The second season of One Day At A Time comes swinging hard and though it gets formulaic after a certain point, it never really loses its heart and passion for what it is trying to represent.
|Dr. Berkowitz||Stephen Tobolowsky|
It has been quite a few months since we last saw the Alvarez family. While, in many ways, nothing has changed, at the same time, there lies the problem for many people in the household. Penelope for example, her being the go-to and bearer of everyone’s problems, them relying on her financially, and her having her own issues, it becomes a bit much. And while, with time, her children and mother learn to be a bit more autonomous, and she even gets a boyfriend, we see that relieving the pressure of many aspects of life isn’t a cure-all. Like with her depression. When things go really good she stops taking her medication and it sends her into a downward spiral.
One in which Schneider, everyone’s favorite privileged Canadian helps her deal with. For one of the main things you’ll notice with this season, that may or may not have existed in the first season, is Schneider being more than a comic relief. Him mentioning his drug addiction or family issues isn’t purely a joke. In many ways, him talking about it seems like him trying to laugh to keep from crying. A means for him to cope with an emotionally absent father and an endless cycle of mothers and nannies who never gave him a stable person to go to for love and affection.
Something you can kind of see in Dr. Berkowitz as well since he is dealing with relationship issues with his kids, as always, but also Lydia. Someone who is still very much in love with Berto yet cares for Leslie. The problem is, the caring isn’t intimate. Companionship she can offer, but anything beyond that feels like a betrayal for “Death Do Us Part” maybe in vows but even in death you never stop loving someone.
And speaking of love, Elena gets her first girlfriend – Syd. A girl who is just up Elena’s alley. She is a nerd, socially awkward, queer, and has just as many communication issues as the rest of the rest of the cast. For, in the grand scheme of things, that is the central issue of the season, communicating one’s needs, feelings, and essentially your truth. When it comes to Max, Penelope’s boyfriend, she tells him that she doesn’t want to have kids and honestly believes it would be better to break up now than him resent her later.
Then, when it comes to Victor, who is barely in the show, two episodes at most if I recall correctly, the issue deals with him communicating with Elena. After he missed her quince, there has been radio silence. However, when he suddenly returns, he has time for Alex, even orchestrates secret chats, but doesn’t contact Elena at all.
But the biggest blow up likely comes from Lydia and Penelope going at it. Whether it is over weapons in the house, depression, or even Penelope breaking up with Victor or Max, they butt heads consistently. To the point where, when Lydia barely avoids having a stroke, she wonders if her mother going into a coma was just to win the argument.
Though, of course, in the end, once everyone’s feelings are expressed, the family comes back together. Ready for the next personal challenge or one that affects their community.
Latinx in Trump’s America
With there not being a huge amount of Latinx representation in America, especially in terms of portraying a family and not just having one or two characters being Latinx, One Day At A Time is in a prominent position. One in which, of course, they can’t speak for all Latinx people, but do present generalized views of the fears and cautions they live under.
Whether it is Alex dealing with being called racial slurs, or Lydia relating to the kinds she was called when she first arrived in America. That is, alongside the question of stability for those who aren’t European immigrants. Lydia was simply a permanent resident and green card holder before gaining citizenship. Considering how policy can change quickly when one party has the majority of each branch of government, there is a serious need to fear what can happen. For while the world may not change like how we see in The Handmaid’s Tale overnight, it can in terms of what happened with Carmen or how it did to actress Diane Guerrero as documented in her book In The Country We Love: My Family Divided.
For who is to say that permanent resident status or green card status couldn’t be stripped? Hell, taking it to an extreme, making it so, going back however many years the government wanted, that you need both parents to be American to be considered a citizen. What may seem wild and unlikely only needs a small fraction of the population to think it is a good idea. Hence so many laws and policies which have impeded progress or tried to keep the country from slipping backwards.
As noted by musician Amanda La Negra in her Breakfast Club interview, in Latin America colorism is a huge deal and as One Day At A Time goes from topic to topic, colorism is brought up. There is Lydia claiming whiteness, through colonization; Elena hating the ability to pass for white, to the point someone mistaken her for Schneider’s daughter; and also Alex being darker and that making it where he has to deal with the racism of the area and being acutely aware of his otherness. Both skin tone wise and culturally.
Throughout the season, as noted in the summary, Schneider more and more grows from being one of the clueless white guys, who act as a comic relief to serious conversations, to being part of the conversation. Especially as he talks about how his drug addiction started, what Lydia meant to him, and even taking consideration his relationship with Nikki.
But another key way we see that Schneider isn’t just using the Alvarez family for his amusement and to deal with his loneliness is him learning Spanish. With that, you can see that he is truly trying to become one of the family by showing an appreciation not just what he can do for them, but how he can make communication much easier. Especially when it comes to Lydia since English is her second language.
Programs showing depression aren’t new. However, when it comes to my viewing history, for a lack of a better term, most of the time depression stemmed from a traumatic event or something of that nature. For Penelope, it goes beyond that and she has what I believe can be called clinical depression. Something beyond bouts of sadness but she, when she stops taking her pills, spirals into anxiety and to the brink of sounding suicidal. And considering how she talks about how, when the show addresses gun control, her having PTSD and depression, alongside Elena being queer, you get a reminder of not just the daily struggles these characters face, but the possibility of them coming to the point of choosing the ultimate option.
