberly, so this makes for a more interesting dynamic. At this point, Nico has been expelled, but no one misses his absence. Leighton has come into her own, so she really doesn’t need her brother. Also, Kimberly’s pal and giant flirt Lila (Ilia Isorelýs Paulino) has new men to fawn over. Without Nico, the girls grow in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to with him around.
All said and done, the heart of the series is the girls’ friendship. Long gone are the days when Leighton shuddered at the idea of living with three strangers. While similar to other series that feature a quartet of four single ladies (another HBO one comes to mind…) The Sex Lives of College Girls stands out because of how well it respects the individuality of the women at its center. There are no gauche stereotypes here: none of these characters do things all that far out of the ordinary. None of them are written to be insufferable. In fact, it is their likability, which is a testament to the actresses as well as the writing, that makes attending college (vicariously) at Essex so delightful.
Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, NC. In addition to writing for the Arts Fuse, she has written for Watercooler HQ, Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywood, and Matador Network, among other sites. Her work was included in the anthology Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era. She is currently a first year fiction MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. When she’s not writing, she’s dancing, watching movies, traveling, or eating. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram: @SarahMinaOsman