I haven’t been home in a long time. No, that’s not right. I haven’t been to my hometown in a long time, not since Covid. But that’s not exactly right, either. I didn’t go home before Covid, not really. I left rural Georgia ten years ago, chasing career dreams and a chance at forever love with my now-wife, and even though my body’s been back to my hometown — picking peaches, and scooting my bum into the rough-hewn wooden tables at the Smoke House Barbecue Shack, and singing hymns beside my grandparents in their favorite pew at church — my heart has never had the courage to be there with me.
Too many memories of too much hurt from the people who were supposed to protect me, too many moments of reliving rejection from the people who were supposed to love me no matter what, too many tears I cried and too many tears I didn’t, deep depression and endlessly silenced desperation. I listen to the Indigo Girls’ “Southland in the Springtime,” while I make buttermilk biscuits in my New York City kitchen, never knowing if I’m going to laugh or tear up when I get to the part where they say God must’ve been teasing when he made them be Yankees. I’m one half of a Hallmark movie, if they made Hallmark movies about middle age lesbians.
There’ve only ever been two TV shows about this incredibly common way of being for people like me: Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi, which was cancelled way too soon. And now, HBO’s Somebody Somewhere, which kicked off its second season last week and is maybe the best middle age queer woman series I’ve ever seen. And one of the best series about middle age women, full stop.
Somebody Somewhere follows Bridget Everett‘s Sam, the sister of a lesbian who passed away, who moves back to her hometown in rural Kansas after he sister’s death. Sam has a complicated relationship with her still-living sister, and especially with their alcoholic mother. She has a complicated relationship with life in general. She’s never been able to reconcile the girl who grew up here and the woman who escaped. She doesn’t really know what she wants to be doing with her life. She doesn’t have a lot of close friends. All of that changes one day when she flees the school where she’s working after reading a student’s essay about a loving sister, and is chased out by her former classmate, Jeff Hiller’s Joel. He just wants to comfort her. This kindness moves her so much that she drops her guard with him, and they form one of the most prismatic friendships on TV. They’re joined by Murray Hill’s trans scientist Fred Rocco. Together, they find so much humor, so much heart, and even an aspirational amount of softness in the hard rural world.
Season two deepens Sam and Joel’s friendship. They want to have fun. And they do. Bridget Everett and Jeff Hiller are so good together, I couldn’t believe it when I found out they haven’t been real friends their entire life. Their chemistry is so lived in, so real, it reminds me of my relationships with my best friends. But they’re doing more than comforting each other and making each other laugh; in season two, especially, they’re empowering each other to go after their dreams. Joel left church at the end of last season, and Sam is supporting him through his crisis of faith. Sam has decided to tip-toe toward the dreams she’s always had of singing. And even Fred’s up to major life-growth shenanigans.
Probably my favorite thing about Somebody Somewhere is that it’s actually really low stakes in the grand scheme of things, even in just the grand scheme of HBO’s usual Sunday night TV fare. No dragons are on the move, no one’s about to blow up a multi-billion dollar company because their dad never loved them, Zendaya’s not crying, no one’s even slamming doors. Time doesn’t move the same when you reach middle age, things ebb and flow, and slowly build and slowly erode, and so much of being an adult is figuring out what to cling to and what to let go of, how to navigate the lazy river of life just running its course. Things don’t have to be dramatic to be heartbreaking, and heartbreak can live for an entire life, under the surface, like a fault line that might or might not even reveal itself.
And Just Like That will be back soon on HBO Sunday nights, all glitz and glamour and uptown brunch and downtown bars and one pair of shoes that cost more than everything in your closet combined. Miranda and Che Diaz, they’ll be having all kinds of sex in the city. But I can already tell that I’ll stay in Manhattan, Kansas with Sam, until I can find the courage, like she has done, to let my heart go home.