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Sweet Magnolias - Season 2 Review: Summer in Serenity


Normally summer is the time most small towns can sit back and relax, take the time to slow down and relax. The residents of Sweet Magnolias' Serenity, South Carolina, unfortunately, don't get to do very much of either as the bulk of the show's second season on Netflix is centered on the aftermath of the terrible automobile accident that marked the end of their first season. The show, based on a series of best-selling novels by author Sheryl Woods, has become a hit for Netflix.

Following a contentious teen party on prom night that resulted in a serious car accident Maddie's (Joanna Garcia Swisher) sons Kyle (Logan Allen) and Tyler (Carson Rowland) face the most profound consequences, even though Tyler wasn't even in the car. This results in a summer-long recovery for them physically and the town emotionally and anger and feelings run high. The solid second season saw the renewal of an old grudge against the Sweet Magnolias and a coming of age and great character growth for several characters.
The three Sweet Magnolias of Serenity, Maddie newly divorced Mom of three, and co-owner of the new spa, attorney Helen (Heather Headley), and restauranteur Dana Sue (Brooke Elliott) continue to anchor the show. However, this season they are almost overshadowed by a strong group of supporting characters, and wisely the writers allow them to step aside when they need to allow those characters to shine. If a common theme of the season could be singled out it would be the various aspects of motherhood that are explored.
The Sweet Magnolias faced tremendous challenges and heartache both personally and professionally like the strong Southern women they are. Yet this season highlighted how a great deal of their strength comes from their faith. With a bigger role for the church pastor, the vacation bible school, and things, the writers gently and thoughtfully incorporated the significant role religion plays in lives in small Southern towns.
Maddie maintained her "sweet-as-pie" reputation as she supported her children recovering from their injuries the best way she knew how. She spends most of the season struggling to keep her new business, her family, and her friends safe from the vengeful attacks from the mayor and his wife. And if that were not enough, she has to deal with even more mistakes and their consequences on her family caused by her irresponsible ex-husband, Bill (Chris Klein), and also the reemergence of her new boyfriend, Coach Cal's (Justin Bruening)'s anger management issues. The latter seems awkward and makes one wonder if they are putting too much on her plate. Can she help Cal as a partner, or will he become another male child for her to nurture? Again, while most of the season Maddie tries to be everyone's rock, with little concern for herself the writers do give Maddie great opportunities to finally break and express her anger. One when Bill reveals yet another mistake that will impact her children, Swisher's Maddie is the epitome of controlled rage.
And the second is her perfectly delivered, "Bless your heart," to nemesis Mary Vaughn (Alison Gabriel). She delivered the phrase as a most pointed southern insult with just the right tone and expression. It was one of the few times the writers used faux Southern colloquialisms properly. They were becoming sickenly sweet and overused coming out of Maddie and other characters' mouths before that moment as though the writers thought the audience might forget the show is set in the south if they didn't.
Of all the characters Helen's story felt the most predictable. Her loss, and desire for a child, then her recovery thanks to her friendship and a soft slow burn to hot romance with Erik (Dion Johnstone) were some of the character highlights for Headley to portray this season. She also shined in her moments of being a mentor to young CeCe (Harlan Drum).
Dana Sue and Ronnie (Brandon Quinn)'s arc to redemption was beautifully written and well played. The writers wisely refrained from the tired triangle aspect of their relationship by ending her association with farmer Jeremy (Chase Anderson) who never really was that interesting of a character. Watching them work through their issues toward reconciliation honestly and openly was a refreshing change. Kudos that the writers also were considerate of Annie (Anneliese Judge)'s conflicting feelings about her parents.
The writing for the show did not always make the best storytelling choices this season. The identity of Isaac (Chris Medlin)'s birth father, which was a too easy and convenient choice when several other candidates could have led to far deeper storylines. The return of Helen's ex-lover Ryan (Michael Shenefelt, while bringing him back for a legitimate reason, quickly became another storytelling trope. The show did succeed in its writing for its younger cast members. All of the teenagers this season had meaningful character growth without forced angst. Eventually, both Tyler and Jackson (Sam Ashby), in particular, proved to be better men than their respective fathers with their maturity and decision-making.
The writing also excelled for Isaac and Noreen (Jamie Lyn Spears). Making those two housemates was a solid storytelling decision and watching their developing relationship was nice to watch. There is lovely chemistry between Medlin and Spears. It is a storyline they should continue to explore if and when the show rightfully receives a green light for a third season.
Based on its viewing rankings and fan reaction, Sweet Magnolias is a strongly likely candidate for a third season on Netflix. After this solid outing of episodes, the show's second season finale has left many questions that fans will be clamoring to have answered. There's so much more of the Sweet Magnolia’s story to tell. Why did Miss Frances leave Dana Sue such a large bequest? After their successful recall campaign, which of the Sweet Magnolias is going to embark on a political career to replace him in office? Who is the mysterious owner of the gossipy Instagram account that keeps revealing secrets the citizens of Serenity would prefer stay hidden? Who is the nemesis from Dana Sue's past who will surely make trouble; and just how many more of Bill's mistakes are going to be revealed for Maddie to clean up? Regardless, with polish on the writing and more splendid work from this ideal cast, Sweet Magnolias should be around more several more seasons.
Which episode of the second season of Sweet Magnolias was your favorite? Were you satisfied with the way the season ended? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.