‘Velma’ Season Two Is Less Problematic — So Why Is It Even Worse?

I’ve never witnessed an animated series as unanimously despised as Velma. The Charlie Grandy-developed, diversified, Riverdale-meets-Harley-Quinn wannabe take on the Mystery Gang’s most scholarly member already ruh-rubbed fans the wrong way for omitting the titular lead of the franchise, Scooby-Doo. (Warner Bros. didn’t give the writing team clearance to incorporate the heart of Mystery Incorporated.) But Scooby’s absence may have been forgiven if this iteration of Velma Dinkley wasn’t an overly unlikable, aggressively condescending person towards everyone, lending to some jokes from its writers attacking its fanbase and alienating just about everyone who tried to give it a chance. When I covered the first season for Paste, I didn’t quite share the universal ire, noting its unique, geometrical-based character designs and Scream-esque art direction, even if I, too, found the marquee meta behavior off-putting. Max seemed to have caught wind of its negative reception amongst, well, everyone, because the second season was unceremoniously shadow-dropped onto the platform with absolutely no fanfare.

Now, before people ask, “How can Warner Bros. Discovery drop two seasons of Velma but cancel other original projects as tax write-offs?” I hate to tell you, but when Velma was greenlit, it had a two-order pickup, so much like death itself, Ms. Dinkley’s second coming was inevitable.

Season two picks up a few weeks following Velma’s (Mindy Kaling) victory at solving her first mystery. The Crystal Cove serial killer, Victoria Jones (Cherry Jones), Fred Jones’ (Glenn Howerton) mom, has been caught and — accidentally — murdered by Norville (Sam Richardson). She’s also dealing with the aftermath of finding her longtime missing mother, Divya Dinkley (Sarayu Blue), and her friends-to-enemies-to-crush Daphne (Constance Wu) professing her love to her.

With a solved case under her belt, Velma is now revered by her high school peers, landing in the popular girls’ top rank. And she and Daphne are officially girlfriends — even if their relationship is constantly on the rocks.

This season has the arrival of a new student, a femme non-binary goth named Amber (Sara Ramirez, who can’t seem to leave Max’s platform as the go-to nonbinary rep), and the arrival of a new serial killer. The killer explicitly goes after men and rips their dongs off andit’s up to Velma to meddle her way into solving another case. Meanwhile, Norville starts to experience guilty hallucinations of Victoria’s ghost.

Regarding its humor and tone, Velma season two marginally improves upon the problematic character’s actions and the ensemble’s aggressive unlikability. There’s nothing as rage-inducingly uncomfortable as season one lows like Daphne kissing Velma upon having a panic attack or Norville simping for Velma.

Whatever bland teen drama was teased in its season one finale, the writing staff has crumbled up and thrown into the trash, instead doubling down on its millennial rambling, modern-day referential, styled humor––without insulting the viewer. And yet, at trying so hard to be inoffensive and learn from its mistakes, the comedic offshoots result in even more awkward staging and timing. While the first season had an ugly personality, at least it was bold enough to have one at all.

This cycle however is a slog to trudge through. The unfocused plotting regarding its new mystery, matched with a barrage of endlessly unfunny gags leave you wistfully wondering how significantly different or possibly better the writing would’ve been if WBD had given the team Scoob-blanche to throw him into the team. In Scooby’s absence, Velma throws every horror-based dart to the wall, including ghosts, body-switching, talking brains, mutated monsters, and witchcraft. Yet the series retains its dull, unfunny quality carried over from its predecessor and delivers a mundane, middling season that bears no resemblance to Scooby-Doo outside the character’s names and signature attire. Most of the ensemble spends considerable time apart, enacting on their own considerably uninteresting arcs that come and go like the wind. One episode would revolve around Daphne projecting herself as a witch and the next would be her switching brains with Norville’s long lost grandmother (Vanessa Williams) with no discernable sense of direction nor plot progression.

Possibly if the writers took notes from better adult Scooby-Doo-inspired properties like Venture Bros. or the James Gunn-penned live-action flicks that were initially going to bear a PG-13 rating, they could have honed in on Velma’s queer identity with a natural adult edge. Heck, those movies had a better understanding of Velma and Daphne’s dynamic than they do here. Even as explicit girlfriends, they’re constantly bickering with each other and always at moral odds. Both parties are shallow, and their relationship feels made up on a whim rather than their romance and dual character development feeling earned.

Considering the minimal effort Max made in advertising the series, per the course, with every animated project existing under the anti-animation-led Zaslav regime, the writing is on the wall for the future of Velma. Despite ending on a cliffhanger that teases a Halloween-set third season or a special, it’s clear that this series is about to be put to rest, sent mercilessly to the great cancellation in the sky. It’s painful to see the first POC-led, queer-inclusive version of a long-standing franchise end up its worst. But this is one soon-to-be canceled queer show that won’t be missed.

Velma season two is now streaming on Max.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the world's first gwen-z film journalist and owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a screenwriter. They have been seen in Vanity Fair, Them, RogerEbert.com, Rolling Stone, and Paste.

Rendy has written 10 articles for us.

1 Comment

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!