If Season One of the webseries, Anyone But Me, was about scratching off the veneer of its cast of emotionally maturing characters, then Season Two is about getting at the exposed grain of the would-be friends. The series’ sophomore season begins by placing in proximity the fantasy of life, liberty and the lawful pursuit of personal happiness against the fears of personal discovery, identity, and rejection. Though experienced through the eyes of characters in a coming of age atmosphere, I can relate, as these are ageless misgivings with a personal familiarity blind to simple chronology.
The relationship of the lead characters, Vivian (Rachael Hip-Flores) and Aster (Nicole Pacent), conjures up reminiscent feelings of young love. I don’t mean in a juvenile or adolescent sense, but love in its infancy. You know, that newborn, unspoiled, first-breath-of-her, kind of love. It’s passionate, libidinous, and sultry…and it’s vulnerable. Doubt and distrust are tied to Aster’s familial history of relationships. When she is directed to therapy to assess her feelings regarding her parent’s separation, insight into her personal insecurities are revealed. When referring to her girlfriend, Aster tells her refreshingly irreverent therapist (Liza Weil), “I wish we were already past this age.” Pregnant pause. Aster naively feels that once she and Vivian graduate from the social viruses invading the body of their affection, they will be safe. The therapist (and I, the viewer) know that the young lover will learn time is not a vaccine that provides immunity from the emotional ills of the world. The required antibodies are unfortunately created only by the inevitable exposure to the human element.
Vivian is hesitant to reveal to her Aunt Jodie (Barbara Pitts) the true nature of her after-school specials with Aster. Aster is very comfortable with her sexuality and public displays of affection, but Vivian is concerned about the suburban reaction to her rainbow connection. After all, this is no longer Manhattan, Dorothy. Childhood gal pal, Sophie (Jessy Hodges), creates a cyclone of sexual tension when she rejects Jonathan (Mitchell Adams) as her choice and happens upon Vivian kissing Aster. She uncomfortably begins to question Vivian about her sexuality and accuses her old friend of secrecy. We find that the chaste Soph has sexual silences of her own, and quite frankly, the young lady doth protest too much, methinks, creating an observationally obtuse triangle…to at least one of the sides.
Archibald (Joshua Holland), the male half of the “fierce lesbian journalist/black dude with super drawing powers” wonder-twins, is forced to become the school snitch as punishment for drawing a comic panel depicting a potential sexual encounter with acting girlfriend, Elizabeth (Alexis Slade). This is the only part of the storyline that I don’t necessarily accept. A narc, over a comic panel? Considering my high school past, I would have been forced to become a DEA agent! Perhaps that is merely as much motivation as it takes in Westchester, but I would like to see something a little more ominous, perhaps the over-dose death of a student or friend, as impetus behind Archibald’s difficult decision to betray his loyalties and rat out his contemporaries.
As a testament to the production and writing team of Tina Cesa Ward and Susan Miller, the questions that I have about the second half of the season are more about what will happen next, and less about the lack of character development or vast holes in the storyline. These are the points I ponder with friends around the table at Club M. What will be Jodie’s reaction to Vivian’s reveal? Please let there be humor involved as I can relate to Jodie’s comedic coping mechanisms to the stresses of life. Will Vivian’s dad (Dan Via) ever get another pole dance? Will we know the “not so right” identity of the person who plucked the cherry from Sophie’s virginal tree? And does the fact that Vivian is the only character using a masculine pronoun mean anything? What will Aster do about the triangle, and will it be right? Can’t the episodes be any longer? I curse the countdown clock of those less than ten minute episodes. Hell, just wrap Vivian and Aster back up in that vintage broke-back blanket from episode six, give them free range, and let ‘em drive it home. After all, this isn’t their first rodeo. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about the content, right? Right.
This is a wonderfully produced and well written drama that captures my attention, peaks my curiosity, and stimulates my imagination. I’m not left with a sense of huh?, what?, but a sense of hmmmm. What more could I ask of Anyone But Me than to vivify my viewing experience?