“One Mississippi” Season Two Is a Delightfully Dark Masterpiece, Also Must-See Lesbian TV

If you’ve yet to watch One Mississippi, do it now, maybe even do it before you read this review, which contains spoilers. Season Two debuted on Amazon Prime yesterday, there’s only six 25-minute episodes per season, and it is truly a gift you could give yourself.


In Season One of One Mississippi, Tig, her brother Remy and her stepfather, Bill, are reeling from the death of Tig’s mother, which happens just after Tig’s survived breast cancer treatment and a near-death experience with C. Diff Colitis. She’s wrecked, emotionally and physically, while Remy maintains his dopey aimlessness and Bill; his uptight fussiness. The stages of grief defy their implied order, estranged family members are thrust into emotionally heightened close quarters, and the living take a reluctant, numb, desperate inventory of their own lives. These are three humans with very little in common, and now that Mom’s dead, they’re technically not even related, as Bill informs them with trademark detachment in the pilot episode. Throughout Season One, they handle, in their own bizarre and often hilarious ways, the inevitable post-death avalanche of exposed family secrets, the cruelly sterile logistical arrangements and, of course, the wondering where to go from here. In her poem “The Thing Is,” Ellen Bass calls this post-loss state of existence “an obesity of grief,” continuing:

You think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

This is where we find ourselves at the start of Season Two: Tig has decided to quit Los Angeles and remain in Mississippi and, along with her family, she’s picking up the impossible pieces, looking life right in its stupid mean eyeballs, deciding, “yes, I will take you. I will love you, again.” It’s a heavy premise for a comedy, but if anybody can pull that off, it’s Tig Notaro, whose fame-meter exploded after a stand-up set that managed to extract genuine humor from unspeakable tragedy. That signature is all over this show, co-created with Diablo Cody.

Over the course of Season Two, One Mississippi invokes a laundry list of hot topics usually pummeled to a bloody pulp in mainstream television ― sexual assault, institutionalized racism, homophobia, misogyny, sexual harassment, childhood trauma, and the brutal history of the American south. But it does so with precise care, trusting itself and the audience to catch on without a heavy hand pushing them forward.

Beth Grant and Carol Mansell as Mellie Saint-Clair and Beulah Lancaster

The result is a story that acknowledges the present moment without leaning on it too hard, or exploiting it. It’s whimsical and fresh and progressive and tender in parts and hopeful in other parts and compelling throughout. I laughed, I cried, I wanted more, I even cared about the heterosexuals. It’s not escapism because it’s way too real, but it’s precisely the best any of us could possibly do under the circumstances. Tig, a liberal masculine-of-center lesbian in a deeply Red State, butts up against conservatism and a hush-hush approach to conflict and despair on every level, but does so with humor and resilience. By grounding her show in Mississippi, the “other side” referred to hypothetically by city dwellers aren’t mysterious boogeymen or relatives you only see at Christmas; they’re the relatives you see every day and the receptionist at the local hospital. Tig knows this landscape — she grew up in Mississippi and Texas.

If Season One was the aftermath, Season Two is the rebuild, and all three protagonists are given meaningful romantic arcs. These are bizarre, unconventional people, the types of humans that terrify mainstream television and delight streaming networks, who have become, despite intense corporate affiliations, something like what indie film was during its ’90s peak. Shows like One Mississippi, Transparent, Take My Wife, Orange is the New Black and Master of None give us refreshingly authentic queer narratives driven by actual queer people behind the camera, and in the process they manage to summon more compelling heterosexual stories, too.

What does love actually look like, what constitutes a “good fit,” and who’s entitled to it? Are we drawn together by what we like, what we do, what labels we use to describe ourselves? Or is it a complementary sense of humor, a similar set of quirks, not what we do in the world but how we see the world and our place in it? All three attempt to navigate Tig’s recent and ongoing disclosure that she was sexually molested by Bill’s father as a child, which was witnessed by Remy and unknown to her parents. Throughout the season, I’m reminded again and again of that earworm of a line in the 1994 musical Rent, I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine. In these wry, self-conscious, self-styled universes, we learn that love isn’t enough, that loving someone and making a life with them are entirely separate spheres. But there’s a freedom there, too, because the relationships that emerge from accepting uncertainty offer difference as an opportunity for growth and education, for discovering new things about yourself and the world.

Kate (Stephanie Allynne) and Tig (Tig Notaro)

Tig’s love story in One Mississippi is, of course, the one with Kate, the now co-host of her radio show played by her real-life wife and One Mississippi co-writer, Stephanie Allynne. Like Allynne was, Kate is ostensibly straight but also falling for Tig and not sure what to do with those feelings. (One valiant attempt involves, of course, watching The L Word.) Tig’s attempts to date women other than Kate are dates that make plain what she doesn’t want. Although the straight girl / lesbian love story is a trope as old as time, One Mississippi breathes new life into it, perhaps because it is based on an actual story, with details that feel real because they are. Its process is determined by the personalities of the two women involved, rather than by the standard tropes.

