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‘Hacks’ Season 2: The Funniest Road Trip You’ll Ever Take

Jean Smart is a goddess.

Jean Smart as Deborah Vance and Hannah Einbinder as Ava in Hacks, standing in the desert.

Season 1 of Hacks, the HBO Max sitcom about a veteran comic and a disgraced young comedy writer forced to save their foundering careers by working together, ended at a turning point for Deborah (Jean Smart) and Ava (Hannah Einbinder). After spending the entire season sniping at each other, they finally start to open up after Ava’s father dies. Their working relationship also starts to gel, as Ava helps Deborah craft a new, more honest and confessional show when her Las Vegas residency is canceled. Everything seems to be turning around for the duo until Ava, drunk and high and angry at Deborah’s abuse, sends a revealing email to a couple of producers making a show about female bosses from hell. In the final shot of the season finale, you can almost see the email hovering between the two of them, a bomb waiting to go off.

All the best things about Hacks are back in Season 2, with the series pushing all of its edgiest material even further. The stakes are higher, the comedy is sharper, and the drama at the heart of Ava and Deborah’s thorny relationship is even more engrossing. Season 2 finds Ava and Deborah on the road, with Deborah hitting comedy clubs and state fairs across the country so that she can test and refine her new material. Meanwhile, the hapless staffers, managers, and family members in their orbit struggle with their own lives, juggling the fallout from Deborah’s career troubles with their own chronically bad decisions.

Both Smart and Einbinder are in top form in Season 2. Ava continues to be her own worst enemy, repeatedly sabotaging herself just when it looks like things might work out in her favor. She tries to be socially conscious, but she’s so clueless about her own privilege that all she’s capable of is sanctimony. Deborah continues to be the queen of acidic humor, taking Ava down with delectably petty barbs that are so sharp you’ll wince. But the series isn’t just two rich white women tearing each other down for eight episodes. There’s a surprising amount of tenderness between Ava and Deborah—possibly because, underneath all the bluster and bile, they can’t help but recognize each other as kindred spirits. What makes their constant sparring so satisfying to watch is its unpredictability: you never know when they’re going to insult each other or have a heart-to-heart. Or both, in the same breath.

And what about that email from Season 1? Sometimes, shows set up a heart-stopping cliffhanger only to instantly reset everything at the start of the next season. Hacks doesn’t do that. Ava’s email doesn’t go away. It grows, it mutates, it sprouts venomous fangs and bat wings and spawns a whole brood of consequences. The issues that led to the email in the first place—Ava’s toxic sense of entitlement, Deborah’s habit of bullying the people around her to deflect from her own issues—are the driving force of Season 2’s plot, but even those problems lead to some surprising turns, with both Ava and Deborah softening and growing in unexpected ways. Deborah’s character arc is especially intriguing, as she mines her own life for material for her show and accidentally ends up having some genuine revelations about herself.

The supporting characters are just as good as they were in Season 1, and now that we’ve gotten to know them, the show plumbs their depths even further. Deborah’s assistant Marcus (played by Carl Clemons-Hopkins, who was nominated for an Emmy for his performance in Season 1) frantically tries to deal with the grief from his breakup with Wilson (Johnny Sibilly). Ava and Deborah’s manager Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) finds creative new ways to deal with his incompetent assistant Kayla (played by the incandescent Megan Stalter). Kiki (Poppy Liu), Marcus’s mom (Angela Elayne Gibbs), and the rest of the supporting cast light up every scene they’re in. Some of the best scenes in the season are the ones that feature a roomful of eccentric personalities ricocheting off each other.

Reviewers were given access to six out of the eight episodes in Season 2, so we don’t know how or where Ava and Deborah’s journey will end. If the finale is anything like the journey to get there, though, it’ll be as moving as it is hilarious.

Season 2 of Hacks premieres on May 12 on HBO Max.

(image: WarnerMedia)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at