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Reveling in the post-pandemic oasis of Dollface season 2

A magical realism take on a very real COVID dilemma

Kat Dennings in a still from the second season premiere of Dollface Photo: Elizabeth Morris/Hulu

There are about as many ways to handle the pandemic as there are people trying to do so. TV shows are no exception. Certain series put the issues front and center: Grey’s Anatomy and This is Us rushed in with the usual melodramatic gusto, while Superstore found its world-weary big-box-store workers on the front line. Others completely punted the question of the pandemic either because it wouldn’t fit with the already specific world of the show (Riverdale can’t put on a musical in quarantine, c’mon) or because they were able to slip in a quick line explaining the pandemic was already over.

So it’s no surprise that Hulu’s Dollface — like And Just Like That, Mr. Mayor, and You before it — quickly leaps to the other side of the pandemic in the newly released season 2. Following Jules (Kat Dennings), having successfully reconnected with her college friends after a break up made her realize she had abandoned them for a man, Dollface is a show that thrives on a social scene. And, after a brief spell of lockdown together and Zoom calls between the four best friends kicking the new season off, the foursome is reunited in person and hitting (if you can believe it) a massive 30 Under 30 party in Los Angeles.

Dollface can’t keep pace with the now of omicron, which is to be expected. Whether shows went all in on pandemic plotlines or not, they have almost always felt a bit out of step with the ever-changing reality of life under COVID-19. They couldn’t keep pace with the memes or the day-to-day choices we have to make around regular hangs, let alone the new variants and pressing grief that came with coronavirus. There’s always some sense of TV shows reflecting back an alternate reality from the one we’re in. It’s weird to watch the second season of Jordan Weiss’ series deal with plots around planning European vacations or going to bars without a mask, but then again, when it filmed in the summer of 2021, such things felt not only possible, but almost normal.

The four friends of Dollface at a bar opening Photo: Jessica Brooks/Hulu

Like everyone else coming into the next phase of the pandemic, Jules and the gang are reassessing where they’re at in life and what feels like a worthwhile step to self-actualizing. Of course, there’s the insecurity that comes with that next step — whether it’s Brenda Strong’s Madison being unexpectedly laid off from her high-powered job, navigating a new professional level (Shay Mitchell’s Stella), or Izzie (Esther Povitsky) and the boyfriend she worries is out of her league.

While the full swing of their lives feels a bit alien even in a post-vax world, their plight feels much more compelling than if it were just about Jules and Madison staring down their 30th birthdays and wondering how to make life better. The pandemic makes squirrely improvement projectors of us all, and Dollface manages to capture the ups and downs of that.

Sometimes that comes out as big swings at what we want our life to look like. But it’s also neatly summed up by Madison summoning her friends to clear their closets: “Our styles should start reflecting whatever new directions we want to go in in our lives. That and I just bought a bunch of new shit I need to make room for.”

Madison and Stella back to back doing a Charlie’s Angels pose as they clear their closets in a still from Dollface Photo: Jessica Brooks/Hulu

In that way, Weiss and the Dollface writers manage to capture the spirit of now while also being a bit of frothy fun in the world. Journeying through their peaks and valleys is less an exercise of gritty friction than it is a (mostly) controlled glide. Dollface is inclined to let the power of friendship overcome nearly any hurdle. But it’s smart that the relationships are both integral to getting through the world and also something you have to work at.

Some of these storylines work better than others — season 2 of Dollhouse is a little more of a standard sitcom than it was in season 1, thanks in part to romantic plotlines packed in around all the friendship this season; the result is something where resolutions sometimes come a little too easily. At the same time, the magical realism that Jules filters the world through ends up more naturally integrated to both the show and the character.

For whatever glitches there were in the Dollface’s matrix, when it’s over it feels gone too soon. After nearly two years of virtual hangouts and improvement projects (home, self, craft, houseplant, and more), it was nice to stop over in the delightful, post-pandemic world of Dollface camaraderie. It finally seemed like a post-pandemic world to look forward to.

Both seasons of Dollface are now streaming in their entirety on Hulu.

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