Sometimes there isn’t enough time on the Taking It Down podcast to get to all of pop culture. With “What Else?” Blaine Duncan covers some other things he’s watched, heard, or read.
Now finished with its second season on FX, Breeders improved tenfold from its first. Or, at least however many years the two children, Luke and Ava, aged from the end of the debut season to the beginning of the second.
It was the right move for a show that spent swarths of its soil growing Luke and Ava — albeit not very visibly — and how they are affected by a set of two already on-the-brink, realistically stressed parents. What kept the first season from excellence was that it was unsure of how much to reveal about that darkness that is inner turmoil of new parents: it turns out, the edge was a bit further than father Paul (Martin Freeman, very comical) or mother Ally (Daisy Haggard, excellent) knew. But still, the first episode of the entire series reverberates for the rest of the show. Paul sprints to the upstairs bedroom, yanks open the door to the two children’s bedroom, yells angrily at his young son and daughter for only doing what young kids always do: make noise and stomp about. It’s a moment of awakening, though Paul didn’t quite know it at the time.
In choosing to end the damaging repetitions of previous generations by seeking help after Luke’s near death hospital stay at the end of season one, Breeders successfully built a climatic end to a season with a lot of laughs and a lot more lessons. It was a shocking turn for the show at that point; its tone may have jarred viewers.
Now that season two is here and Luke in fine shape, Paul, Ally, Luke, and Ava bring comforting and even funnier sets of circumstances — at least for the first five episodes. A particular entry has Paul in full debate about the possibility that his ten-year-old daughter could be praying as he glances over his shoulder and notes that she knew the words to the Lord’s Prayer! Oh, the shame! Not only does the incident allow Paul to practice his counseling by taking a breath and thinking it through, it eventually allows Ava and her father’s relationship to flourish due to their juxtapositions.
Paul’s relationship with his son creates a myriad of ways for him to practice good parenting and ideas from counseling. Not letting the events of season one waste, Luke now suffers from panic attacks, and Paul has risen to the occasion to become the man who at least attempts to soothe Luke after he questionably — but again, believably — admonishes his son for some bad decisions. It’s worth the time if only for comparison’s sake; however, there’s something here for everyone.
If it all sounds like Paul reacts well, Paul doesn’t react well, Ally does the right thing, Ally doesn’t do the right thing, well, it is. It’s reductionist to say that’s also life but there are a lot of days that don’t blossom into any more than right or wrong decisions. “Why can’t life just be really, really easy?” says Ally after a pivotal moment. She’s right that it isn’t, but hopefully she and Paul can learn ways to make it closer to maybe a being little easier, being just right or wrong, being an act of love or not.
Breeders doesn’t always knock it out of the park. Though rare, it play funny when it should strike another tone. Most of the time it falters when it delves into its somber motifs without enough comedic relief. But when it balances it all, the FX/Hulu series is as good as any other sitcom (or in this case, dramedy). All of this as it holds a mirror up to parenthood and growth. The task is somewhat a challenge and could limit the fanbase from the first planted seed.
Now that Luke is thirteen and Ava is ten, Paul and Ally have pruned and weeded themselves into acceptable parents with counseling and, sometimes, just taking it on the chin. These four aren’t finished turning themselves over to see what other facet will be affected by the next of life’s problems. But seeing characters grow after they’ve started humanly frail warms the heart nonetheless and mines it all for some laughs. And for season two, Breeders knows that in order to get something to sprout, it takes both the rain and the sun, the pain and the laughs.