Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s “Feel Good.”
The second and final season of Netflix’s “Feel Good” will leave you feeling a lot more than just that. The semi-autobiographical dramedy created by comedian Mae Martin and writer Joe Hampson packs in a punch despite, or perhaps, because of its brevity. The protagonist, played by Martin herself, is a recovering addict, who chases lovers instead of substances. In its first season, the show unpacked how recovered addicts replace one source of addiction with another. Martin realizes that they’re simply using their girlfriend, George (Charlotte Ritchie), to satisfy their cravings for a chase. George, too, has her own set of problems; this being her first ever queer relationship. Much of the drama is caused by George’s inability to tell her friends about her partner, as she hides the relationship and dismisses Martin’s concerns. At one point, George literally forces Martin to hide inside a closet.
The show depicts the nuances of queer relationships with immense ease, clarity and care. George has been ostensibly straight all her life, but she’s the one who approaches Martin in the first episode. The plot unquestioningly accepts its characters and their choices, never preaching to gain points for wokeness. In fact, the second season is quite critical of performative wokeness and no other dialogue captures that better than George yelling out to Eliot, her bi-poly-cis fling who mansplains female sexuality to her, “I just want to watch a bishop smack a nun in the pussy with a Bible, OK?”
Martin also questions their gender identity this season, and while the gradual build-up might hint at a big revelation, the actual moment is anticlimactic. As Martin and George walk through the streets of Canada, the former is misgendered by a hot dog vendor, which prompts the discussion. Martin isn’t really sure how best to talk about it, and George suggests they might be nonbinary. “You tell me and I’ll use the right words,” she says. And it is in moments like this, when it shows difficult and awkward situations in an effortless and simple manner, that the beauty of the show really hits you. This, however, does not lead to an oversimplification of topics that are complex and not easily resolved with a single conversation.
The new season addresses a lot of the questions the first season leaves you with. The trauma that Martin experiences during their teenage years begins to catch up to them when they’re reunited with their old friend Scott (John Ross Bowie). Also making a comeback this season is Arnie Rivers, the comedian who sexually harassed Martin in season one. Martin is ordered to publicly call out Arnie by Donna, their new agent who sees great market value in the existential crisis Martin’s in. “You’re an addict, you’re anxious, you’re trans,” Donna tells Martin, as if checking off boxes in a list. To all of this, Martin replies, “Am I?”
“Feel Good” deals with a lot of serious issues simultaneously, yet it does that with a graceful seamlessness.
The show is deeply compassionate and empathetic in its portrayal of Martin’s trauma and how they choose to deal with it. Martin is made to feel guilty for not calling out and canceling her predator, as if she were doing a disservice to all those who have been denied justice. But are things really this black and white? The answers are not so simple, and the show purposely sidesteps all attempts at being shelved into binaries of right and wrong.
Despite its bleakness and suffering, “Feel Good” is also extremely funny. Martin’s standup career in the show might need a push, with nobody except edgy Norwegian tourists interested in her pessimistic rants, but Martin and her co-stars’ comedic timings are nothing short of perfection. Whether it’s the series of steamy roleplays the star-crossed lovers engage in, or Phil’s (Martin and George’s flatmate) growing closeness to Martin’s parents, or the woke social justice group George ends up joining as part of her journey to self-discovery, every punchline is sharp, precise and hilarious.
As is evident, “Feel Good” deals with a lot of serious issues simultaneously, yet it does that with a graceful seamlessness, without a single issue overshadowing the other. Yes, it’s a dark comedy addressing issues of trauma and addiction, but it is also a tender and beautiful love story of two people finding their way back to each other and themselves. The most remarkable part? The show accomplishes all of this in merely 12 episodes, and leaves you wanting more. Thank God for that replay button.