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One Day at a Time - Season 2 - Review

So this is probably the longest review I’ve ever written. But it was necessary because the second season of One Day at a Time was absolutely amazing. I think I might have liked it even better than season 1. In the first season, we were still getting to know a lot of the characters. But now that we have, we can really delve into the serious storylines. And the writers did that wonderfully. Which is why I must plead for a third season. My entire plea can be found at the end of this review. But let’s talk about this season first. 

Off with a bang: My expectations for the first episode weren’t that high. This is a sitcom after all and I figured they’d ease us into the heavy topics. But I should’ve known that this is no ordinary sitcom. In fact, there were moments this season where I wasn’t sure if they remembered they were in a sitcom and not a drama series. But let’s start at the beginning. The first episode brought up the topic of racism. First of all, I like that Alex was front and center in this episode. We’d only really seen him in less serious storylines in season 1 so I was glad to see that this wasn’t the case this season. Alex started to act out a bit more and at first, this seemed to be normal teenager behavior. Until the real reason came up. Random kids have been calling him racial slurs and telling him to go back to Mexico or “Build the wall.”. And I’m not going to claim to be an expert on racism in America (you know, since I live on the other side of the planet and I’m white), I know this isn’t new but that last one sure is thanks to you know who. I knew this would come up this season. Just the look on Penelope’s face when he explained said it all. She’s put her life on the line for her country several times and yet people still call her lazy and say “Go back to Mexico.” to her son. I really love how she handled it with Alex. She told him to be himself and, while there will always be jerks, you can’t let them win. Also, ice cream. 

Oh, thank god: Because this show has a habit of tackling difficult subjects (the mother load of that is still to come, believe me), there was a moment where I thought Lydia would get deported. And this show would’ve absolutely been capable of pulling that. I think I was as anxious as Lydia’s family was during her citizenship test. Seriously though, I’d like to know how many people born in the US are capable of passing that test (without studying, cause you’re already an American so you should know that stuff). Those tests are ridiculous and even more pointless than algebra was in high school. But it would not have been surprising to me if Schneider had passed his test with flying colors while Lydia failed. Luckily they didn’t go down that road. But I think immigration is a touchy subject in a lot of countries. Here in my country, we’ve had one controversial deportation after another lately. Only just this week I saw that a family that’s been here for 7 years is getting sent back to Albania. The 9-year old girl who’s only known this country was crying on national television because she’s scared and all she wants to do is go to school and play with her friends. Our minister of immigration’s response was that he wasn’t about to start reviewing every individual case. But this isn’t an Amazon delivery that you can just send back, these are people. I think a lot of politicians tend to forget that. 

Oh Ow: Speaking of touchy subjects, nothing’s more controversial in the US than gun control. I have to be honest, I’ve never understood that “right to bear arms” stuff. Do you know when the last mass shooting (not related to terrorism) was in Belgium? I don’t, actually, I had to look this up because it doesn’t occur that often here. How many accidents have to happen, how many kids have to die, how many schools have to be attacked before the laws around guns finally change? I totally understand that Penelope didn’t want that gun in the house. People always think they’re the exception, even Penelope did. But accidents can happen to anyone. 

Aaaw: This season also had some light moments. Love was in the air, not just for Penelope but also for Elena. So Elena is almost as bad at flirting as I am. Probably because she’s barely ever done it out of fear of flirting with a straight girl (I feel you). She and Sid (is that how it’s spelled) are so cute together. Btw, love the inclusion of a non-binary character. This doesn’t happen nearly enough. I hope we get to see a lot more of Sid in the future. They and Elena were so awkwardly adorable. I mean that promposal… 

MVF: So I have to give some love to Schneider, who I’d like to dub “Most Valuable Friend”. He truly has become an honorary member of the family. From helping Elena with Spanish to being there for Penelope when she needed him and doing is best to make Lydia’s hospital room look homey. Just look how far he’s come from that flashback to when the Alvarez’ first moved in when Penelope said he’d never set foot in their apartment again. I truly love his relationship with the Alvarez family. 

I still don’t like him: So first of all, it’s been almost a year since Elena’s heard from her father. The last time she saw him was when he left a Victor shaped hole in the wall when he bailed on her. It turns out that Alex has been meeting with him in secret. I get that Elena feels betrayed by this, I would have too, but I also understand Alex’ point of view. It’s his dad after all. And apparently, he didn’t just forgive him either but let him have it (which I really wish we could have seen). One of my favorite moments in this episode was when Elena confronted her father. You can read the full quote below but man was that powerful. Everything she said is my biggest fear. I’m only half out (to my parents) because I’m terrified that a friend or family member will react the way Victor did (especially my grandparents, like at this point I’d rather not know). That’s why this moment brought me to tears. That’s why I look up to Elena. She’s brave enough to be herself and if people don’t like that, then that is their loss. Maybe one day I’ll get there too. 
The moment when everything changed: In that same episode we saw flashbacks to right after Elena was born. Victor and Penelope were happy with their new family. And then everything changed when 9/11 happened. Rather than move on from the army, they both went back. And I assume that’s when everything went downhill. Because they seemed relatively okay after the tours they’d done at that point. No mention of PTSD or depression. No injured shoulder for Penelope. Just think about how different their lives would’ve been if 9/11 hadn’t happened. Maybe their marriage wouldn’t have ended. Maybe Victor and Penelope wouldn’t be struggling with their mental health. But I guess we’ll never know. 

