The second series of Motherland continues to peel back layers of articifice around cultural ideas of motherhood – still bruisingly comic but sometimes just bruising
“Life’s too short to dick about with aubergines”
There’s a boldness to this second series of Motherland that is sometimes breath-taking. The show, created by Sharon Horgan, G*a*a* L*n*h*n, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, has never been sentimental about motherhood, brutally comic about the varying difficulties of being a parent/partner/employee/friend all at the same time and being utterly unafraid to show its characters failing at one if not more of them on an episodal basis.
This second season though, all now available to watch on t’iPlayer, tightens the screws even more, really pushing out the limits of what these people are willing to inflict on others in the name of just getting through the day. It makes for a bracing watch but even I was wondering whether the brutality shouldn’t be reined in just a bit…
The set up is still the same. Anna Maxwell Martin’s harried PR exec Julia has now gone freelance but her husband (Oliver Chris) is still an absent figure when it comes to helping out, meaning she relies heavily on Diane Morgan’s Liz, still laconically pragmatic, and Paul Ready’s Kevin, still desperate to be one of the mums, to help out when the daily crises come calling. Tanya Moodie’s hyper-cool Meg has been added to the mix here too, though the character seems written as supporting rather than co-lead which is a bit of a shame given how bad-ass Meg (and Moodie) is.
And from tense shop openings to hectic Hallowe’ens, mini-break nightmares to sports day traumas, there’s a lot going on here. Sometimes it is close to the bone – though played for laughs, Kevin’s eagerness to please (and general marriage) troubles me and frenemy Amanda (a delightfully brittle Lucy Punch) also gets the rough end of the spousal stick. Elsewhere, it hits just right – the hoodwinking a new pal into becoming your PA is genius, as is the honesty around shagging a shepherd. But the final note of the last show for now is another bold move for a half-hour comedy, Maxwell Martin’s brilliance shining through the darkest of comedic moments.