The many horrors of puberty and adolescence have never been so raunchily funny or, well, animated than in Netflix’s Big Mouth. In its first season, the series from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett somehow managed to be filthy, funny, and strangely heartfelt all at the same time. It was as close to a perfect distillation and shared experience of those uncomfortable formative years in everyone’s lives as most people would want to get. The fact that it was an animated series that featured talking sex pillows and pubic hair, hormone monsters, and the occasional musical number didn’t hurt, and it kept things from getting too creepily specific or too close to home for those watching.
In season 2, Big Mouth continues to let those tweenage hormones rage out of control, and the primary voice cast of Kroll, John Mulaney, Jason Mantzoukas, and Jessi Klein is just as funny and awkward and gross as they were the first time around. This time, though, the series clearly has the confidence of a successful first season under its belt, even if its main characters are desperately in search of their own confidence most of the time. That assuredness leads Big Mouth into some funny, gross, and gut-wrenchingly embarrassing scenarios as the tweens embark on yet another school year where their bodies are doing weird stuff without their permission, and their emotions are all over the place. The result is a rambunctious set of new episodes that begins to explore just how difficult it can be when best friends Nick (Kroll) and Andrew (Mulaney) begin maturing at wildly different rates, while Jessi (Klein) and Jay (Matzoukas) are way off in left field, from an emotional perspective.
The new season picks up almost immediately after the season 1 finale, and that momentum carries through nicely in the first few episodes. Jessi and Jay are on the run from their respective parents, under the illusion that they’ve embarked on some great romantic adventure together. But Big Mouth quickly dispels any such notion, illustrating in its own blunt fashion just what a poorly thought-out plan theirs was, and just how poorly matched the two really are. Plucky and resilient as ever, though, Jessi and Jay return no worse for wear, though their disorderly home lives remain a source of confusion and angst for them both.
Early on, the season demonstrates a willingness to follow through on some of the developments in its characters’ lives. This is most evident with Jessi and Jay’s threads, as the former is still reeling from her parents’ pending divorce, and the fact that her mother had an affair with another woman. Jay, meanwhile, is stuck contending with his mostly absentee mother (Chelsea Peretti), who spends her days at the bottom of a wine bottle and is oblivious to the lives of her children until she crosses paths with the disturbingly incompetent Coach Steve, who seems to have unfettered access to a group of wildly impressionable children, and is a massive lawsuit against the school district waiting to happen.
That Big Mouth season 2 puts greater focus on characters like Coach Steve, indicates a willingness to expand on its ancillary characters and develop them into something more substantial than the butt of someone else’s jokes. Big Mouth doesn’t necessarily plumb the obviously shallow depths of who Coach Steve is, but his presence with the kids and the relationship that blossoms between him and Jay, on account of Jay’s mom being pickled and lonely, is in its own unique way, somehow affecting.
But the emphasis on characters who function outside the more intimate circle of Nick, Andrew, Jessi, and Jay doesn’t detract from the core stories that ultimately fuel the series. Each character is given his or her own distinct storyline this season, some, as in the case of Andrew, help introduce new characters, like the Shame Wizard, voiced by David Thewlis. The Shame Wizard is an all-powerful offshoot of the hormone monster, someone even Maurice cowers in fear of when he finally appears after Andrew is caught with his pants down (literally) by Nick’s older sister Leah (Kat Denning).
Incredibly, the Shame Wizard takes a more important role than just putting Andrew on trial for his various perversions and hormone-induced sins against humanity; his arrival begins to put the entire season into context. There begins to be a greater sense of self-awareness among the four main characters, not just that they are going through some changes, but also that the world around them is increasingly aware of those changes as well. That presents some interesting challenges for the kids' relationships, like Andrew’s increasingly awkward confrontations with his father and Jessi’s disintegrating connection with her mother. Nick, too, begins to feels the pressure of onset puberty, but mostly due to the lack of any outward signs he’s following in his friends’ footsteps. That makes his would-be romance with a classmate all the more difficult as he finds himself coming up short (again, literally) against a much more mature suitor for the object of his affections.
It all adds up to another raunchy, riotous, and sometimes uncomfortably relatable second season of what is a welcome addition to Netflix’s lineup of adult-oriented animation. Despite the new additions and an attempt to bring supporting characters more into the fold, Big Mouth makes adolescent cringe comedy look easy, even if the real thing is anything but.
Big Mouth season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.