Are you sure this is still a sitcom: And speaking of mental health. I’ve seen sitcoms tackle heavy subjects but you never once forget that you were watching a sitcom. But the episode that handled Penelope’s depression was different from those. This episode was so important. Because not once did they portray Penelope as weak, despite the fact that she really struggled. Penelope felt really great, everything in her life was going well. So she figured that meant it was time to quit therapy and to stop taking her meds. But what she didn’t realize was that the reason she felt great was because of the meds and therapy. Once that fell away, her depression came back. I get that she doesn’t want to take those meds for the rest of her life. I really loved Schneider’s comparison with the glasses. Because it really isn’t that different. One is for your eyes, the other for your brain. Both are parts of your body that just need a little more help. Yet only one of those is stigmatized. I suffer from anxiety and there are days where I think that maybe I should be on medication (gotten a lot better, though). Yet it’s not easy to bring that subject up. Yet when I recently had my eyes tested, the subject of glasses was brought up almost immediately without any problem. Lydia had a lot of prejudices about the medication Penelope took. But after seeing what happened when she stopped taking them, she realized supporting her daughter is the most important thing. 

Favorite relationship: I feel like the writers really highlighted the relationship between Lydia and Penelope this season. We had our ups and downs but that’s what makes it so real. Now when Penelope wanted to quit school, Lydia (and the kids) were there for her and wouldn’t let her give up. But an issue towards the end of the season was her break-up with Max. I loved those two together but (not) wanting a child is one of the few issues where a compromise just isn’t an option. And it’s probably a good thing that they discussed this early on in the relationship (and not when they’re already married, looking at you Grey’s Anatomy). If Max had given in, he would’ve regretted later on and resented Penelope for it. And no one should have a baby if they don’t want to. It’s not good for the mother or the child. Penelope might have ended up resenting him for missed opportunities. The only option here was to end things. And I get why Lydia was upset. She saw her daughter in a happy relationship and now it’s over. And not because they were fighting all of the time or because someone cheated, but because one wants kids and the other does not. I feel like that’s quite common for Lydia’s generation actually. If I said to any of my grandparents that I didn’t want kids (I mean, I do, but for the sake of the argument) they wouldn’t get it. They’re the generation that stayed home to take care of the children, while the men went out to work. And usually, they had pretty big families as well (not in this case but often). So a third child doesn’t seem like a big deal to her. I think Lydia would’ve understood eventually that this was for the best. Of course, we didn’t get to see that because she (almost) had a stroke right after. Could you imagine if Penelope’s last words to her mother had been “I don’t want anything from you”? She would’ve regretted that for the rest of her life. 

My next topic will focus a bit more on that finale but I do have to talk about Penelope’s monologue at Lydia’s bedside first. There seem to still be a lot of unresolved issues for Penelope that I hope will get talked out next season (there better be one), most specifically Lydia not supporting her when she joined the army. We’ve all seen how stubborn Lydia can be and I think that’s what happened here. She was scared for her daughter, angry that she was joining the army despite her protest, so she didn’t join her daughter at the airport. And then she probably regretted immediately after. But this needs to be talked out, despite Penelope forgiving her at her bedside because she doesn’t want this to linger between them if Lydia doesn’t make it. And then I completely lost my shit when she said it was okay if Lydia needed to go. Because she knows how much her mother misses her husband and she doesn’t want her to suffer. Excuse me, I need to go cry in a corner. 
Oh, the tears: Boy, the finale was rough. I don’t cry very often over TV shows anymore. I need to feel a real connection before I even shed the slightest tear. So bravo to this show because I was sobbing by the end of this episode. I got really scared when I realized that everyone got a moment to say goodbye. I swear, those two words (“not yet”) have never made me feel more relieved. Because after hearing from every character what Lydia means to them, it would have been heart-wrenching to see them lose her. You can feel the connection this family has in every episode, but in this one especially. And in the end, that’s what makes this show so great. Unlike on many shows, the focus isn’t romance but family. Sure, the romantic moments are cute, but the family moments are the one you really feel. 

Best quotes: Schneider: “Well, we gotta do something. This is racist. Should we call the police, wait the army. No, Oprah! She’ll know what to do.” 
Elena: “No, it’s my turn. You know, I’ve thought a lot about what happened and I’ll spare you the details about the anger and the crying and the weight loss and the empty space on my wall where your picture used to be. Because I’ve decided that there’s no point in focusing on the negatives. I’d rather think about the good things that came from this like … you thought me a really valuable lesson. Just because I’m gay, people will hate me without knowing anything else about me. I always knew that was part of the deal. I just, I never expected it from my own father. But now I know not to expect the best from anyone. So thanks, I guess. Oh and one more thing, I’ve learned some really cool stuff about myself. Like I’m tough, I’m really tough. And when I do stumble, I have the most amazing mom whose always right there to pick me up. So whatever dude, I’m moving on with my life. I’m going to be fine. I’m just really bummed out for you. You’re going to miss a lot of stuff and that sucks. Because I’m pretty great.” Lydia: “I wish I could take away her pain and feel it for myself. That is what mothers are for.” 
Berto: “So mi amor, is it time?” Lydia: “Not yet, mi vida.” 

Dear Netflix: So this is the part where I plead for a third season. I’m not usually a fan of sitcoms. I’m always extremely critical when it comes to those shows, so when I say that I love this show, you have to know how much that means. Last year it was my favorite show of 2017 and I wouldn’t be surprised if this season is my favorite of 2018. This show and the stories it tells are so important. Here we have a show that deals with homophobia, depression, and PTSD, immigration, racism and so much more. They are not afraid of the difficult subjects. These are the types of shows that are necessary. People need to see that it’s okay to take medication for mental illness. That just because a parent doesn’t accept your sexuality, it means you’re alone. That just because someone yells “go back to Mexico”, you don’t deserve to be there. So please, Netflix, renew this show.

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