The first season of Breeders kind of came out of nowhere for me. I love Martin Freeman, so I tuned in just for him at the beginning, but by the end, I was more invested in the story than I was seeing a favorite actor on screen. (The flip side of this would be only continuing my binge of Girls to get as much Adam Driver as possible.)
Season one was a mix of comedy and drama in a way that only the British can do it. It follows Paul (Freeman) and Ally (Daisy Haggard), parents of two young children who are trying their best to keep up their relationship, lives, and of course, parenting. It’s a series with the goal of examining the reality of parenting (and my full thoughts on the first season can be found here). Martin Freeman has described his inspiration for the show being the feeling of full, complete, absolute love for your children combined with the concurrent frustration that comes along with parenting young kids. The first season tackles this idea really well. You don’t see a lot of nuance like this when it comes to parenting in popular media. So the mix of those ideas with a perfect blend of comedy and drama made for an excellent and affecting introduction to these characters.
The second season saw a jump forward in time. The kids are now 13 (Luke, played by Alex Eastwood) and 10 (Ava, played by Eve Prenelle). This opened up the possibility for different angles for the show to explore, and for the most part, it does it well, but something felt off about this season of TV for me. At the end of season one (mild spoilers ahead) Paul had resolved to go to see someone to deal with his anger issues that were plaguing him. His character has the most explored arc and it’s satisfying to see him having made significant progress as the second season begins.
But of course, older kids means there is a whole new slew of challenges for Paul and Ally to deal with as parents. Most notably, Luke is diagnosed with anxiety, and the parents have to discover how to handle that, as mental health wasn’t given as big of a priority when they were Luke’s age. Variations on this theme are explored consistently throughout the 10 episodes. It also creates a really interesting dynamic where you see Paul learning about himself through his son’s qualities in ways he never would have otherwise, which causes him to do some introspection. It allows for really interesting character work throughout.
Sadly, Ava is often pushed to the side as Luke’s struggles become the focus of the show. It would have been effective if there were some storylines explored about Ava feeling neglected, but it’s not used thematically. It’s simply the fact that the writers don’t seem to have enough time to devote to Ava as it’s all being spent on Luke and the parents’ relationship. It’s unfortunate because of how natural Prenelle is as a young actress and how unnatural Eastwood can seem at times.
On the whole, this is a very good season. Its themes aren’t always the type that I can relate to, since I am in my mid-20s and no children are on the horizon. But the human element is there and the show always gives you a reason to care. The acting from the two main leads is top notch. I’ve obviously come to expect excellence from Freeman, but I’ve not seen much at all of Haggard. She has the perfect calmly chaotic energy to play off of Freeman’s signature annoyed everyman. But there are layers to both of them that make it completely worth a watch.
Season three of Breeders is officially in the works and I’m excited to see where it will go. The second season ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and it showed the show’s willingness to “go there.” It doesn’t sugar coat anything, yet it’s still consistently laugh-out-loud funny. That mix is its biggest strength and the reason I’ll be back the night the next season premieres.