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Big Mouth - Season 2 - Advance Preview: "Absolutely worth your time"

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Knee-jerk reaction has become pretty standard on the internet in 2018. Everything is dealt in extremes — usually extreme negativity — and there are frequent calls for bans against something relatively mundane.

Take Big Mouth. Ahead of the first season’s release in late September last year, a petition was started calling for the series to be withdrawn (#NoBigMouth went the hashtag) because of how it sexualises adolescence. This, before anyone had seen any of the episodes, with only a two minute trailer to make any judgements. In nine days leading up to the premiere, Bustle reported that the petition got over 83,000 signatures. Curiously, it was ignored by One Million Moms.

That same petition is now only just past 115,000 signatures. Certainly, the hype and commitment towards something like this will always drop off no matter what, but there are two other potential solutions. The first is that most of the people who found the trailer problematic had already signed. The second is that people decided to sample it and judge based on actual evidence, and they enjoyed a well-crafted and entertaining first season.

In season two, which releases on Netflix on Friday, 5th October, things only get better — but also weirder. Nick (Nick Kroll) is now under the guidance of Rick (also Kroll), the old and frail hormone monster who appeared twice in the first season. As you’d expect, Rick can’t provide the same level of advice as Maurice (again Kroll) gives to Andrew (John Mulaney), whose masturbation tendencies only increase. It doesn’t help Nick that he develops a crush for Gina (Gina Rodriguez), a girl who suddenly becomes noticed by the guys because she develops boobs.

Meanwhile, Jessi (Jessi Klein) deals with jealousy and her parents’ fractured marriage — among other things — by acting out, Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) is still attracted to pillows and finds friendship with Coach Steve (Kroll), and Missy (Jenny Slate) is plagued with self-doubt. None of the characters are helped by the arrival of the Shame Wizard (David Thewlis), who spends his time haunting everyone and making them feel bad for even the most minor indiscretion.

Those who haven’t watched the series in a year would be forgiven for questioning their memory of Big Mouth’s lewd nature. Is it really that vulgar?

Season two would unequivocally that it is. There are moments throughout the season that are utterly grotesque, absurd, and often a combination of the two. The songs only get stranger — one in the second episode, at a Korean spa, is particularly bizarre — and the puberty-related problems only become less PG. Certainly, this is not a show for the squeamish and prudish, and Game of Thrones might be a better pick if you’re looking for a show to watch with your parents.

But there is a real charm to the series, which grandstands every issue it tackles but still manages to cleverly treat its characters’ problems. The boobs scene glimpsed at in the trailer forms the main plot of episode two, and while cynics could argue against the portrayal of women as simply objects, the series makes clear how ridiculous it is that it’s the only reason Gina has become popular. Much like the first season, season two looks at the issues both boys and girls are going through, even if Nick and Andrew would be considered the two lead characters.

Thewlis is a superb addition, performing to type with some delightfully formal lines — "May the record show that the defendant has a poorly timed erection?" is one of his earliest and best-executed. It remains baffling that he has appeared in just one Shakespearean screen adaptation (Macbeth, in 2015, where he played the short-lived King Duncan) because everything about his delivery fits with that style. He utilises the same working-class English accent he adopted for Fargo, and it allows for the cruel side of the Shame Wizard to shine through. The characters may hate him, but it’s easy for viewers to love him.

The cast en masse remain excellent, too, with Kroll’s variety of voices and Klein’s well-rounded performance two of the standouts. Everything about the voice work and the animation style remains slightly surreal: only Mulaney really sounds like the age of his character, while the drawing of the characters is at times unpleasant to look at. Kissing, in particular, is very rough.

But to some extent, that’s the point. The themes in this show are real and relatable to all, but every scenario seems somewhat exaggerated. By going so over the top, there’s a sense that suddenly all of these things that come with puberty — body changes, self-doubt, crushes, sexuality — aren’t so scary. It’s the kind of thing that could only be effectively done in an animated show with this style.

This is a season that continues taking risks, too. After some trippy episodes last season, this year sees half-hours dedicated to some much heavier material: one episode goes in-depth about Planned Parenthood, another explores teen rebellion, another looks at slut-shaming and the pain caused by spreading secrets. Rarely do these feel like PSAs, and they’re strong examples of Big Mouth transcending its position as a black comedy animation.

This is not the disgusting, boycott-at-all-costs series that naysayers would have had you believe a year ago. Season two is endlessly entertaining, frequently awkward, and often brilliant. It isn’t the best series on Netflix, nor even the best animated series (BoJack Horseman takes the latter — and arguably the former — prize).

But it’s pretty damn good. And it is absolutely worth your time.

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