Last year, I wrote that Single Drunk Female was the best new show a confounding few seemed to be watching. Despite the fact that its debut episode was the most-watched Freeform comedy series premiere on Hulu (boasting over 2.4 million multiplatform viewers), viewership had inexplicably waned by its finale, suggesting swaths of people who joined protagonist Samantha Fink (portrayed by the revelation that is Sofia Black D’Elia) at the bottom of the bottle dwindled as soon as she found her way out of it.
Fortunately, the special little show about sobriety (among other things) survived, and its sophomore season is already being heralded as “a triumph,” “consistently funny, clever, and affecting,” and “one of the best shows on television.” Though people are about as bored by smug women as they apparently are by sober women, I’ll say it: I told you so.
At Tuesday’s premiere in New York City, show creator Simone Finch, whose own struggle to get—and stay—sober inspired the series, told me that Season 2 sees much of the ensemble through specific reckonings, especially those closest to Sam—from her former frenemy, Brit’s (Sasha Compère) “perfect divorce,” to her mother Carol’s (Ally Sheedy) overdue decision to attend Al-Anon. And despite the fact that she’s settled into sobriety, Sam faces down a host of challenges that remind her of why she drank in the first place.
“It’s darker, it’s funnier, and it’s a little more complicated,” Finch told Jezebel. “As you get more sober, you get more time. Life shows up, and you have to deal with it.”
Dealing with it, as returning viewers know, is where Single Drunk Female sets itself apart from the majority of narratives about navigating sobriety and all of its complications. Sam’s stumbles to define her identity, set boundaries, and contextualize her emotions sans social lubricant spawn some poignant, painfully resonant moments, not just for Sam, but for those most important to her.
“Are you protecting your sobriety?” Or are you protecting your ego?” Sam’s sponsor, Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), asks her in Episode 2. It’s a question that lingers throughout the season as Sam starts seeing someone new, advocates for herself at work, and, perhaps most powerfully, comes to blows with her less-than-sensitive mother.
“It’s two steps forward, one step back,” Black-D’Elia told Jezebel of their dynamic this season. “They’re making progress, but there’s always going to be something that sets them back. I think ultimately, they obviously love each other very much and would like to have a functioning, good relationship, so they’re going to try for that no matter what. But they’re a little combustible.”
“Carol is really busy destroying her relationship with her daughter,” Sheedy jested of her story arc in Season 2. “It takes a lot of time, and some effort and commitment to do that.”
By the season finale, though, Sheedy says that while things aren’t exactly “chocolate and roses,” there’s something of a shift for Carol. It seems it’s never too late for a boomer to learn some boundaries—a concept that was of particular interest to series’ newcomer, Busy Phillips, who portrays Sam’s new, delightfully off-kilter sponsor.
“It’s hard to be a parent,” Philipps lamented to Jezebel. “It’s hard to know how best to help them and help yourself at the same time.”
“A lot of times, parents lack boundaries with their kids, and sometimes, kids lack boundaries with their parents,” she added. “It’s an interesting conversation and something that honestly, I haven’t really seen on camera that much.”
She’s not wrong. And if there’s one series that seems like it’ll only become better at anatomizing interesting, albeit mostly unexplored, conversations for a captive audience—it’s this one.
Single Drunk Female is a must-watch series, not just because it’s a story about sobriety, but because it’s a frank—deeply funny—examination of human fallibility. Sometimes you get life right; other times—if you take a cue from Sam—you cry in your childhood closet.