“Big Mouth” season two charms with discomfort

Photo courtesy of Flickr  The Shame Wizard (Thewlis) in Big Mouth season two

Photo courtesy of Flickr

The Shame Wizard (Thewlis) in Big Mouth season two


Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, the stars of the Netflix series “Big Mouth,” took their audience on a cringeworthy 10-episode journey in their sophomore season. The show toggles between raunchy sing-along adult cartoon and the sexed class we all wish we had in high-school, though maybe not with P.E. teacher Coach Steve. There are moments you will not physically be able to look at the screen and others when you laugh so hard you cry — either way, the cesspool of middle school hormones is so relatable you’re going to have to buckle in for a binge watch.

The second season picked up where the first left off — pubescent Jessi is on the run with overly horny classmate Jay after learning that her parents’ divorce is imminent, Nick is still trying to activate puberty and Andrew, well he’s still masturbating — a lot.

This season took on a darker turn than the first with the introduction of the Shame Wizard — a character most of us know well. The exact opposite of Maury and Connie, the first season’s overly-excitable “hormone monsters,” the Shame Wizard, voiced by David Thewlis (“Harry Potter” franchise) is the loud voice pounding through your head telling you exactly how terrible everyone thinks you are.

Andrew is the first to encounter the Shame Wizard, who holds a particularly harsh trial which ends with Andrew judging himself before anyone else even knows what’s going on. Although the Shame Wizard is particularly focused on Andrew, the other kids can’t escape his influence either — he peels back every layer and voices the insecurities none of the characters had the guts to voice to their closest friends. Watching the confluence of horny teenage desires and anxiety-inducing self-doubt play out on screen is so poignant because we’ve all been in their shoes, letting irrational fears turn our actions into guilt-ridden moments.

Despite the literal and figurative dark shadow cast by the Shame Wizard, there are many empowering and informative moments as the season tackles issues from what services Planned Parenthood actually provides to female body confidence. When Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin” joins the cast as the first girl in the seventh grade to grow breasts, everyone goes crazy. Missy, the favorite dorky but surprisingly sensual lead gets her first taste of insecurity about her body when the popular girls make fun of her flat chest. After a few savagely familiar scenes in which her reflection literally berates her, Missy gets a much-needed confidence boost in the form of a well-choreographed dance number to the tune “I Love My Body,” complete with a multitude of naked women celebrating “every wrinkle, pimple, dimple, big and small.”

As all of the characters continue to grow into complex people while still struggling with their own personal dramas, it is Jessi that perhaps finds the most substance in season two. After learning that her mother has been having an affair with “Cantor” Dina, Jessi can’t shake the feeling that Shannon, her mom, is the worst, but also that she herself is to blame for her parents’ impending divorce. Jessi lashes out verbally, begins stealing, experiments with her dad’s marijuana and ultimately loses track of who she thought she was. When she realizes she’s tired of the person she’s become but doesn’t know how to get back on track, the deceptively comforting Depression Kitty (who seems to be a foil to her Hormone Monster, Connie) is introduced.

In contrast to the first season, which focused heavily on individual hijinks as the characters navigated the first stirrings of puberty in the form of their hormones personified, the second season focuses more on showing the kids that they are not alone. The message comes through in many forms, culminating with a two-part sleepover in the gym that turns into a tell-all of secrets and private fears. As the characters realize they are not alone in their pubescent awkwardness, the night turns into a jubilee of liberating freedom from self-consciousness, and ultimately the defeat of the Shame Wizard.

While the tone of the season might have introduced darker, more adult themes, many familiar minor characters ranging from witty to teetering on the edge of distasteful keep the world surrounding the main characters grounded in a fantastical but believable year of middle school. Some of the best lines and recurring jokes come out of interactions with Nathan Fillion, the 46-year-old television star of Missy’s fantasies; Coach Steve, the gross but endearing man-baby who gets his own plot line; and Jay, who is still having sex with inanimate objects, except sometimes the pillows are dudes now.

The trials and tribulations of puberty continue to grind on for the characters as the series gains traction. Viewers are seeing themselves in the character’s first sexual encounters, finding their own parents in Nick, Jessi or Andrew’s and reminiscing on their own awkward attempts to fit in.