Sep 21, 2016

[TV] Fresh Off the Boat: Season 2

So after our initial iFlix foray into the Fresh Off the Boat series we quickly made our way through the second season as well. The series is funny and quite well-written given how it manages to juggle complex racial stereotypes in a manner that isn't overly offensive.

This second season of Fresh Off the Boat builds on the first season by making some minor changes to the presentation format and focus instead on the characters and the relationships within the Huang family. And I think that was for the better - something I'll get into in a bit more detail in my review below.

There's a weird saying that I've encountered once or twice about how it's ironic how Asians are some of the more racist people around. The statement in itself seems racist and there's no clear way to validate it one way or another. However I bring this up since I think it nicely captures a lot of what works about the show in terms of its writing. There's a lot that could be taken out of context and be considered offensive. But the way it was worked into the show just works - and it's pretty darn funny.

Synopsis: Fresh Off the Boat is an American sitcom created by Nahnatchka Khan and airs on ABC. The second season went for a full 24 episodes and a third season of 22 episodes has already been confirmed.

The second season of the show continues to focus on the ups and downs of the Huang family, with a lot of development for the various characters. There aren't any big moves apart from developments in Jessica's realty career and oddly enough, we saw rather little of Cattleman's Ranch.

What I Liked: One of the interesting changes in the second season was taking out the narration by author Eddie Huang, that was used as a sort of framing device for the first season. It wasn't entirely bad, but one had to admit that most of the action actually took place with his younger character Eddie (Hudson Yang). So taking out the narration sort of freed us to explore more and give more time to his mother Jessica (Constance Wu).

And while Constance Wu's performance in the season remains just as great or even better than the first season, I really appreciated the extra effort put into developing the character stories of the other kids - Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen). I really enjoyed seeing more of them and their interactions and the effort to also distinguish one from the other as opposed to making them seem like twins of different ages.

What Could Have Been Better: It was weird that the character of Nicole (Luna Blaise) felt significantly de-emphasized despite the prominent role she played in the first season. Sure, it was a little weird that she was much older than Eddie and pursuing an actual romantic relationship would have been kind of icky. But it still deserved better writing to sort of ease her out. Instead we got a silly bit about them all being girlfriends with other girls and not resolving how things go in the long run.

The effort to expand the father's character was a little wobbly at times, but Randall Park acted the heck out of it. So I guess I can't really complain. But I do sort of wish for more stories involving their restaurant, too.

TL;DR: The second season of Fresh Off the Boat is a great continuation of the exploration of the lives of the Huang family and how they continue to adapt to life in Orlando. And this season did a great job of giving each member of the family a bit more airtime, save perhaps for Grandma Jenny (Lucille Soong), but not by much. Thus the season gets a well-deserved 4.5 secret conversations between Jessica and her sister Connie (Susan Park) out of a possible 5.

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