Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: June 4th 2021
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Writer: Mae Martin + Joe Hampson
Director: Luke Snellin
My Rating: 5/5
iMDB Summary: The series follows recovering addict and comedian Mae, who is trying to control the addictive behaviors and intense romanticism that permeate every facet of her life.
This review contains spoilers for Feel Good Seasons 1 and 2
Content warnings are below, highlight over it to read:
sexual assault, child grooming, alcoholism
Feel Good is a Netflix mini-series (I’m not sure if that’s what you call it when it has multiple seasons, but each season is only 6 30-minute episodes, so that feels mini to me) telling the semi-autobiographical story of comedian Mae Martin as they navigate their life. Martin uses they/them and she/her pronouns in real life, but they have noted that they prefer when people use they/them. In the show, Mae hasn’t fully come around to understanding their nonbinary identity yet, and the characters refer to them using she/her pronouns, but in light of the fact that this is semi-autobiographical and the character appears to be approaching a nonbinary understanding of their gender identity, I will use they/them pronouns for this review.
Now onto the actual content.
Season 2 opens with Mae checking into a rehab facility in Canada. Their parents are dropping them off there, and we quickly learn that it’s not their first time in the facility. Unfortunately, they don’t last long, because they text Scott to come pick them up. Scott is the man that Mae was living with in Canada, and we learn that they did not have a very healthy relationship. We learn early on that Scott and Mae were having sex, despite the fact that Scott was 30 and Mae was only 15. Scott picks Mae up and they bond and hang out while they’re in Canada.
Mae ends up going back to England, where they find out that George tried moving on. George, for those of you that don’t remember, is Mae’s (now) ex-girlfriend. Their off again on again relationship inspired much of the first season, and it does yet again here. George thought Mae was over her and started dating Elliott, the emotionally intelligent bisexual polyamorous teacher. With Mae back and trying to be in George’s life, George breaks up with Elliot to pursue Mae.
The rest of the story is one of Mae and George’s tumultuous relationship, and of Mae struggling with trauma and addiction. Mae begins suffering from panic attacks and flashbacks to her teen years, and ends up getting diagnosed with PTSD. The show does a great job of having Mae be confused about whether they have “trauma” or whether that’s just a buzzword that gets thrown around, and it shares symptoms of their disorder in a way that could help other people realize they were suffering through the same thing.
The way the show handles Mae’s addiction and their trauma responses feels open and real and allows anyone to relate to the character, even if they haven’t gone through something like that themselves. This is all counterbalanced with a healthy portion of comedy, of course. There’s a lot less of Mae’s standup in this season than in the last, because they’re not very good at standup any more. All of the struggles they’ve been through have finally built up to being too much to joke about. There is a great line in the show where Mae and George are attempting to hang out with George’s (notably homophobic) friends where the friend says “I loved your bit on how you wanted to be a boy!” and Mae replies “I’m glad you think my trauma is funny.”
It’s clear that Mae is trying to process things even while they’re actively avoiding processing. What makes this show work is that the show never makes light of what Mae went through, nor does it joke about her trauma. Instead, it surrounds very dark shit with comedic lines and characters, such as Phil the roommate and Mae’s mother, who are both there for humor when we as an audience need it most. George’s plotline also exists a bit for comedic relief, although her issues are still real. She struggles with making space for herself in the relationship, a common problem among families and loved ones of addicts, but her ultimate life goal is to “save the bees”, a fact which she parades around proudly.
The show ends with Mae confronting their abuse and their abuser to the face for the first time. It’s a really powerful moment where we see the full extent of what Mae went through. They’re an incredible actor and you can see all of the pain and emotion right there on the surface. They manage to close it out on a wholesome note, with Mae and George coming closer together than ever, just the two of them. Mae realizes that they don’t need George anymore, they want them. And just like that, I’m filled with warmth and hope for this couple. The creators have stated that there will not be any more seasons of the show, since Mae’s story is told, and I have to say I think they did an incredible job of telling the story from beginning to end. It feels complete, and even though I’m sad that it’s over, I’m glad that they’re wrapping it up now rather than putting the characters through more emotional abuse for the sake of more episodes. The show was as visceral and incredible as it was because the storylines were real, and ending it here stays true to that.