KILLING IT S2 Review: Less Snakes, More Incisive Comedy
Craig Robinson, Claudia O’Doherty, and Rell Battle star in the likably ambitious comedy series, created by Dan Goor and Luke Del Tredici ('Brooklyn Nine-Nine'), only on Peacock.
How to succeed in business by really, really trying.
The first season is now streaming on Peacock. The second season debuts Friday, August 17, 2023, in its entirety, only on Peacock. I've seen all 18 episodes.
Ever since Netflix pioneered the binge model with Lilyhammer in 2012, and then set the television world on fire with House of Cards the following year, other streaming services have experimented with the binge model, sometimes rolling out an entire series, sometimes debuting one to three episodes initially, followed by a more traditional (broadcast network) model of debuting one episode per week.
This calendar year, Peacock TV debuted its first two original shows, Rian Johnson's superb Poker Face and the less appealing Mrs. Davis, by debuting four hour-long episodes together, then rolling out subsequent episodes weekly. For its generally shorter-length comedy series -- Bupkis, Based on a True Story, and Twisted Metal -- it has debuted all episodes together.
Killing It debuted the first episode of its first season by itself last year, and it didn't appeal to me at the time, featuring a grouchy wanna-be (Craig Robinson) and an annoying Uber driver (Claudia O'Doherty) on a hot day in Florida, when they decide to team up to hunt wild pythons. Ugh, no thanks, pass, next series, please.
What a mistake I made! I misjudged the series entirely, as I discovered when I caught up with the remaining nine episodes of the first season. Yes, Craig Foster (Craig Robinson) can be grouchy, but he's also ambitious to achieve success for his family, even if he and his hearing-impaired wife Camille (Stephanie Nogueras) are separated. (His daughter Vanessa (Jet Miller) is optimistic but a bit more skeptical.) Rather than chasing wealth for the sake of increasing his net worth, he wants to use material success as a means to prove that he can be a good, traditional husband who provides for his family.
The woman who becomes his business partner, Jillian Glopp (Claudia O'Doherty), is relentlessly optimistic and cheerful. She is nowhere near as dim or dumb as she sometimes appears to be, though; she's not completely ignorant of what is happening around her, she just chooses to view things from a positive perspective, focusing on the few good things rather than the many bad things.
The first season also provides much more variety than just hunting snakes. One episode really nails motivational speakers and the money-grabbing conferences where they often gather in a mass of self-delusion, isolating the truly nasty, yet still very funny, Rodney LaMonca (Tim Heidecker). His daughter, Prada LaMonca (Anna Mae Quinn), is somehow even more savagely nasty, yet still very funny, than he is. Another episode follows an especially dogged and menacing debt collector (the superb Zach Grenier), who breathes pure evil.
The first season ended with the conclusion of the Great Florida Python Challenge and Craig's ex-wife and daughter headed across the country. Craig and Jillian remained in Florida to pursue his dream of starting a business.
Season two, which debuts all eight episodes together, focuses more tightly on Craig, Jillian, and Craig's criminally-inclined younger brother Isaiah (Rell Battle), who had also moved away, before returning to Craig's orbit. More ups and downs, as well as wild twists and turns, await, along with the return of certain characters from the first season, most of whom do things that are not easy to anticipate.
As much as I've enjoyed the pure comedy stylings that Dan Goor and Luke Del Tredici have perpetrated in the past as writers/producers (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation), they created this series with a wider range of emotions in mind. Primarily, yes, the show engages in many very amusing silly comedy hijinks, and never downshifts very far into dramatic territory. The LOL moments far outnumber the far fewer 'oh, that's a sobering, insightful point' moments, which keep popping up without making too much to-do about it.
As much as anything, it's an opportunity for Craig Robinson, a veteran supporting comedy player, to showcase his ability to portray a complex character. He's not entirely heroic; sometimes he does things that are not praiseworthy, and he gets his priorities mixed up sometimes. Still, he does something that's rare for any leading actor in a series: he has regrets, he changes his mind, he tries to apologize, and he aims to set things straight.
Claudia O'Doherty splendidly inhabits Jillian, making her believable in her open-hearted kindness and desire to do right by people, not only those who are close to her, but also complete strangers. She has a strong sense of right and wrong. She is also screamingly funny, able to add a little zing or zang to lines to cheerfully wring every last possible laugh out of a situation.
Given more room for his 'criminal younger brother' character to develop, Rell Battle reveals more layers that make him much more authentic than the constant jokester we saw in the first season. He's funny in season one, but a more complete actor in season two. Among the guest stars, Anna Mae Quinn is the scariest, most rapacious businesswoman I have ever seen, even if her character is only 12 years of age.
Very, very funny, but also with something pointed to say about American society and the eternal chase for financial success, Killing It is a compulsively watchable series, filled with many comic gems and a number of sterling performances.
- Luke Del Tredici
- Dan Goor
- Craig Robinson
- Rell Battle
- Claudia O'Doherty