Saying “There’s no falling in skateboarding,” would be like saying, “There’s no crying in baseball.” People fall all the time, but it’s not the falling in Betty that’s surprising, but the owning up to those falls that makes this series so disarming. Maybe that’s just a truth about skateboarding culture that non-skateboarders wouldn’t know and, in the case of the literal falls, that’s probably true. When Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) is trying to figure out how she wants to edit her clips, for example, she brings up including some of her falls on purpose. That’s not a philosophy you run into that often in sports, where erasing mistakes seems much more popular, but it’s a philosophy that extends beyond the skate park in Betty and mixes well with the series’ New York state of mind.
In other words, not every episode of Betty‘s second season is monumental, but it sure makes for a soothing half hour of television. That isn’t to say the series ignores current events because it doesn’t. Season two takes place during Covid and while not everyone is wearing masks all the time, it’s not a This Is Us situation, where the masks feel purely performative (it’s unclear if vaccines have entered the picture yet).
The economic impact of Covid on New York City is deeply felt in season two as well. While Indigo (Ajani Russell) is still looking for work to pay back her mom (Eisa Davis) for bailing out her friends last season, Janay (Dede Lovelace) is on a mission to find a new spot for the skate ramps from the indoor skatepark that’s closing down. We also meet Janay’s cousin (Roblé Ali) who, after losing his kitchen at the community center, takes up shop in her bedroom to continue providing meals to the elderly (this later leads to a great callback to the title of Crystal Moselle’s film, Skate Kitchen, which Betty was spun-off from though, unlike the series, Skate Kitchen’s streaming on Hulu).
Romance is also in the air this season, as the series looks at how courtship has changed post-#MeToo (an aspect that hasn’t been explored as much). Honeybear (Kabrina Adams) continues to struggle with communicating her feelings to Ash (Katerina Tannenbaum), which feels like an honest problem for the couple to come up against.
Sexism is still alive in skateboarding, as Janey has trouble getting people to listen to her (a fact that is made blatantly clear when all it takes is a new love interest (Moisés Acevedo) speaking up for people to help her). Camille begins to realize the sponsor she hustled to get might not be worth the free skateboarding gear. Kirt (Nina Moran), meanwhile, tries to curb some of the sexism and inadvertently becomes a female messiah (this never stops being funny, though Moran brings heart to these scenes, as well, when it dawns on Kirt that she might be a hypocrite).
Moselle directs all six episodes again and the show’s sparing use of animation makes magic feel possible, while at the same time all of the girls are dealing with real world problems. It’s not an easy balance but somehow Betty maintains it, while putting the characters and their relationships first at all times.
Season two is available now on HBO Max.