I knew that Chewing Gum‘s second season had aired earlier this year in the UK on E4, and after its final episode I was counting down the days until it would show up on Netflix (the streaming company has an exclusive distribution deal in the United States, which is why it appears here as an “original”). I adored the first season, its tone, humor, and style hit every single one of my happy nerves, and I couldn’t wait for a second helping of this wholly original and hilarious show! I am so happy to report that it does not disappoint.
At season opening we find a newly single Tracey (Michaela Coel, the writer and star of the show), who also happens to be homeless. Tracey’s very religious mother will not allow her to return home, and now that she and Connor have broken up and left the homeless shelter they were residing in together, she must fend for herself. Add the fact that Tracey and her best friend Candice are not on speaking terms, it means that Tracey must resort to sleeping in the convenience store she also works in. In the meantime Connor has begun dating a new woman several years his senior, and seems to be mostly happy.
Tracey’s relationship to her sexuality is still troubled, as is her relationship to telling the truth and sometimes reality as a whole. The first episode finds her lying about her relationship status telling Connor she has been dating a British rapper. At one point in the season Tracey and the gang end up in a sex club. The show continues to lean into the raunchier side of sex, but does so brilliantly because Tracey is so misguided and inexperienced that none of it ever feels forced or gratuitous. So often Tracey acts out in ways she thinks she ought to, based on what she’s seen represented in the media, in pornography, through word of mouth, but has no clue exactly what it is that she wants or desires. Her actions are thus the result of experimentation but little introspection. Comedy thus ensues.
The second season also sees a deeper look taken at some of the side characters that previously went unexplored, in the show’s first six-episode long season. Candice’s grandmother gets some action, Ronald comes back with a vengeance, Boy Tracy returns with even more sexual awkwardness with a penchant for incestuous love, Ola’s subversive homosexuality is on full display this time around, including the occasional cavorting with a man in a wheelchair. Tracey’s mom also gets an upgrade and we see her struggling to keep the bureaucratic standing of her church. And saving the best for last, Susan Wokoma (fresh off of a stellar first season on Crazyhead) is back as Tracey’s sister Cynthia, the most reliable character for laughs on a show full of such characters. Her asides and commentary make the show, and I laughed out loud more than once. She is my favorite young actress, and I am just waiting on the day both she and Coel become superstars. It’s just a matter of time.
Ultimately this tale of low income disenfranchised people is a refreshing and welcome look at a group usually portrayed as sad and glum, with not much of a life outside of suffering. Chewing Gum sheds light on the lighter aspects of their existences, and especially the sense of community that exist in these neighborhoods. Family, friendship, love, happiness and joy exist everywhere, you just have to look for it. It might not make sense, but just like chewing gum on the sidewalk fit together and seem to attract one another, such is the truth for this motley group of people. They just work. All we need to do is sit back, enjoy the show, and laugh our asses off!