There’s this inclination, for me, as a Latina, to start praising this show by stating the obvious: it is wonderful representation, and personally, the first time I’ve ever felt myself represented by the people on a TV screen. And though that is a subject that needs to be discussed, to focus only on that can somehow frame the conversation into: this show is important only because of the representation, when instead; it should be this is a great show that also does representation right.
Do I relate to leftovers in the butter container, the concept of family, the food and just the general loudness in a way someone from another culture might not? Yes. Does that mean you won’t fall in love with absolutely every character on this show if you’re not latinx? No. It means you get a really respectful look at another culture, one that plays around stereotypes but doesn’t make us stereotypes, and oh, yes – you’ll still feel all the things.
Because that’s the genius of this show. It’s just good. In fact, it’s good in a way TV should take notice of. When we look at a show and ask for balance, this is what we want. When we ask for engaging characters, this is what we want.
And when we ask for heart, this is definitely what we want.
Season 2 is a notoriously hard season to pull off. You can’t repeat what worked in Season 1, and yet you can’t stray too far away from it that people don’t recognize the characters they fell in love with in the first place, and oh, you also have to make the characters grown within the confines of what you already set up. Plus you still have to have an actual arc. And, as this is a comedy, you have to be, well, funny.
Point is, most shows fail at Season 2, and some fail catastrophically. One Day At A Time isn’t one of those. In fact, as much as this feels like blasphemy, Season 2 might even be better than Season 1, not necessarily because the storylines are better, or the writing has improved so much, but because the care they have taken with these characters means we are really, really happy to be on this journey with them.
The focus on being latinx and what that means: From the first episode, where the show tackles the changing times, to the conversation later with Elena about her being white-passing, to the kids taking pride in their culture, the show is clearly about a latinx family, and it never stops focusing on what this means, even when it’s not a thing they discuss every day. And when they do discuss it, the discussions are nuanced and don’t solve all the problems, just like in real life.
Schneider: I spent most of Season 1 just waiting for the moment he was going to do something that was going to make me dislike him. He never did, and then in Season 2, he went from a character I liked to a character I actively loved and one whose individual relationships – with Penelope, with Lydia and even with the kids, I greatly enjoyed.
Lydia/Penelope: Their mother/daughter relationship was in the forefront this season, and the show did a brilliant job at showing why they both love each other and, sometimes, want to strangle each other. Love is rarely simple and easy and this show does a good well of showing that, and also showing that, despite what I just said, love means you’re always there for each other.
Penelope/Schneider: The show could have treated this relationship with less care. I almost expected them to. They could have thrown them into a relationship, or they could have made it very clearly platonic and cut that off from the start. Instead, they made it about two people who clearly love each other, who are clearly attracted to each other, but who are not in the place in their lives where they’d ever risk a relationship with each other – a fact that never precludes them from being friends. Real friends. BFFs, even.
Elena’s Love Life: There were bad ways to go about this, and there were good ways, and the show brought freshness and nuance to Elena’s first real relationship, and also, it kept it surprisingly grounded in reality for a teenage relationship. Plus, how cute are Elena and Syd?
What Didn’t Work
Victor: It’s not that I wanted to see more of him, it’s that it feels like the story-line had no closure, which is probably a choice – people like Victor don’t change, and if they do, they don’t do it overnight and sometimes family issues drag on and on and on. In a way, I think what Season 2 did is show, clear that, like Elena said, she doesn’t need him. It’d be nice to have a father, but she’s not missing for family. He’s the one who’d be missing out without her in his life.
What We Wanted to See More Of
Everything. This is the rare show where I just want to potentiate everything, because I loved it all. I’d like to see a bit more of an explanation as to the story behind how Schneider became part of the family, and yes, I want more of him with Penelope, and I want more of Penelope in group therapy and her friends, and I want more of Elena and Syd. But that’s not because we didn’t get those things this season – it’s because we did and they did them so well, that we can’t help but be greedy.
We want more.
What We Wanted to See Less Of
Trick question. Eh ….there’s absolutely nothing they touched that had me going like, meh, this message I don’t care about, there’s no character I disliked. Hell, even Dr. Berkowitz, by default my least favorite character because I just love the others so much, had me crying ugly tears in the finale. So basically, more, not less. Way more.
