Home杭州楼凤 › Unpredictable second season of Transparent is still a cut above the rest

Unpredictable second season of Transparent is still a cut above the rest

The cast of Transparent (left to right): Gaby Hoffman, Judith Light, Jay Duplass, Jeffrey Tambor and Amy Landecker. Photo: Monique FarmerThe launch of any television series is a calculated risk, and to some extent the most desired outcome is critical acclaim and a slew of awards. I say to some extent because such a win is often a poisoned chalice. Such success almost certainly catapults a show into a second season and then comes an even bigger, weirder hurdle: how on earth do you top an opening act like that?
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Transparent (Stan, on demand) faces just such a hurdle for its second season, having sailed out of its first into almost universal acclaim and a display case that required extra shelves almost as quickly as the show’s US commissioning broadcaster, Amazon, could build them. The show took the very longest of bows, and scooped up Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and awards from the Director’s Guild and a bunch of other gong-giving bodies.

The opening season’s premise met Mort Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), and came along on her journey as she revealed her actual self, Maura, to her family. It was quite simply beautiful. Seemingly caught in a perfect storm, it was bookended by stunning writing from series creator Jill Soloway, who didn’t so much base it on her own experience (and father) as borrow heavily, and a luminous performance from Tambor, an actor known mostly for his turns in sitcoms who brought an unexpected depth and humanity to this fragile individual.

Meeting Maura Pfefferman was genuinely altering. Not because she is a way of interpreting the transexual journey – although that, and all of the headlines her seemingly distant cousin Caitlyn Jenner created, are never far from the narrative. But because to some extent the question of trans identity is almost beside the point. Transparent uses transexuality as a means of exploring something far more fundamental: identity itself.

If something jars about the second season, it is that the spotlight has shifted slightly, and to some extent we now see the ensemble step more confidently into the frame.

That means more from Maura’s ex-wife Shelly (Judith Light), and angsty kids Sarah (Amy Landecker), Joshua (Jay Duplass) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann). That feels very natural. This family has been through a fair amount, and the kids themselves have no shortage of their own issues. There is also a new and somewhat startling story thread, told in flashback, which we won’t elaborate on here, to preserve its authenticity.

One’s first instinct is to bristle at the change, and perhaps that’s why some critics have paused momentarily before offering their judgment on the second season. In truth, however, maybe we have to question our own willingness to embrace change, and our own approach to the shifting frame that Soloway has so spectacularly created.

Once you take a deep breath and surrender to the narrative, Transparent’s second season is delightfully bouncy. The writing is sharp, and the additional oxygen for some characters – notably Light’s Shelly – is very welcome.

While the show is undisputably Tambor’s, Light is brilliant. It would be hard to imagine Tambor without her.

The real strength of Transparent, however, lies with its unpredictability. It continually surprises, cleverly side-stepping moments that might otherwise slip on the creative banana peel of melodrama. That’s what keeps it a cut above the rest.

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