What happens after you find yourself? The first season of Hulu’s wonderful comedy “Shrill” had a pretty clear arc, as timid, Portland alt-weekly writer Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant of “SNL”) learned to reject her body image issues and start speaking up for herself. So Season 2 will be all about this newly empowered Annie kicking butt and taking names, right?
The wonderful thing about the second season of “Shrill,” which premieres its eight episodes (two more than in Season 1) on Friday, is that it understands self-discovery isn’t a straight line. You lurch forward confidently, then you reel back. You make mistakes and try and correct them. You question whether it was all even worth it in the first place. And then you keep going.
Bryant wonderfully portrays all these conflicting emotions inside Annie’s head. She triumphantly quits her job at the Portland Thorn and gets out from under the thumb of her mercurial boss (John Cameron Mitchell, playing aging Gen-X sourness to perfection). She tracks down the online troll who’s been harassing her online (Bryant’s fellow “SNL” cast member Beck Bennett) and reduces him to a quivering lump of man-baby entitlement. ("Shrill" is based on writer Lindy West's memoir, and West wrote a famous article in which she confronted her own troll, but things play out very differently here than in real life.)
Then Annie backtracks almost immediately, and the whiplash between her initial bravado and subsequent regret is funny and relatable. Three episodes in, after a disastrous attempt at freelancing (again, relatable), she comes crawling back to the Thorn for her old job back. She finds herself oddly sympathetic toward her pathetic troll despite all the horrible things he’s said about her online.
Bryant’s winning performance is surrounded by a diverse and talented cast, including Daniel Stern and Julia Sweeney as her bewildered parents, Lolly Adefope as her roommate, and Jo Firestone and Patti Harrison as her co-workers.
I particularly liked Luka Jones as Ryan, who in the first season is presented as a terrible boyfriend for Annie. As she starts asserting herself, instead of driving him away, it pushes him to try to become a more supportive partner. Growing up can be hard, but it can also be contagious.
Also on streaming: A detective with a personal stake revives an old case in “The Red Shadows,” a new French series that premieres Thursday on SundanceNOW. Nadia Fares of Netflix’s “Marseille” plays a detective whose younger sister was abducted 25 years ago, when both were children, and never found. Now evidence surfaces that suggests the sister may be alive.
The family-friendly comedy film “Troop Zero” premiered on Amazon Prime last weekend. Mckenna Grace of “Gifted” stars as a girl who starts her own Girl Scout troop after the snootier girls in town won’t let her join theirs. Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan and Allison Janney co-star.