“The Turn” (Episode 2×01) – They literally tackled everything I wanted them to tackle in a post-Trump world, and they did so in a way that was poignant, real and even hopeful, while still going into the nuances of what being latinx means. Also, the episode was still funny as hell. Talk about starting the season with a bang!
“Schooled” (Episode 2×02) – Everyone coming together to help Penelope was beautiful, and it was such a stark reminder that sometimes we take other people, even people we love, for granted.
“Hello Penelope” (Episode 2×09) – This seemed like an unlikely show to go into mental health issues, and yet the show handled it with more grace than probably any other show I’ve seen in the past few years, not just by showing her spiral, but by showing how hard it is to accept who you are and what’s wrong with you.
“Not Yet” (Episode 2×13) – I can’t even think of this episode without crying. Everything about it was perfect, everyone got a chance to shine, and if anything, this was the perfect way to send the message that this show shouldn’t end here. Not yet.
Least Favorite Episodes
Look, I had no least favorite episodes. I know, I know, why leave the section if that’s the case, you ask? Well, because I wanted to be able to state, categorically, that though yes, I liked some better than others, there’s no weak link here. This was a perfect balance of issues, character moments, heart and story and there is no episode I don’t feel like I’d re-watch. That’s rare.
“If you get angry, they win. If you never get angry, they also win. It’s complicated” – Penelope Alvarez, Season 2 Episode 1: The Turn
“Well, we gotta do something. This is racist. Should we call the police, wait the army. No, Oprah! She’ll know what to do.” –Schneider, Season 2 Episode 1: The Turn
Elena: “No, it’s my turn. You know, I’ve thought a lot about what happened and I’ll spare you the details about the anger and the crying and the weight loss and the empty space on my wall where your picture used to be. Because I’ve decided that there’s no point in focusing on the negatives. I’d rather think about the good things that came from this like … you thaught me a really valuable lesson. Just because I’m gay, people will hate me without knowing anything else about me. I always knew that was part of the deal. I just, I never expected it from my own father. But now I know not to expect the best from anyone. So thanks, I guess. Oh and one more thing, I’ve learned some really cool stuff about myself. Like I’m tough, I’m really tough. And when I do stumble, I have the most amazing mom whose always right there to pick me up. So whatever dude, I’m moving on with my life. I’m going to be fine. I’m just really bummed out for you. You’re going to miss a lot of stuff and that sucks. Because I’m pretty great.” Elena Alvarez, Season 2 Episode 8: What Happened
Lydia: “I wish I could take away her pain and feel it for myself. That is what mothers are for.” Lydia Riera, Season 2 Episode 9: Hello, Penelope.
Season Finale Impression
I’m gonna be real with you, I binged this show the day it came out, and when I finished around 3 AM, after doing my best to keep my wailing subdued during the actual episode, I went into the bathroom, turned on the shower and cried, big gasping sobs, for about fifteen minutes.
That’s probably all I have to say about the season finale. I’ve lost people in my life – my grandma among them, and she went slowly, spent many days in a hospital bed, just like Lydia, and I also painted her nails, I also tried to make the place feel less like a hospital. I also cried by her bedside. So, what the Alvarez family went through, the little speeches, the gentle touches, even Lydia’s conversation with Berto, it all touched me deeply. I’m getting teary eyed just writing this.
I didn’t think they could top last year’s finale. They did. I’m not sure Season 3, which has to happen, can top this one. But I look forward to being surprised again.
Next Season Speculation
This show needs to be renewed not just for Season 3, but at least for Season 4. If this season proved something is that there’s enough here to keep telling this story for a while, and that’s just by exploring more of what we’ve seen, by continuing to tell the story of a family and giving more of a spotlight to the different relationships within it. Also, a few more seasons mean this show could do a Penelope/Schneider romance and do it justice. So, yeah, Netflix. What are you waiting for?
- Transporting food in containers that are not the actual containers that food was originally on is the latinx way of life.
- How dare they call us Mexican? (INSERT LAUGHING GIF)
- My mom didn’t have a spray, but I sure learned the punctuation rules as well as Penelope learned the U.S States. There’s just something about a Latina mom and school.
- I laughed so hard I cried during the Lydia/Esme confrontation. Rita Moreno is a gift.
What were your thoughts on One Day At A Time season two?