During a star-studded promotional screening of ‘Deep Throat,’ Joan Didion shares a prescient observation. She doesn’t want to, at least not right now. All she wants is to enjoy the lavish party organized to promote Minx magazine. She checks that: All she really wants is to be left alone to use the bathroom, but Minx editor-in-chief Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) can’t contain her dizzying questions long enough for the acclaimed reporter to relieve her bladder. Joyce wants Joan to write for the magazine; something about “Deep Throat” and what she reflects on the changing culture of the 70s, if not society at large. Joan isn’t all that interested, and instead encourages Joyce to write the piece herself, but not before offering her reluctantly hasty assessment of the historical porn screened in the adjacent auditorium. “I don’t think that was their intention,” says Joan, after Joyce’s relatively quiet sister Shelly (Lennon Parham) says the film is quite funny. “But regardless, they ran into something.”
Much of “Minx” Season 2 lives on in this brief scene in a tiny bathroom. For one thing, Ellen Rapoport’s comedy (now on Starz) misses out on too many opportunities for, well, comedy. Despite the awkward setup, Joan’s scene isn’t all that funny, and there’s a consistent lack of the boisterous giggles that helped “Minx” season 1 fly. Even season 2 can’t stop semi-random historical figures from name-dropping. Warren Beatty is at the screening, along with Didion, and everyone from Annie Leibovitz to Linda Ronstadt is spread throughout the eight new episodes, as celebrity cameos played by celebrity impersonators. (It’s not like they can toss and age dozens of real-life stars.) These famous but unknown figures pop in and out of the story so often, they begin to look like props, a response further emphasized by the sparse character development and crackling narrative momentum of a story about the perils of mainstream success from people who set out to upend conventions.
Much of what Joyce does this season isn’t what she intends to do, yet she still stumbles into greater fame — which could work, if it didn’t seem like “Minx” was just as fuzzy in how she chooses to explore pertinent ideas (and playful laughs).
In its clever and highly entertaining first season, the sex-positive sitcom questions whether it is possible to preserve feminist ideals while working within a patriarchal system. Embodying that give-and-take are a classic odd couple: Joyce, a second-wave feminist with a Vassar degree whose only naked fantasy is to leave a Hollywood party to read a book in her bathtub, and her editor, Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), who has made a living — a life he loves — pegging sleazy porn across the San Fernando Valley. She dreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize, he dreams of living like Prince Philip (just the untold riches, not the snooty, royal stuff). Together they make a winning team, but it remains questionable whether their combined success is evenly shared.
It’s fitting then that Season 2 begins with Doug dreaming. “It’s not a sex dream,” he tells his girlfriend and right-hand man, Tina (Idara Victor), but she wishes it were. After letting Joyce take Minx and look for a more likeminded publisher, Doug is scrambling. He can’t get another idea of Minx’s merit off the ground, and he can’t stop thinking (or dreaming) of the road not taken. Joyce, meanwhile, keeps meeting corporate executives who flatter her, promise her riches and feign enthusiasm for her feminist message, but are these men better suited for Minx or are they just wearing better clothes than Doug?
Soon enough, the platonic partners find their way back to each other and Minx continues her steady rise through the cultural ranks. Season 2 is full of big wins, many of which come with remarkable ease. Richie (Oscar Montoya) and Bambi (Jessica Lowe), who both left Doug’s Bottom Dollar Publications for a chance to work at Minx with Joyce, are burdened with random arcs that prove too similar to other characters. Richie and Joyce mirror each other, mostly in how they deal with newfound fame, but even when the series acknowledges their shared trajectories, it takes too long to tell much about those commonalities and contrasts. Bambi and Tina, on the other hand, get too close to each other without any acknowledgment, which leaves each fan favorite wandering around for most of the season, trying to be put to better use.
Shelly, one of the freshmen, is the only character who continues her streak without warning. Throughout the second season, she is constantly involved and sees significant growth. Lennon Parham remains top notch, dishing out raucous one-liners and punch lines with charming power, all while Shelly takes steady and believable strides toward personal and professional fulfilment. Most importantly, the development of her always feels fresh, even the moments she predicts feel honest instead of predictable, which isn’t always the case elsewhere.
While it skirts topics like toxic female rivalries and exclusive feminism, season 2 either neglects to fully engage with these issues or waits too long to do so. Such choices give the season a void that could be filled with stronger comedic set-ups or pure character development, but instead it lingers, like a slowly deflating balloon. There are highlights here and there — like Episode 2’s “Deep Throat” premiere and after-party, or a trip to Vegas in Episode 5 — but Joyce and Doug are separated far too often, to the detriment of the show. The more successful commentary of “Minx” feels like a conscious meta-infusion that is less unique to this particular erotic escapade but still relevant to its output.
Rather than emphasizing how their personalities tear them apart, season 2 places Doug as a capitalist and Joyce as an artist. She gets sucked into the trappings of financial success, whether it’s becoming glamorized by famous friends or slipping into the kind of carefree lifestyle that wealth allows, and she’s trying to engage with her own interests, whether it’s new magazine ideas (about science and “joggin'”) or in her personal life. (He’s fully committed to Tina, even though he’s putting more effort into her career.) Doug is largely blind to how Joyce’s public profile as a revolutionary voice might contrast with her burgeoning business in a male-dominated industry, but it’s not, and neither is “Minx.” Like “The Bear” before it, season two studies characters whose desire for change goes against the means by which they wish to create it. Can art in its purest form exist within a capitalist society?
It’s no surprise that “Minx” is being hung up on here. After being renewed and canceled at what was then HBO Max, the series has found a second home at Starz, which will host the eight new episodes. Since production was nearing completion before the cancellation, it’s not like Rapoport was writing his scripts amidst the network’s chaotic shuffle. But like Joyce, she’s still a writer, trying to tell a bold story about women while working within a patriarchal system. The parallels are there, whether they’re intentional or not, only this particular fight isn’t as unique as the story she’s telling. Regardless of intent, there’s more to be found here. “Minx” hasn’t done it yet.
“Minx” Season 2 premieres Friday, July 21 at midnight on the Starz app and 9 PM ET on Starz. New episodes will be released every week.