Walking into the second season of Harlem, it quickly becomes evident that it shares some strengths with the first season. Some of the things that worked previously work again successfully. Thankfully, one of those things is the friendship between the four friends - Camille (Meagan Good), Quinn (Grace Byers), Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), and Tye (Jerrie Johnson). The chemistry between them is so lively that you won't ever require a flashback episode explaining how these characters became friends. Just spend a few seconds in their company, and you will wholeheartedly accept them as lifelong besties.
The four friends talk with such enthusiasm that you listen attentively. I will go as far as to say that their words erupt with so much fervor that they completely occupy the foreground and push everything else into the background. There were times when I didn't pay enough attention to the setting as I was absorbed in the conversations. And the actors do not look primed for the cameras, which is why you buy into their relationships. Of course, credit must also be given to the editors, as they imbue the chats with energy and playful rhythm. They know precisely which angle to use and when to cut. Because of that, you get an amusing moment where the camera cuts to an overhead shot when the characters correct one of their friends by screaming, "Heiress!"
Another instance of playful editing can be found in the scene where split-screen is used to draw a comparison between two different events. So objects fall and break into pieces and "get your ass over here" is followed by "get your ass out of here." Speaking of dual things, Angie pretends to have a twin sister to have sex with someone. She is told she will sleep with a handsome man and receive good luck. So in order to claim that luck, she starts hunting for an attractive male partner. The second season has its share of mirthful moments, though none of them are as good as the first season's Get Out: The Musical. One of my favorite scenes from this season is the one set inside a Hallmark office, where you also get to see twins resembling the creepy girls from The Shining.
Apart from humor, Harlem Season 2 contains moments of desolation. The characters not only get laid and make jokes but also get their hearts broken and face depression. Quinn continues to seek her mother's approval, and the mother continues to disappoint her daughter. At one point in the show, we watch Quinn crying alone in her bathtub. She becomes so miserable that I thought she would commit suicide. And she probably might have taken her life if this were a dark show. But Harlem does not want to be too dismal. It raises uncomfortable matters and fills them with sanguineness. This is the type of show where characters go on an expensive vacation to cheer someone up but also mention how pills are essential for mental health. Harlem Season 2 wants to be breezy as well as "real."
The series is as easy on the eye as the colorful and stylish wardrobes. Everything is pleasant to look at, even during the worst moments. But Season 2 can be too lightweight, especially during the latter portions. Relationships are established and broken off with such suddenness that you are left confused and wonder if all of it is the result of lazy writing or if the series is (lazily) establishing plot points for the future. The thread involving Quinn's mother seems clumsily handled and feels superficial. Even the things that happen between Camille and Dr. Elise Pruitt (Whoopi Goldberg) appear rushed. Season 2 begins to give the impression that this will be the last season, putting that final scene in an awkward position. Moreover, not every gag makes you chuckle. The one where everybody runs with Angie is left hanging in the air.
But then, you think about that hilariously sweet scene where a mother and a daughter scream when they meet each other or the one where a couple in a genuine romantic relationship looks boring to someone single. There is also a pretty effective moment where Angie is left to do her own makeup. All in all, Harlem Season 2 is charming and frustrating in equal measure. Good, Byers, Shandai, and Johnson are awesome, and I wish the series, too, had matched up to their talents. If Harlem does return for a third season, it shouldn't inordinately depend on the charm of the lead actors.
Final Score- [6.5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
Note: All eight episodes of Season 2 are screened for this review.
Premiere Date: February 3, 2023, on Prime Video (two episodes every Friday)
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