April 6, 2022

“Starstruck” Continues its Streak in Season Two (Review)

Starstruck is an interesting beast. With each season running just six short episodes in length, a lot of ground and character work needs to be covered in an impossibly short time. The debut season, released on HBO Max last summer, essentially did it perfectly, and so Season Two has a lot to live up to.

Creator and writer Rose Matafeo once again stars as Jessie, a New Zealander who, in the first season, had a one-night stand with a man who turned out to be movie star Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). After subsequent fits of passion and subsequent break-ups, Jessie and Tom are back together, with her completely abandoning her plans to permanently relocate home to New Zealand in order to be with him. In a Graduate-style sequence, the two sit together at the back of a bus without a care in the world about what their lives will be like in the days, weeks and months afterward.

Season Two covers those days, weeks and months. After an idealized and romantic ending, the real world rears its ugly head, and Jessie and Tom have to deal with the fallout of her impulsive decision, the return of her ex-boyfriend and the realities of living together. Their worlds once again clash, and they (along with the audience) begin to once again ask the question of “why are these people together?”

Matafeo and Patel sell their characters’ relationship perfectly, bringing an excellent balance of genuine love and heartbreaking tension. Though they may portray it well, this is by no means a perfect relationship, and the series goes to great lengths to illustrate that.

I’m not quite sold on the fact that the second season of Starstruck is as good as the first season, but it’s still excellent. It’s also more “slice of life,” centering around particular moments key to the central relationship, rather than an overarching view of the relationship as a whole. Like the first season, Season Two is comprised of six episodes running just 20 minutes in length, and it covers just as much ground: we meet Tom’s family, get plenty of cutesy relationship drama, and enough cringe comedy to satisfy any Office fan. Also, through Tom, we get a hilarious look into the seemingly nightmarish world of English film production, with a director (played by Being Human and Doctor Who’s Russell Tovey) embodying every actor’s worst fear when it comes to creative control. His scenes are few and far between, but Tovey is hilarious every time he’s on-screen.

Rose Matafeo continues to be this show’s MVP. She makes comedy look easy, and she’s fantastic dramatically as well. If this series were a one-woman show, she could easily make it work. Her punchy writing and hysterical ideas are what truly makes the series work, and I was surprised to have so many physically visceral reactions to things that happened in Season Two. For a masterclass in making your audience care with an increasingly shorter amount of time, all while provoking a rainbow of emotion, see Starstruck.

Nothing can be as perfect as everyone wants, but in the end, they’ll make it work. We hope that’s what will happen with Jessie and Tom, but honestly, who can say? Starstruck Season Two is more brilliant work from Matafeo and the entire cast and crew, and remains one of my favorite ongoing comedies. It asks an array of questions about relationships and the future, but the simplest and most important one is…what’s next?

The first two seasons of Starstruck are streaming on HBO Max.

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