The season premiere of "Please Like Me" (entitled “Milk”) definitely surpassed my expectations. Like all the episodes that precede it, “Milk” reveals the universal appeal of the show by focusing on the collective experiences of the characters (no matter their sexual orientation or mental health). The episode is also an awkward reunion (of sorts), which allows the viewers to catch up on the lives of the characters they have haven’t seen for nearly a year (although the plot flashes forward a couple of years after the events of the first season).
We open in a club where Josh and his roommates, Tom and Patrick, talk about Josh ruining his chances with a guy (Josh brought up the story of his potentially pedophilic imaginary friend, Mickey). Like most of his witty banter, Josh focuses his dry humor toward making fun of his friends, including saying that Patrick (his crush) is “very cool” and likes to talk about Harley Davidsons and hip hop music with his “cool gang.” The group’s silly antics segue to one of my favorite elements of the show: the theme song. Usually, “I’ll Be Fine” by Clairey Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes plays against images of Josh cooking/dancing, but this time, the creators upped their production budget and choreographed a performance that features an angelic drag queen (Suzy Akiko) and a stable of choirboys who disrobe to reveal their chiseled bodies. Amongst the crowd of onlookers, Patrick makes out with a bandana-sporting guy, Tom kisses a random blonde, and Josh sips his drink while dancing alone to the music.
Their debaucherous night cuts to the morning after when Josh shames his roommates for their sexual trysts (Josh disapproves of Patrick’s guy while Tom is still reeling from his girl repeatedly calling him evil). Meanwhile, Josh’s mother, Rose, dyes her hair and talks to her hairdresser about everything from Oprah to gluten intolerance. The intimate close-up on Rose during her endless chatter is quite unsettling and foreshadows the “big news” Rose will reveal to everyone.
The crux of the episode focuses on Josh’s relationship to his baby sister, Grace. His father, Alan, and his stepmother, Mae, ask Josh to babysit Grace while they have a night out (Alan believes this will be a great way for Josh to forge a relationship with his sister). Josh reluctantly agrees and spends the entire night watching Grace while his roommates have sex. In one of the more poignant sequences, the episode juxtaposes the characters’ various types of relationships against one another: Tom hooks up with Niamh even though he is uninterested in rekindling a relationship (it is revealed that Tom’s relationship to Claire ended when she accepted a job in Germany), Patrick caresses a guy he just met on Grindr, and Josh grows closer to his baby sister when he cleans her poopy diaper by throwing her in the shower.
The episode ends with an unplanned get together of the central characters (save for Claire and Geoffrey). In a sobering moment, the show temporarily sheds its humorous veneer to tackle Rose’s mental disorder. As Rose tries to tell everyone about her “big news,” she gets distracted and inadvertently forces the characters to face the reality of their situations (she reveals Josh’s crush to Patrick and asks Niamh if she is still “part of this group.”). Rose finally reveals her news, which is what most of us either expected or suspected: Rose decided to stop taking her medication (after discovering she was incapable of feeling sadness when seeing a dog being crushed by the wheel of a car). The show transitions to a brief glimpse of everyone’s reaction, then immediately cuts to the credits.
In creating a narrative ellipsis between season one and season two, Josh Thomas forces his viewers to actively try to fill in the gaps. Fortunately, “Milk” doesn’t force-feed exposition to its viewers, allowing them to slowly discover what happened to these characters and what brought them to their current situations. It is a show that actively challenges being categorized as a “gay show” because it hits so many emotional and universal truths. Sexuality is a character trait rather than a narrative impetus, and the specificity of these characters helps make the universal appeal all the more tangible.