“One Mississippi” is more than the sum of its parts, because it loves each and every part of itself so very much.
Tig Notaro’s semi-autobiographical Amazon series has a laid-back Southern pacing that sucks you in, like the warm waters of the river it’s named after; the episode arcs are deliberate, clear, and eloquent, much like the radio show Tig’s character hosts and the real-life Tig contributed to (“This American Life”); but most of all, the six-episode sequel season is beautiful in its intentions and construction — a loving ode to a life made better by acknowledging the past to improve upon the future.
Season 2 picks up with Tig settled into her new life in Mississippi. She’s still living with her step-father, Bill (played with endearing attention to detail by John Rothman), and brother, Remy (Noah Harpster). She’s still working at the local radio station with her producer, Kate (Stephanie Allynne), and she’s still pushing conservative buttons by recounting her life as a gay woman and sexual assault survivor.
But two overarching themes dictate the second season: love and recognition. If the first six episodes were about accepting the loss of the family matriarch, then Season 2 is about moving forward, finding happiness, and speaking up.
This year, each member of the Bavaro family (Notaro’s clever, cute alteration on her last name) falls in love. Remy’s long-running crush on Vicky (Adora Dei) hits a roadblock, and he finds an unexpected romance with his former flame’s opposite: Desiree (Carly Jipson) is a vocal and vigorous partner who falls quickly and hard for Remy. Thanks to his newfound religious commitment, their relationship affects his family in different ways: Desiree may not be as progressive as the Bavaros, but she’s accepting and eager for their approval.
Meanwhile, Bill’s rigid house rules and lifestyle in general challenged Tig in Season 1. (That the house refrigerator is not only divided into sections for each family member, but the food is labeled with each of their names should give an indication of his methods.) Yet his demeanor proves advantageous in Season 2 when Bill meets Felicia (Sheryl Lee Ralph), a woman in his office building who he keeps running into because they take the elevator together every day at the exact same time. While not treated as a traditional meet-cute, the parallels between the two Type-A organizers are immediately and charmingly evident. He buys her an orchid and prints out a card explaining how to properly care for it. She teaches him how to control his remote thermostat in order to optimize heating and cooling when he’s away. When Felicia says, “Frozen food is a hallmark of a civilized society,” the comment is equivalent to the most erotic turn-on you can imagine for someone like Bill.
While not treated as a traditional meet-cute, the parallels between the two Type-A organizers are immediately and charmingly evident. He buys her an orchid and prints out a card explaining how to properly care for it. She teaches him how to control his remote thermostat in order to optimize heating and cooling when he’s away. When Felicia says, “Frozen food is a hallmark of a civilized society,” the comment is equivalent to the most erotic turn-on you can imagine, for someone like Bill.
And yet, the fateful coupling never feels too good to be true. Plenty of shows partner up their supporting characters for the sheer cuteness of it, but Bill and Felicia stay grounded because they challenge each other in intriguing ways. Bill is forced to reconsider his retirement from romance due to Felicia’s clearly expressed interest, and that Felicia is a progressive black woman in the South pushes him to reexamine his privilege.
How Bill takes ownership of his ancestors’ sins speaks to his love for Felicia as much as his acknowledgment of the past, which brings us back to the series’ two predominant themes, and how they come together most prominently through Tig’s arc.
Early in the season, Kate casually reveals a past history of sexual abuse. Framed as “common” touching and innuendo from adults in power, Tig pushes her to admit what happened was, in fact, molestation. “And by the way, you were molested,” Tig says after hearing stories of gym teachers and camp counselors who got too close to the kids. “Yeah,” Kate says, “but not really.” “Yes, really,” Tig insists.
Kate brushes it off as an accepted part of everyone’s childhood, but Tig makes sure to emphasize this is not OK. Sitting behind a microphone, she rises to the occasion, rejecting the presumption that any kind of unwanted physical contact should be a part of anyone’s life. While it may sound obvious that such actions are wrong, the season continues to hammer away at the importance of acknowledgement, especially among a group of people (small town folk, Midwesterners, etc.) who don’t like to talk about tough subjects. What Kate dealt with may not have been as overt as what Tig went through — a step-grandfather who repeatedly abused her as a child — but repressed trauma is still trauma. It needs to be recognized, acknowledged, and discussed.
Season 2 acts as the microphone Tig sits behind in the show, and Amazon is her radio station. “One Mississippi” never feels preachy or issue-oriented; it’s a human story through and through. But it, like Notaro, recognizes the responsibility of its narrative and does an exquisite job incorporating these conversations into open dialogue. The characters’ discussions make it feel easier to talk about these topics in general, befitting from Tig’s goal within and outside of the show. Remy and Bill work toward small breakthroughs, just as some viewers may need to open up (or respond as Tig does to people who do).
“One Mississippi” is more than the sum of its parts. For viewers who don’t need a nudge to talk about troubling past experiences, it’s a lovely and enlivening world to live in for three hours. And it remains as such for everyone else, with the added bonus of making a difference. Compassion is universal, and Notaro’s three refined love stories bring out the best in everyone.
“One Mississippi” Season 2 premieres Friday, September 8 on Amazon Prime.