[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]
Where to Watch ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’: Hulu (The series originally aired on Freeform.)
The pilot for “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” is still a marvel. What it accomplishes in such a short time — setting up a new family dynamic between Nicholas (Josh Thomas) and his two younger half-sisters (Kayla Cromer and Maeve Press) after their father dies unexpectedly — is paired so expertly with a perfect balance in tone. It’s more than your standard “there’s comedy in every tragedy” premise, where characters laugh through their grief. Watching that first episode, you can’t help but feel that something special is starting.
For two seasons, the intertwined lives of Nicholas, Matilda, and Genevieve powered their own emotional universe. Along with Nicholas’ eventual boyfriend Alex (Adam Faison), they formed the basis for the kind of show that could have easily stayed inside its cozy, at-times-uneasy bubble. Because of that, there were plenty of times when any two people in combination were forced to figure out what they were to each other. The roles of older sibling and guardian and confidante and unofficial therapist all got swirled together for more than just Nicholas. Watching the other three cycle in and try their hand at any of those lent this unconventional TV family a certain democratic feeling that you don’t get from many others.
At the end of last summer, Freeform canceled the series. As with many acclaimed shows approaching that Season 3 threshold, it’s hard not to feel like the best episodes of “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” were somehow still to come. That would have been a tall order, given how deft this show was at handling an entirely new set of production demands.
Along with other series like “Swagger,” “This Way Up,” and “The Good Fight,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” used Covid protocols to its unlikely advantage, tripling down on the kind of family talks you’d expect from this quartet as 2020 raged on. Lockdown wasn’t an overwhelming topic of conversation. (If anything, the season largely withholds mentioning the pandemic until one of Maeve’s friends gets caught in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-ish situation.) The writing team (led by Thomas) and director Silas Howard helped ensure that the atmosphere inside the house doesn’t curdle in the season’s first three episodes. In choosing a handful of other people to join the show’s “pod,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” struck gold casting Maria Bamford and Richard Kind to play the parents of Matilda’s girlfriend, Drea (Lillian Carrier). That occasional infusion of bold parental energy let the show have it both ways: a closely observed evolution of a family in flux that also made room for the outside world to peek in.
If the first half of “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” felt like a tribute to the parts of 2020 worth remembering, the second half did the same for 2021. Mainly through Genevieve, the show also captured the very specific feelings of excitement and trepidation that come with finally tiptoeing back out. One first date sequence through a hall of mirrors (a highlight in a season’s worth of great moments directed by Rachael Holder) proved that the show didn’t have to sacrifice any visual inventiveness filming Season 2 when and how it did. Back at the house, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” wasn’t a stranger to having characters share deep heart-to-hearts from opposite sides of a room. Having some added distance between people speaking hadn’t gotten in the way of emotional honesty before, and the show’s last round of episodes continued that.
If part of the question in the show’s premise was whether Nicholas was able to find a balance between being a brother and being a guardian, Season 2 gave Matilda and Genevieve even more room to figure things out on their own. Thomas, Cromer, Press, and Faison have such an easy on-screen dynamic that, even when things didn’t go according to plan for this family, the show had the freedom to follow wherever their respective relationships led. There were other, more figurative mirrors between Nicholas/Alex and Matilda/Drea, as both couples adapted to what the members of each pair learned about one another. While plenty of other pandemic-filmed entertainment honed in on the claustrophobia of being caught inside or being blocked out from specific comforting spaces, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” flipped those ideas and focused more on deciding who you choose to stay with.
In a lot of ways, that’s what makes the series finale even more bittersweet. Some of those choices are finalized (in the most elegant and beautifully minimal ways) and some are left achingly open. “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” never tried to follow the expected rhythms of an episode or a season, so there’s something both fitting and heartbreaking in how the show leaves off both resolved and unresolved. The series may not be continuing, but it’s certainly one to still celebrate.