Directed by Peter Wellington.
Co-written by Mark McKinney, Susan Coyne and Bob Martin.
Oh yes. There are some minor spoilers in this post. Comparisons made with the first season. And pictures.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed the second season of Slings and Arrows. I enjoyed it so much, I watched the whole season in one day. Almost six hours worth of Paul, Mark, Shakespeare and other brilliance. Even last time, I paced myself over two to three days. What can I say? I'm impatient. Very impatient.
The second season primarily explores the production of Macbeth, and concentrates once more on the financial problems of the New Burbage Theatre Festival. Geoffrey wrestles with Oliver's grand vision of the cursed play. Richard needs to get more people to see the productions. Relationship dynamics are explored.
This season wasn't quite as good as the first one in many respects. Not being "quite as good" is competing with near mythic genius. Seriously. The construction of the first season was astounding. Mark says in a small clip that it took four years to write the first season, and that they only had six months to complete the second. This is noticeable in some areas. It isn't as finely tuned. There is less mystery running through the second season, which worked as a driving force last time. There's a little bit too much reliance on jokes and trends which worked in the first season, where there could have been more original exploration, and there's less fleshing out of certain characters.
On the up side, the second season has a much faster pace. It's snappier, more linear (and therefore easier to follow) and extremely engaging despite small plotting flaws. Most characters are strongly established and the audience is increasingly shown other facets to their personalities. Characters can progress further because of the solid base of the first episodes. The dialogue is superb, with a couple of examples highlighted on the post I made after seeing the first episode. And, because so much is already established, we get to see more Shakespeare performed.
I was saddened to see Rachel McAdams leave in the first episode, because I fell head over heels in love with her last time. And I'm straight. I expected it to happen, though. She has been extraordinarily busy. It was lovely that she came back and allowed Kate to have a proper send off - and a happy one too. I also missed her love interest, Jack Crew, played by Luke Kirby. I hadn't realised I'd liked him as much as I had until he wasn't there anymore.
I was overjoyed to see Don McKellar return. Words cannot express how much I adore him, and adore him as Darren especially. Darren is a wonderful construction of a character. Snobbish, immature, a failed artistic personality who inspires neither pathos nor goodwill. And yet, I love him. He is funny. I would probably hate him in real life, but on screen, I enjoy him a lot.
I liked the character additions of Henry (Geraint Wyn Davies), Brian (Leon Pownall), Sanjay Rainier (Colm Feore) and Jerry (Oliver Dennis). I did think that the newer 'young couple', Sarah (Joanne Kelly) and Patrick (David Alpay) were somewhat superfluous, however. In fact, I would say this about the whole Romeo and Juliet subplot. Until the very end of the last episode, it contributed little to the characters and really just drew the attention from the main plot.
Henry is the actor brought in to play Macbeth. He is a celebrated actor, and at first he seems nice too, but he slowly shows himself to be rather pompous and rebellious. Jerry is his understudy, and is incredibly likeable. Brian is an actor who has an argument with Geoffrey, part of the old guard of the festival. Sanjay is the head of the publicity company Richard goes to in aid, and he appears to see himself as Richard's mentor.
Mark played Richard as ever so slightly more foolish this time around. He made use of his wonderful, wonderful voice. He overplayed certain scenes, but in a show like Slings and Arrows, it worked. In the entire first episode he's drunk. Mark gets to show off his talent for physical comedy. I get the distinct impression all other characters (with the hopeful exception of Anna [Susan Coyne]) hate Richard. If they don't hate him, they're completely apathetic toward him. I'm not sure if the audience is supposed to dislike Richard, but I don't. I think he's a prat, a silly, easily manipulated, extremely lucky prat. But I like him. I feel sorry for him. I want to see him succeed at something. I query his motivation in many situations, and I really think that it is Mark McKinney's true power as an actor that Richard is so likeable when he has so many flaws. You have to remember that I fell in love with Richard before I even knew who Mark McKinney was. I began liking Mark McKinney because of Richard.
Paul played Geoffrey as ever so slightly more sane this time around. And this is despite him appearing much more insane to the characters around him. Geoffrey makes decisions, he makes good decisions, and we have a little more insight into why he makes these decisions. Geoffrey also has a refreshing honesty about him, a calm outlook on the world quite in opposition with his passionate actor/director's temperament.
The dynamic Paul has with his wife Martha makes the onscreen chemistry of Geoffrey and Ellen outstanding. As I so intelligently said in the previous post, they are hot together, hot people. Actually, Martha is an amazing actress. She makes me like Ellen, who can be brutal and rude and who makes all sorts of moral gaffs. She can quote Shakespeare in the most engaging and beautiful way.
Geoffrey also has an intriguing chemistry with Oliver (Stephen Ouimette) who comes back as a ghost to haunt Geoffrey (a fact I deliberately failed to mention last time). Geoffrey often appears insane because he is having conversations with the often present and always annoying Oliver. Geoffrey and Oliver have a complex relationship, much more complex than your average relationship between an actor/director and a ghost. Stephen Ouimette is an actor of fine calibre who often lifts Oliver from being a possible caricature to being a three dimensional character.
The secondary characters are still absolutely fantastic, particularly Rothaford Gray as Nathum and Catherine Fitch as Maria. They are given wonderful lines, they play off the other actors well, they enrich each scene, and most of all, they lend complete credibility.
This series is well scripted, well acted and well shot. It's brilliant.
Okay, I've raved enough. Picture time.
Geoffrey and Nathum.
Kate and Ellen, just before Kate leaves to live a lovely life with Jack.
Oliver. This is a still in a 'documentary' about Oliver which Geoffrey watches on repeat and laughs hysterically at. Oliver is pompous to say the least.
Geoffrey, Oliver and Ellen. This is a photograph from the days they performed Hamlet, just before Geoffrey went stark raving mad (as explained in the first season).
Geoffrey and Ellen are sweet together. They have a very complex relationship, but it is sweet.
It is also extraordinarily sexy.
Geoffrey has this thing he does with razorblades and his tongue. It is impossible to look away. There is Oliver being an interfering pain again.
He can kill you with his brain, you know. Not really.
This is a line Darren says in the first season. There's a subtitle there, because he's saying it in German. Hahaha.
... I'm starting to think Don McKellar is attractive. Oh please save me now.
Mark as Richard. Is Gorgeous. Anyone who says Mark has aged badly is nuts. This is last year, and he looks stunning.
Richard and Anna. I kind of desperately want these two to become a couple. I'm almost up to rabid shipper mode. Anna hooks up with a guy who looks just like Richard and is ten times more stupid. I weep.
Poor, awkward, silly Richard.
That was fun. For me.