IIf love was the drug that fueled the first series of Mae Martin’s exquisite semi-autobiographical romantic comedy, the substance that pushed him aside to star in series two was trauma. . It’s a sign of how great Feel Good is that it still managed to make you feel warm inside.
In the second series, Mae – the Canadian comedian who co-wrote, acted, and performed a version of themselves that’s essentially them – grew up. As in, regressed. She was back home in Toronto which meant a lot of comedic gold with her parents, played to liberal perfection suppressed by Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis, who can passively and aggressively recite Gerard Manley Hopkins like no one else on earth.
Mae went to rehab, where she started hiding under the bed without knowing why. âI forgot that I am a Vietnam War veteran,â she said unmoved to the doctor who gently suggested she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She ran away to stay with a friend from her past – an older man – who could be the cause of her trauma. She also realized that her memory had erased an entire decade of her youth, during which she was a vulnerable teenager becoming addicted to drugs on the comedy circuit. She attempted a platonic relationship with George (Charlotte Ritchie), which didn’t even last an episode. She remained wacky, impulsive, self-obsessed but also scared, sad and possibly transgender.
On all subjects of life, Feel Good has played in the gray areas. Mae’s quest for gender identity was treated with a grace, humor, and truthfulness not seen anywhere else in mainstream culture, let alone on television. Like when her vampiric agent, Donna – motivated both by the trauma trend and by her own untold history of abuse – said with a shudder, âYou’re an addict! You are anxious! You are trans! And Mae hesitantly replied, “Am I?” “
Or in the last episode, when – while eating smoked sausage late at night in Toronto – George asked Mae, “How do you see yourself?” Mae replied, “Just me really, I think, but that sounds likeâ¦ not really a thing.” Except that’s one thing, said George. It’s not binary, and maybe Mae should google it for it. “You tell me, and I’ll use the right words,” concluded George. They kissed each other. It could have been the most beautiful and heartwarming two minutes of TV of 2021 on an intensely politicized subject. Then, Mae’s former drug traffickers arrived and chased them on the streets for money.
During this time, George was having his own seizures. She wanted to save the bees and she was sleeping with a “bi poly cis man” called Elliot, a study of secret control and complacency gone awry. The guy who loves nothing more than fulfilling his girlfriend’s sexual fantasies of priests and nuns with a chapter from a book on feminist sexuality on the connection between male orgasm and war crimes.
Yet it was not the self-righteous laughter of the Right. Feel Good in itself was a show about what arousing really means, which is the pursuit of kindness, and how hard it is to live by a creed. Even when this gloriously funny show poked fun at its own brand of wake-up calls and anxiety-laden, it did so with love. Her laughs were so genuinely sharp and focused that they landed less like skewers and more like back massages administered by Mae’s adorable roommate, Phil – the sweet bearded straight bisexual friend that all gay girls want.
The second set dug deeper than the first. It was funnier, darker, more prescient. The Channel 4 executives who have chosen unfathomably not to take it back must be kicking themselves. Like Fleabag’s second series, which Feel Good shares more with than you might think, each of its six episodes were mini-masterpieces – as tense, atmospheric, and perfectly paced as short stories. At the end of each, you couldn’t believe that only half an hour had passed.
Episode three was a painfully hilarious dive into the horrors of “exploiting and commodifying pain for a laugh” as Donna pressured Mae to speak out about a potential abuser on live television. “You will be John Wick,” she promised, “in John Wick: Chapter 3.” But even though Mae had always wanted to be John Wick, she couldn’t. Compassion and humility won the day, and episode six, the finale, was overflowing with love more than tears. There was a hug between Mae and her absurd parents on a box of ornamental pears buried in the forest. There was some kind of reconciliation with the friend who abused her. And, finally, Feel Good ended with two people in love, bored of themselves but not each other, at the start of it all (again), talking about photosynthesis. How romantic.