Meanwhile, Bill begins dating Felicia, an African-American insurance agent who works in his building and shares a similar appreciation for rules, order, and being practical. Their attraction has a Michael Scott / Holly Flax vibe — their quirks and compulsions are entirely out of sync with the rest of society, and yet they have found each other, which means there is hope for us all! When she calls him out for honoring the portrait of a wealthy female slaveowner showcased on a restaurant wall, he promptly begins educating himself in just absolute earnest, listening to “The New Jim Crow” on audiotape next to a buzzworthy stack that includes Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis and The American Slave Coast. The ensuing story is one of many places where this tension around revisionist Southern histories is seamlessly addressed, a topic that’s gotten even more relevant since shooting wrapped on One Mississippi. This happens several times in One Mississippi — women butt up against white cis men who’ve never had to question their position in the world or the oppression of those less privileged, and are pushed to re-examine that comfortable ignorance. But what makes it work is that these topics aren’t shoehorned in; they’re part of genuine character development, and nobody gets a pat on the back for just being decent.

Honestly, after spending last week immersed in Ryan Murphy’s latest foray into lesbian representation and political commentary, American Horror Story: Cult, I needed this. Putting women in charge of telling their own damn stories: it works.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2743 articles for us.

37 Comments

  1. IT IS SO SO GOOD. The chemistry between Tig and Kate is unbelievable (I mean duh they’re real life partners but still). I couldn’t believe Tig added that sexual assault story matching 100 the allegations against Louis C.K.

  2. I live this show so much. I just rewatched it after 1/2 a day on an airplane.

    I addition to everything you’ve said (so articulately) Tig has great taste in clothes and music. I was happily surprised to see how the Amazon interface links readily to the music on the show (very 21st century). Sadly no link to Tig’s tees, sporty tops and ever present backpack. Stephanie clothes were also super cute.

  3. I love this show. I’ve been waiting for s2 and streamed it all over the weekend. My only complaint is that now I have to wait a whole year for season 3 (fingers crossed for s3, anyway).

    If anyone hasn’t seen the documentary “Tig,” about the year following Tig’s viral stand-up set at the Largo, it’s on Netflix. She and Stephanie fell in love during the filming of the documentary.

  4. This was such a masterpiece. After watching this show my tolerance for lazy, white-cis-het-dude dominated narratives has been tanked irrevocably. This is a dark and funny show but no person is ever a punchline, no one is flattened out by a joke into a one dimensional anything. Things that would be the ENTIRE NARRATIVE ARC of a lesser show are minor jokes in this richly textured thing. The moment when Felicia recalls remembering that she is a, “very fun person,” was so great and honest and self-assured. God, I loved it so hard.

    Everyone is given so much room. And it’s (so) dark without being even a little bit mean. I don’t even know if it’s dark so much as it has natural lighting; it shows things as they are.

  5. It was AMAZING, I couldn’t help watching the whole season in one go. And I completely agree–this show, along with Take My Wife, has queer women depicting their own queer relationships with each other in a way that feels so genuine and not sensationalized. It’s hard to express how incredibly valuable that is.

  6. I did love Season Two, but gah… it’s so painful to watch the whole “But I’m straight! I’m not gay!” dance that Kate does. Oh, if only there was a word for attraction to more than one gender. Gee…

    It’s reminiscent of the first two seasons of Transparent, and the first several (maybe all the?) seasons of OITNB, where it’s as if there was a memo on the wall of the writers’ room that said: Don’t use the word bisexual! The implicit message being that bisexuals are disgusting.

    Of course I know there was probably no need for such a memo. This is just how bisexuality is treated by queers and straights alike. No one has to be told. It’s just a dirty, unspeakable word. Thanks for yet another reminder.

    • I watched Tig’s documentary and Stephanie Allynne was basically saying this same thing. I don’t know if that’s changed since she’s now married to Tig and has children with her but that’s how she defined herself at the time.

      I know it’s annoying to watch on a tv show though. I’m not even bi, yet I find the whole thing ridiculous. Any time any character on television is questioning their sexuality the question comes up of “So, are you a lesbian now?” It’s either you are straight or a lesbian. The word bisexual is never used ever.

    • Hm, this is interesting — I saw her struggle in the show as her not being sure if she was into JUST men or if she was into men and women. Her attraction to men was something she felt confident about, she just wasn’t sure if she could also be attracted to women, and where she settled was that she didn’t like labels at all, which i feel very whatever about, but, from a people magazine interview:

      “Everything about her felt right. I knew I liked her, I knew I cared about her and that sent me into an identity crisis spiral,” says Allynne. “I felt the need to label myself, was I gay? was I bi? Was I still straight? was I ever straight? etc. It took me six months to realize those labels were ridiculous. Once I was able to own my true feelings it was all easy and beautiful. I now don’t believe in the labels.”