The Difficulties of the Queer Life
Usually, when we see queer youth, it is within the context of them being privileged in an almost Freak Show kind of way, or else we get a Saturday Church kind of experience. However, when it comes to queer women, representation shrinks. Then when you add queer women who aren’t adults, who aren’t rich, nor poor, and then adding the Latinx element, you’ll find web series on YouTube and Venmo for sure, but not the kind of programs like One Day At A Time.
Leading to the type of topics brought up when Elena meets Syd in episode 3. Of which, one of the major ones is trying to figure out if someone is queer and worrying about the possible issues which could come if they are not. After all, based on a Gallup news article from May 2015, those who identify under the LGBT umbrella is only 3.8% in America. And those numbers likely represent adults. So imagine how hard it is for teens to find someone they can explore their emotions and sexuality with. Especially considering, for women, as noted in this Tumblr post the difference in how girls and women are cultured, traditionally, vs. men.
Luckily though, Elena finds Syd but even then you can see other issues appear. Most of which are rather normal like being ashamed of your partner, feeling like a second choice, and other insecurities. Yet, there is also finding someone who gets you and you them and the beauty of having someone period.
It Gets Formulaic After Awhile
There are times in the season, especially early on, where you get the vibe the show is on a formula. You get normal sitcom situations which are comedic and then a heavy topic hits and there is a conversation. The kind which isn’t so much like The Carmichael Show where even stuff like gun control is handled in a comical way, but usually it is handled seriously. Lydia may add some dramatics to it, but not to the point you feel she is meant to provide comic relief.
Alex Never Really Has His Own Thing After The Racism Storyline
Pretty much, everyone has something interesting going on, over the course of the whole season, but Alex. He gets an initial pop with the racism plot, gets another when we see him with Victor, but for the rest of the season, not much happens with him. Even in terms of him getting a one episode girlfriend, he just gets used and that’s it. Here is hoping season 3 gives him something more to do.
The Lack of Serious Follow Up
This is a bit of a follow up to the Alex criticism. Him dealing with racism he makes to be a regular thing but it is only addressed in one episode. Following that, when it comes to Victor, taking note he was on a short leave, you’d think there would have been more conversations in regards to him and Elena mending their relationship. Yet, we don’t get that.
Also, there are other little things like Syd and Elena agreeing they need to make new friends and completely ignoring the fact they only became friends because of a activism. What happened to the rest of the people in the group? As soon as Elena and Syd found each other did they decide to drop that? Also, there is an episode when Syd speaks to Elena in emojis and it is never followed up on what she meant by what she texted. It is like a joke which went absolutely nowhere.
On The Fence
There was so much potential with Max but in the long run, it seemed like the goal with him was to remind us Penelope is still a woman with needs and desires, that she is desirable, and to set up the big argument between her and Lydia. Now, in the moment when they are being cute you don’t think that, but with now being a week removed from the show, at best Max was a strong guest starring role and at worse, a ends to a means.
The Potential of Failure
Generally speaking, failure is rarely an option in any program. Especially something not dealing with a relationship or a pursuit which wasn’t taken seriously. So when Penelope was talking about seriously giving up on becoming a nurse practitioner, admitting she failed since she was flunking class, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t get a whole lot of characters putting their heart into something and it just not working out, and them seeming okay with it. At least in my viewing habits.
Yet, then her family rally behind her and she ends up continuing. A moment you kind of appreciate, since it means now her kids will stop being so exploitative and lazy, but it also steers the show into a predictable realm.
So, Tell Us About Yourself Syd
Outside of being into Dr. Who, being insecure, and someone who was homeschooled, we don’t learn that much about Syd. Which is kind of a bummer since, with her being Elena’s first relationship, and only friend, you’d think we would learn so much more.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
While I will admit that sometimes this show hitting one hot-button topic after another got tiring, especially when binging, and I was left wanting more from certain characters or relationships, it was still a good season. It is just, I’m starting to believe One Day At A Time is written in a traditional, week to week format, rather than you watching a whole season at one time. And when you add on this show not having any mainstream peers, it is bound to frustrating, if not disappointing, when it doesn’t touch on this topic, doesn’t go further with that one, or spends too much time on this other one.
Yet, there is no denying that while One Day At A Time is on a pedestal more so for being one of very few right now, it’ll likely keep its place because it is created a blueprint for what will follow.
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Yup, per Deadline.
|What begins with addressing Alex going through puberty, and the attitude which comes with that, becomes a conversation on racism and colorism.|
|Penelope is growing tired of being some kind of supermom and superwoman, leading to her doing something which shocks the family a little bit.|
|Romance becomes a possibility for Elena and Penelope, but complications may keep them from happiness.|
|As Penelope teaches Alex to have fun on a budget, Lydia reveals a shocking secret to the family.|
|What may seem like your usual hijinks episode, minus political topics, veers towards gun control.|
|In a rather uneventful episode, without any serious hot topic, the importance of work and communication is focus.|
|As Lydia and Penelope DTR their respective relationships, Elena finds out Alex’s devastating secret.|
|In a flashback-heavy episode, we see the early weeks of Elena and learn if she and her father can possibly reconcile.|
|With so many things in life going so well, Penelope decides to stop going to group therapy and taking her meds, leading to her being reminded why she needed those two things in the first place.|
|As we come towards the end of the season, it starts to lose its pep as we get used to its formula.|
|As Elena and Alex’s homecoming dance comes around, Max reveals something which could mess up his relationship with Penelope.|
|As Lydia and Schneider take their citizenship test, Penelope tests the waters when it comes to the possibility of having another child.|
|In the season finale, we get a strong reason to wonder will they or won’t they when it comes to the fate of Lydia.|