November 17, 2022
*Warning: Some spoilers ahead for Season 1 and the first six episodes of Season 2. If you’ve forgotten about the first season, feel free to revisit our review of Season 1.*
“This is spectacle. I’m talking tear-away pants, body oil, happy trails — both front and back, there won’t be a dry panty in the house!”
So says Bela Malhotra (Amrit Kaur) in The Sex Lives of College Girls’s second season — which drops today on HBO Max — as she plans a Magic Mike-style strip show doubling as a climate change fundraiser with campus fraternity Theta. Why could she possibly be doing such a thing? Well, as Bela declares, “It combines my two loves: sexy, greasy men and bossing people around.” That, and after Bela and her first-year college roommates Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), and Leighton (Renée Rapp) exposed Theta’s cheating ring, the fraternities agreed to ban them from all campus parties. With the strip show, they can help the frat win back its standing with the college and undo their party ban. It’s a win-win.
It’s a classic Sex Lives plot — not visibly raunchy but toeing the line (as Bela reassures the dean: “All penises will remain safely stowed.” Too bad.), hilarious but limited in emotional depth. Still, much of Sex Lives’s second season feels more meaningful than its first, mainly due to the quartet at its center no longer being just horny, but also exploring who they are — academically, sexually, and in what they value. This season doesn’t show as much as other teen shows today (think Sex Education, Euphoria, Heartbreak High), and rarely challenges its audience to go deeper (in all the ways), yet it does make for cozy, comfortable watching. But is that enough?