Stand-up comedian Mae Martin made a big splash with the first season of their semi-autobiographical series Feel Good, which premiered on Channel 4 last year to glowing reviews and secured them a BAFTA nomination. (While some have deemed the nod in “Female Performance in a Comedy Programme” somewhat inappropriate given that Martin does not identify as a woman, we can at least celebrate that the comic is bringing thoughtful discussions of gender identity to the mainstream with such success.)
Feel Good has shifted away from terrestrial television for season two, moving to Netflix for a fresh batch of episodes that picks up shortly after where we left off. Mae is taking some time apart from beloved girlfriend George (Charlotte Ritchie) to visit their native Canada, where they secretly check into rehab following a relapse in their cocaine addiction towards the end of season one. It isn’t long before Mae returns to the UK, but a stylish new love rival and personal demons risk capsizing their relationship with George once and for all.
Having spent their formative years on the cut-throat comedy circuit, it should come as no surprise that Martin knows how to deliver a joke and the script penned with writing partner Joe Hampson is peppered with them. It occasionally feels like the show leans on self-deprecating humour just a smidge too heavily, but admittedly such gags do have a generally high hit rate. Nevertheless, Feel Good is at its best when it sets its sights on bigger fish, such as cultural identity and our current obsession with labelling each other.
Over the course of series two, Mae encounters individuals who are keen to summarise them in a word, whether that’s an abrasive agent mistakenly referring to the comedian as trans or a counsellor hastily stamping them non-binary. It’s a similar situation for George as she gets to know her colleagues, who regularly “check-in” with their ever-changing identities in a sequence played for laughs quite effectively, with Ritchie’s strong comedic ability providing a killer closing line.
Feel Good isn’t necessarily advocating for scrapping labels altogether – different things work for different people – but it astutely points out that it’s possible to get so tangled in these codewords that you lose sight of the most important thing: being true to yourself. It’s an important message for us all to keep in mind, but should prove particularly resonant with any members of the LGBTQ+ community still figuring out the person they want to be.
The second season retains the dramatic elements of the first, tackling serious themes in a storyline that drills into the root cause of some of Mae’s long-term psychological issues. Things reach a gripping peak in a brilliant episode that sees the comedian take a guest spot on a panel show, where the tension rises with every passing moment as a revenge plot is set in motion. By comparison, the finale is a more subdued affair, but gives a satisfying (if slightly rushed) end to the saga of Mae and George.
Indeed, I am usually an advocate for not dragging out a television show across countless deteriorating seasons, but there is a real sense that Feel Good could have extended further than this (supposedly) two-part run. The show covers a lot of ground in half a dozen 30-minute episodes, but certain subplots are left starved for screen time. Specifically, a storyline involving enigmatic housemate Phil (Phil Burgers) feels completely half-baked and the character himself fails to make an impression. Meanwhile, a last-minute polyamory discussion is thrown in so abruptly that it’s enough to give you whiplash.
Perhaps then, Feel Good would have benefitted from having a bit more time to explore these areas fully, but the mere fact that there’s appetite for more is a testament to its quality. Martin and Hampson have delivered a comedy drama with real heart and something meaningful to say, taking two characters on a rollercoaster journey that comes to an authentic and thoughtful end.
Feel Good season two is available to stream on Netflix from Friday 4th June. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.