‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ Season 2 Review

Watching The Sex Lives of College Girls should make you want to crawl into your TV screen, bust into the world of Essex College, and gossip with a gaggle of university students. How can you not chastise a student who panics and says “Um, cool!” when her professor’s husband suggests the two of them should have sex some time? A stray “Don’t do that!” will come flying out of your mouth at every misstep, followed by bounties of giggles and gasps.

Reactions like these are a phenomenon brought on by shows like Sex and the City and Girls as well—two similar HBO series that perfected the four leading ladies formula, years before The Sex Lives of College Girls debuted. Viewers gasped when Carrie Bradshaw left a post-it note in lieu of a break-up. We still cry laughing about when Shoshanna bitched at her besties at the beach house. And we all yelped in disgust last year, when Bela (Amrit Kaur) gave a dozen hand-jobs to the guys from her school’s comedy paper at the beginning of The Sex Lives of College Girls. For viewers of these kinds of shows, hooting and hollering has become a rite of passage.

Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series takes the four-women formula out of New York City and into an even more hellish landscape: college. Specifically, they’re at a prominent (and fictitious) Vermont institution that’s as expensive and as pompous as any other real Ivy League school. Laden with details like a riff on the Harvard Lampoon (here, it’s called The Catullan) and “ABC” parties (anything-but-clothes, where you wear dresses made out of paper bags or playing cards), The Sex Lives of College Girls is made for anyone who needs to laugh about the peaks and many, many pitfalls of college. Or anyone who wants to see what American university life can be like. Or anyone who’s currently in college. Basically, it’s a show meant for anyone who wants to have a good laugh, which should be all of us.

The girls—comedian-in-training Bela; newfound sex addict Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet); former soccer legend Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott); and preppy legacy gal Leighton (Reneé Rapp)—are back for more raucous moments with Season 2, whose first two episodes debuted Thursday. With chiseled new love interests, a Magic Mike-inspired strip show, and chlamydia ravaging through sorority rush week, The Sex Lives of College Girls’ sophomore season passes with flying colors.

Whereas a show like Glee or Gossip Girl might speed ahead into a new school year upon each new season, The Sex Lives of College Girls actually slows its roll. Season 2 returns to the fictional Ivy-branded Essex College after Thanksgiving break for a new trimester, ready to rumble. Strip down and hit the quad—the first matter of business is another naked party, this time out in the snow. Like last season, The Sex Lives of College Girls isn’t afraid to throw a fantastically themed party in every single episode.

Life at Essex College isn’t all frolicking and drunken fun. Each of the girls is thrust (no pun intended) into a whole array of different dilemmas this season. Bela can’t kick start her new women-led comedy zine, because none of her staff actually manages to make her laugh. After spending last trimester sneaking French test answers to frat boys, Kimberly has lost her scholarship and needs to figure out how to pay for school—and find a way to make things right with the frat, now on probation. Leighton can’t handle the fame of being the new openly queer girl on campus. And even Whitney, who has a loving boyfriend, feels empty and hopeless after soccer season wraps.

The norm of school-set shows is that these so-called students never actually go to class. Though we more frequently see the SLOCG’s main quartet hanging in their common room or getting hot and heavy in another dorm, it’s refreshing to see them actually attend classes. After Kimberly’s French affair in the first season, Leighton’s throwing all her efforts into the math team, while Whitney attempts to understand biology. Yes, the whole class part of college is interesting! Thank you, Sex Lives of College Girls, for somehow making me miss chugging coffee in lecture halls and dealing with bad attitudes on group projects.

More than anything, watching The Sex Lives of College Girls is heartwarming and easy.It’s so fun to see four women be close friends with each other, rarely, if ever, fighting (perhaps, as college roommates, this is the most unrealistic part of the show, but c’est la vie) or getting into catty arguments. They’re all quite different, but they find common ground to enjoy collegiate life together. Perhaps the two biggest polar opposites are Leighton and Kimberly, the rich-bitch prepster and the outcast Arizona valedictorian—but this makes their kinship even more remarkable, especially when Kimberly is the first person Leighton comes out to.

These girls are not perfect, though, and that’s why we love them so much. Kimberly is still an awkward mess. Leighton can’t commit to any one woman. Bela needs to balance her comedy life with her sex life. And Whitney wants a hobby. Though these are all insignificant problems in the grand scheme, to many young women in college, they can feel world-ending. To have a show that actually gives these adolescent realistic dilemmas, with the perfect amount of raunchiness and wit, feels like something to celebrate. Break out the champagne—or the vodka Red Bulls, kegs, and White Claws.

The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 premieres on HBO Max on Nov. 17, with new episodes debuting weekly on Thursdays.

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