The second series of Friends from College could have started in a variety of ways. Consider a bus accident. Or a collision with an asteroid. An earthquake, a contagious blood illness, or a super-aggressive wolf attack are all possibilities.
Any of these would be ideal, because every single character on Friends from College is a full-throttle turbo git, and they all deserve it.
You recall your college friends. Come on, you know what I’m talking about. It debuted on Netflix a year and a half ago and was swiftly buried in a deluge of one-star reviews. It was dubbed “one of the year’s worst disappointments” by Entertainment Weekly. It was dubbed “a near-total misfire” by Vox. Julia Raeside famously described it as a “televisual arsehole safari.”
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The first series didn’t flop because all of the characters were smug, egotistical, self-obsessed, and awful – after all, that fits everyone in the wonderful Succession. It didn’t work because the writers, Nicholas Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, didn’t seem to notice. It was dubbed Mates from College since it was literally about their college friends.
Stoller and Delbanco put up a mirror to themselves, and the world told them their reflection was terrible, and the backlash took them off guard. And now, for some reason, it’s back. Despite the fact that it does not begin with the cast being ripped apart by wolves, it appears that Friends from College has paid attention. A little.
The most common criticism about Series 1 was that it appeared that the actors were having far more fun than the audience. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, as none of the actors appear to be having any fun at all.
The previous finale dropped a bomb on the group, bringing years of secrets and falsehoods to the surface, and this series demonstrates how difficult it is to put things back together after that. This time around, every single character is noticeably more unhappy. It’s a series of eight episodes in which everyone is held accountable. This doesn’t make them any less evil, but it does help to humanise them.
Friends from College has also become a little more self-aware, which helps. We’re more likely to perceive the group through Billy Eichner’s character’s eyes now. He stood out last year for not being a constant catastroprick, and this year he has become more open about his distaste for the group.
He is frequently brought in to undercut any naval-glazing dramatisation with an aside about all the awful things they have done, as the series begins with him correcting someone who characterises them as “wonderful.”
So Friends from College isn’t as bad as it used to be. It is, however, a little tedious. The storey is given in eight half-hour episodes, but you get the impression that it might have been told in six. There’s a lot of room for slack here, and the middle of the series notably loses its way. However, when the show decides to go all out, like it does in the first few episodes and the end, it’s actually rather good.
However, when the show decides to go all out, like it does in the first few episodes and the end, it’s actually rather good. In fact, the series finishes on such a well-crafted note of ambiguity that I found myself longing for a third instalment.
But, you know, only if there’s a wolf attack early in the game. That’s a deal breaker for me.