Let’s face it, there just aren’t enough shows that represent the college experience well. When Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble’s The Sex Lives of College Girls premiered on HBO Max last year, it was praised by critics and fans for finally presenting a hilarious and accurate coming-of-age story at a university setting. With such a huge vacancy of media that is actually targeted towards 18 to 22 year olds, the comedy series serves as a refreshing (and realistic!) reminder that growth doesn’t come to an end in high school, but proceeds to be just as exciting and nerve-racking in our new adult years as well.
Season 2 picks up after Thanksgiving break, jumping straight into all the chaos that Essex College has left behind for our favorite girls. Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) is overwhelmed with her newly added financial burden, having lost her scholarship after she was caught cheating on an exam. Bela (Amrit Kaur) is just as horny and hilarious as ever, now heading Essex’s first female-only comedy magazine—except the experience remains rocky as they lack the resources and exposure that came with writing for The Catallun. Now in the offseason, Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is struggling to figure out who she is outside of soccer. Leighton (Renee Rapp) has finally come out of the closet and is engaging in some serious sexy catch up. As in, quite literally, sleeping with every queer woman on campus, which brings its own set of problems. Meanwhile, the girls find themselves blacklisted from every frat party on campus after the Thetas discover that Kimberly narced and got most of its members expelled for harboring past exams.
There’s a comfortable rhythm established among the cast that makes The Sex Lives of College Girls work so well. First seasons are often dedicated to setting a foundation for its characters to explore and build the different quirks and nuances that make them so appealing to viewers. The sophomore season then provides ample opportunity for the chemistry to flourish even more, as each of the girls’ personalities become more noticeably defined. Season 2’s essence truly lies in its four leads; Kimberly’s endearing awkwardness, Whitney’s quick wit, Leighton’s ruthless compassion, and Bela’s refreshing openness work together in such perfect tandem that makes it impossible not to fall in love with each of them, both individually and as a group.
The second season of The Sex Lives of College Girls also continues to embrace sex positivity in a refreshing and celebratory manner while managing to balance emotional arcs with its comedic elements. Bela, in all her messy glory, pursues a casual friends-with-benefits relationship with her former Catallun editor Eric (Mekki Leeper), who also doubles as her professional competition in the Essex comedy realm, while Leighton tries to juggle her multiple one-night stands with rushing into the sorority of her dreams. Following the atrocious student/coach dynamic from Season 1, Whitney is given a much more stable relationship with Canaan (Chris Meyer), though still has to deal with all the trademarks of a young college romance: communication, jealousy, and insecurities. Kimberly’s love life sees a bit less action, following Gavin Leatherwood’s departure from the series. There are hints of an attraction bubbling between her and the hot new neighbor Jackson (Mitchell Slaggert) that may serve as a suitable substitute, though much of her focus remains on searching for creative ways to somehow make enough money to pay her ridiculously expensive tuition, including a brief stint typing jumbled subtitles for a confusing Australian reality show.
Where Season 2 thrives is in its further pursuit of character-driven storylines and engaging with the all-encompassing question that consumes us when we enter college: Who are the people we are meant to become? Whitney’s search for purpose is painfully relatable as she works to break free from her senator mother’s shadow. It touches upon the very real identity crisis that most, if not all, college students face during their formative freshman year as they come face to face with an onslaught of professional, academic, and social opportunities that can be extremely overwhelming to navigate at 18, and it is this component that provides the show with the necessary realism that makes its characters so compelling in the first place.
The Sex Lives of College Girls continues the magic created in its first installment, providing the perfect balance of horny humor and character growth. The dynamic on-screen chemistry among leads Chalamet, Rapp, Scott, and Kaur shines even brighter in the second season as the girls continue to delve into journeys of self discovery. Kaling and Noble continue to push boundaries and modernize beloved sitcom and romantic tropes by placing the Essex girls against an outpouring of predicaments to sort through during their chaotic freshman year. Above all else, Season 2 of The Sex Lives of College Girls reminds us that these young women are messy, raunchy, complicated, and—perhaps the most important of all—a whole lot of fun.
The first two episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 premiere Thursday, November 17 on HBO Max.
Dianna Shen is an entertainment writer based in New York. When she’s not crying over a rom-com, she can be found on Twitter @ddiannashen.
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