When I watched the Netflix series “Emily in Paris” last year, I thought it couldn’t actually get much worse than what I saw. Besides Emily’s (Lily Collins) fantastic outfits and the very pretty Paris scenery, there aren’t a whole lot of good things in this show. For those who aren’t yet aware, “Emily in Paris” is about American marketing executive Emily Cooper, who moves to Paris to work at a firm acquired by her company in Chicago. Chaos ensues, mostly of the quirky “clueless American in a foreign country” kind, as well as the “oh, girl…you MESSED UP” kind. The latter is in reference to the first season’s finale, where Emily, thinking that her neighbor Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) is leaving Paris, throws caution to the wind and sleeps with him. The only problem is that Gabriel is Emily’s first French friend Camille’s (Camille Razat) boyfriend. The season ends with Emily realizing that Gabriel is staying in Paris after all, which puts her in a sticky position as a result. Sometimes a bit cringey, other times outright bad (like how Emily slept with a minor in the first season), it’s a bit questionable why “Emily in Paris” got renewed for a second season, let alone got nominated for a Golden Globe. But because I’m a hopeless optimist who believes things could get better, I decided to give this show’s second season another chance.
And, to my absolute surprise, the show got better. Not a whole lot better, but better enough for me to not want to throw my laptop out of the room, as I did after finishing the first season.
Don’t get me wrong: there were still pretty cringey, questionable moments in the show and I would still be annoyed if “Emily in Paris” got another Golden Globe nomination somehow. One of my biggest grievances with the show, for instance, is how the whole Emily-Gabriel-Camille love triangle is handled. While Camille shows off an actual backbone during the first half of the show (staying away from Emily and Gabriel, one of her most iconic lines to a semi-apologetic Gabriel being “it’s not like Emily just tripped and fell on your d*ck”), she turns into quite the Regina George. In a “Mean Girls”-esque fashion, Camille manipulates Emily into thinking that they’re back on good terms, making our silly protagonist promise that neither of them will get together with Gabriel.
Of course, this is all a part of Camille’s greater plot to win back Gabriel’s heart, and to be honest, it’s a little sad. On the one hand, I think Camille deserves to be a little manipulative and rude—after all, her so-called friend did sleep with her boyfriend. But on the other hand, her boyfriend also slept with her friend. My personal vote is for Camille to find better friends and a better romantic partner, but apparently the creators of “Emily in Paris” have other plans for her character, especially given how the second season ended: with Camille moving into Gabriel’s apartment, just when Emily’s about to make her grandiose confession of love. Again, I suppose Camille’s ruthlessness is understandable, but it’s 2022, and we’re still having female characters getting into this kind of hissy fit over a man who, frankly, doesn’t deserve either of them? This is such a tired trope, and while I can’t say I’m totally surprised by this twist, I’m still a bit disappointed.
That said though, there were enough actual improvements that made my watching this 10-episode comedy-drama series actually a bit more tolerable. For one, all of the characters speak actual French when Emily’s not included in the scene, which was a complaint from the audience after the first season. For another, the side characters—which, to be honest, are probably the most likable characters in the series—are even more fleshed out this season, with actual storylines that made them a little more dynamic than they had been in the first season. My personal favorite was that of Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), who is no longer just Emily’s sidekick, and now she reveals she has a real dream of her own: becoming a singer. As such, the audience gets the fantastic treat of listening to Ashley Park’s lovely singing voice—her cover of BTS’ “Dynamite” even got a nod of approval from the K-pop group’s lead Kim Nam Joon (nicknamed ‘RM’)! Talk about impressive.
But perhaps the most impressive turnaround of this season was the final episode, in which we see Emily’s boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) go toe-to-toe with Emily’s boss back in Chicago, Madeline (Kate Walsh). Here, we finally get a glimpse of exactly how much Emily’s changed since coming to Paris—how despite her cultural blunders, she’s at least somewhat grown accustomed to the way of life in Paris, and more importantly, how she’s grown onto her French colleagues. So Madeline’s entry into the fold is a striking one: where Sylvie emphasizes the personal relations between the firm and its clientele, Madeline emphasizes the financial. Although I personally have no idea how the French work culture is in real life, the final episode painted an interesting picture of how the American business brain works. Madeline is incredibly entitled, taking over offices and acting as though her methods are the best and only methods—it’s a quick reminder to the audience of exactly how Emily was like when she first started working in Paris.
But Emily’s grown a little bit by now. She struggles against Madeline and does everything she can to keep the peace between her very American boss and her French colleagues, and, to be honest, she becomes a much more sympathetic character as a result. If we forget her mess of a love life, Emily actually becomes a bit more tolerable of a character. Her genuine respect for her French colleagues, combined with her quiet disapproval of Madeline’s entitlement all points to how perhaps there’s a bit more to her cutout personality.
So, with all that said, I guess I can grudgingly admit that the second season of “Emily in Paris” is just O.K. It’s still ridiculous, and I still question the things I do to watch Lily Collins’ lovely face, but you know—there’s room for “just O.K.” television. There’s room for ridiculous, over-the-top television. So bring it on, season three—let’s see what you’ve got.