Sophomore seasons in television are always risky, especially since the previous season was so spectacular. Is it possible to regain the same amazing storytelling vitality, or is there a further indication that this follow-up season has lost its luster? There were few shows whose second season almost had more to prove this time around than Minx, which was unceremoniously canceled at the then-HBO Max (despite receiving an initial renewal and being mostly through production), only to be saved a month later by Starz.
Given the existing television catalog’s abundance of period dramas, Minx’s new premium cable home feels like a better fit in many ways — and while this ’70s-set series has definitely veered into comedic territory, Season 2 follows not only the characters at the center of the story but the show itself as it more seriously wrestles with interrogating its own identity.
Season 1 of Minx concluded with the re-establishment of a fragile partnership between the magazine’s co-founders, self-proclaimed feminist Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond), and cigar-chomping adult publisher Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson). After Joyce makes the difficult decision to sever ties with the magazine, Doug appears on her front porch to extend a big-time olive branch — come back to Minx, and she’ll be the boss of things, installed in a new position of authority as his superior in all creative decisions.
It’s an offer too good to turn down, and as the story continues up with Season 2, it’s evident that it paid off — Minx is making headlines left and right for its women-tailored content, but what it truly needs now to keep going is money. Fortunately (or perhaps sadly, given Doug’s techniques), he already has the ideal backer in mind, so all the two of them have to do is persuade her to put money behind the magazine.
Minx seemed like a breath of new air in the television landscape when it originally aired, and not just because of its willingness to highlight a form of gaze that is so often overlooked on the small screen. You could have been attracted by the promise of its idea, which featured buff male bodies unapologetically stripping down left and right, but beyond the first-impression nudity was a deeper emotional center as played out through its key cast.
The opposites-attract dynamic between Joyce and Doug is reason enough to watch, with Lovibond and Johnson having the kind of chemistry that makes their sparring a pleasure in and of itself, but their frequent headbutting isn’t masking deeper feelings or signaling the culmination of some unconscious attraction later on.
In practically every sense, these two are diametrically opposite, but what one lacks, the other offers to fill in the gaps – a requirement in any successful collaboration. Doug may be prone to exaggerating his own sense of grandeur, but he’s a good businessman with an eye for opportunity. Joyce, on the other hand, sees the problem more logically and frequently needs to pull Doug in from his more imaginative ideas, but she’s also a lot less straight-laced than she used to be.
That being said, it’s not as if everything is going swimmingly inside the squad, and the biggest disruptor of all could be the support that Minx requires to keep afloat. Constance Papadopoulos (Elizabeth Perkins) appears to be everything Joyce admires; she’s the enigmatic widow of a shipping magnate who has thrived thanks to her late husband’s fortune, but she also has an innate knack for recognizing when someone is attempting to convince her to throw money at a worthless investment.
Surprisingly, it is Joyce, not Doug’s meticulously prepared ruse, who wins Constance over (and in the middle of a competitive dog show, of all places). Minx appears to be on course to be more successful than ever, thanks to Constance’s investment, and Doug and Joyce feel confident in their previously-established goal. Constance, on the other hand, believes that financing things should also give her a say in creative decisions — and this clash plays into the season’s biggest quandary, as Joyce is forced to reconsider not just what Minx represents, but the voices it has been excluding in its quest to cater to women only.
Whether Joyce realizes it or not, Minx has evolved beyond its initial conception. Although the magazine was originally intended to highlight women’s desires, it has since become clear that its demographic does not only include female readers — a fact that Minx photographer Richie (Oscar Montoya) tries to bring to Joyce’s attention while attempting to pin her down for meetings about new centerfold ideas.
It appears to be an innocuous undercurrent at first, a B-plot that plays mostly in the background of bigger, splashier episodes (like Doug’s decision to host a somewhat-illegal screening of Deep Throat for self-promotion), but it develops into a much more significant arc as the season progresses. On a broader level, it appears that the series is taking a necessary pause to question its own feminism, pausing to remark that it is absolutely possible to be discriminatory when solely prioritizing white women.
Although Joyce’s feminist ideals have grown by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the series, Season 2 reveals that she still has some growing to do in terms of evolving beyond the straight female gaze, and it’s an exciting development for the magazine’s potential future as well, even if the choice is bound to ruffle some characters’ feathers.
Joyce isn’t the only character dealing with identity issues this season; her older sister, Shelly (Lennon Parham), is dealing with issues related to her secret affair with Bottom Dollar employee Bambi (Jessica Lowe), which has been going on unnoticed by Shelly’s husband Lenny (Rich Sommer). What began as an unexpected tryst evolves into a storyline in which Shelly wrestles with her own deeper inclinations and where her preferences may truly lie, but she’s also offered a fascinating outlet to pen her more scandalous exploits in an anonymous erotica column for Minx.
The more Shelly expresses herself under the pen name Bella LaRouche, the closer she comes to understanding herself and what she genuinely desires, and it’s a self-realization tale that’s as amusing as it is welcome in terms of the show embracing even more identities.
Similarly, Doug’s right-hand woman and girlfriend Tina (Idara Victor) is trying to figure out what role she’s supposed to play in this new, more successful version of Minx, and it’s a predicament that could put her in conflict with Doug as well as competition for a position that she’s equally qualified for (if not more). While others may be more taken with Constance and her strong yet impenetrable exterior, Richie and Tina are among the first to notice that the heiress is not as forward-thinking as she portrays herself to be.
The most noticeable area in which Minx’s new season falls short is its tempo. Some of this is due to the amount of time allotted to the story. With only eight episodes in Season 2, each lasting around a half-hour, there’s only so much room to tell this story, and the side consequence is attempting to cram too much into a short amount of time.
This season is also more reliant on time leaps, which carry the plot along by as much as six months at a time when you almost wish it would slow down and check in on how the magazine’s rapid development might affect those behind the headlines.
When some of the season’s major percolating stories come to a head near the conclusion, you get the impression that it’s all wrapping up far too quickly and that Minx’s latest chapter would have benefited more not just from longer episodes but also from a greater episode count. However, the fact that the main gripe stems from wanting to spend more time with these individuals works in the show’s favor rather than against it.
Finally, Season 2 delivers on what worked so well for Minx the first time around — but it’s not simply more of the same. The characters continue to evolve and grow beyond the roles they played in Season 1, and the plot builds on the accomplishments and failures that come with navigating this type of commercial enterprise.
None of it would be possible without the writers involved, who include Ben Karlin, Joel Church-Cooper, Jessica Lamour, Nora Winslow, Sarah LaBrie, Mason Flink, Chris Garcia, and Emma Gase, as well as creator and showrunner Ellen Rapoport. Minx Season 2 more than confirms that the program was worth saving and that it deserves to be around for a long time.