      • Thanks for the clarification. It’s been a while since I watched the documentary. What I had remembered from it was this struggle of “I’m attracted to this straight woman and I don’t know what to define our relationship as”. I hadn’t read Stephanie’s interviews about it but that makes sense.

      • Yeah, I mean… I know this whole TV series is based heavily on Tig and Stephanie’s real lives, but it’s still fiction, so…

        Also the whole “I don’t believe in labels” trope only ever seems to boil down to “bisexual would be the right word, but bisexuals are yucky, so…”

        No one that’s only attracted to one gender ever says they don’t do labels.

        • I totally understand the frustration of bi erasure, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that people only reject labels because they think “bisexuals are yucky”. That’s not the case for me, or for an awful lot of people I know who don’t use a label. I’d actually love it if I could find a single word that quickly and easily described my sexual identity, but I don’t feel that any of them fit me properly for lots of complicated reasons, none of which have anything to do with negative feelings towards bisexuals.

        • yeah idk i feel weird about saying how someone *should* identify or assuming they don’t identify that way out of some sort of prejudice. we speculate about a celebrity’s sexual orientation a lot, and i think it’s fair for us as people to have the freedom to refer to somebody who has expressed sexual interest that fits into a certain category as that thing — like we’d put her on lists of bisexual or queer women that imply an affiliation to some kind of label — but i think taking the extra step and saying a celebrity or public figure is obligated to identify as a word that means so many different things to so many different people is just not how real life works

          • Let’s let people decide for themselves how they identify.
            I admire One Mississippi for its theme of honesty. It’s full of individuals with unique experiences, oftentimes diligently and patiently communicating their own points of view.

            Personally, I loved the scene in the kitchen with Desiree and Kate, where Kate challenges D assumptions in an open and receptive way. The conversation kept going, when in so many stories it would have just scratched the surface of these two women who see things so differently.

            Remy stands out for his silence and passivity. And yet, in the end, even that is woven into his own story and the pain he carries.

          • I don’t know that Traci is saying people have to identify a certain way. But as a bisexual person, it’s really frustrating to see character after character on TV shows have experiences that are similar to mine, while my orientation is treated like it’s not even a *possibility* for them. As for celebrities, I think it’s really important that we let people identify however they want, but again, it’s really frustrating when you see someone who has experiences like yours, but they seem not to want to be pinned down not because of any personal experience or enlightened reasoning about the limits of labels, but because they seem like they’re not aware that there are whole bisexual and pansexual communities out there that would welcome them. Or because they’re reacting to stigmas surrounding being attracted to more than one gender. Which I think you were getting at, Riese, when you said you felt “very whatever” about Stephanie not liking labels? Unless I misinterpreted that.

        • Yeah I have an issue with this, obviously people should be able to identify (or not identify) however they want, but if a person who is sure they are genuinely attracted to multiple genders feels better not using a label, I think they should really examine why that is, because I think in a lot of cases it probably is internalised biphobia.

          (Having said all this I should prob mention that I currently don’t use a label, but in my case it’s because I really just don’t know whether I’m attracted to multiple genders or not!)

    • I am hoping that the omission of the world bisexual was due to Stephanie Allyne’s own internalised biphobia when she was going through this process herself and that in S3 she’ll use the word once becomes more comfortable in her own sexuality. Fingers crossed!

  7. This season was great. Super beautiful and hard and just real. I’m also totally shipping Felicia/Bill.

    Did anyone else feel like Desiree was underwritten? I felt like they did some tropey stuff with her as a fat character- I hope she gets a bit more depth in season 3

    • i didn’t necessarily feel that way because she did seem to have a lot of really specific quirks and was consistently surprising me, but sometimes was comic relief and i can see what you mean about the tropey fat character thing. the actress who played her killed it though, i hope to see more of her in other stufff!

  8. Was anyone else confused by the portrayal of the Filipino characters on this show? I’m not Filipino, so I can’t really judge this, but what was the point of having Tig’s step-brother be nicknamed “Ding-Dong”? And having Girly (*spoiler alert*) be the one who let out the cat because of a superstitious belief? Overall it just made them feel like some exotic outside element being played for laughs.

  9. this liberal masculine-of-center lesbian from Mississippi is truly appreciative of just seeing someone I even kind of relate to on a show.
    and the awkwardness in this show is so real and I appreciate that too.

  10. I think the Tig documentary is the most romantic thing I’ve ever watched, and I’m so excited about One Mississippi. I watched to see Tig and Stephanie, but got drawn in to the other storylines too. I especially loved the Felicia and Bill storyline. I like how honest Tig and Felicia are with what they need and what won’t work for them.

  11. I love One Mississippi and I loved Season 2 even more than the first – I cried so many (usually happy or at least not sad) tears watching it and felt like I had gone through some sort of emotional catharsis by the end. One of the most healing shows I’ve seen about LGBT people, probably because it was written by Tig and about her own life.

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