Realism and miscommunication continue to make the series a funny, honest must-watch.
What happens when you feel a connection with a person, but life and lifestyle seem determined to keep you apart?
An updated take on Notting Hill, the first season of Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck concerned the bumpy developing relationship between free spirit Jessie and famous actor Tom, as a one-night stand turned into a year-long will-they-won’t-they. At the end of the first season, a despondent Jessie decided to leave London and return home to New Zealand. However, Tom’s last moment arrival to declare his feelings causes her to change her mind. They kiss on the bus, and it seems that new love is in the air. Unfortunately–and naturally–things are hardly that simple.
Picking up there immediately, Jessie (Matafeo) and Tom (Nikesh Patel) find themselves in a fine little The Graduate predicament. So you’ve made a grand gesture on a bus, now what do you do? In Jessie’s case, the answer is promptly freak out and deal with the various repercussions of her choice. Someone else has her job. Her parents paid out significantly for her ticket to New Zealand. Worst of all, in an emotional pre-leaving spiral, she wrote a collection of letters to her various friends and foes. She wants none of them read now.
Fortunately for Jessie, she has loyal friend and roommate Kate (Emma Sidi) on her side. Kate never met a dramatic, romantic gesture she didn’t love, and she’s been Team Tom/Jessie (Tessie? Jom?) since the jump. “Your Saturn is returning!” a chipper Kate informs a bewildered Jessie, meaning (astrologically speaking) that it’s a time of significant beginnings. It’s clear this concept terrifies Jessie.
Starstruck’s effervescent take on life and love feels almost universal in its approach.
Kate remains Jessie’s much-needed voice of both whimsy and reason this season. Over and over, she provides Jessie the unconditional love and support she desperately requires. However, Kate does so without hesitating to judge her friend’s decisions to her face. For example, Kate is vocal when Jessie makes a late-season decision to reconnect with ex-boyfriend Ben (Edward Easton).
Ben is the season’s culmination of miscommunication. Once again, the majority of Tom and Jessie’s issues stem from their inability to have a reasonable conversation. The rest of the season’s plotlines, such as Tom’s work with director Dave (Russell Tovey), the introduction of Tom’s family, and another wild New Year’s Eve, are a series of lighter ups and downs. Each showcases Matafeo and Patel’s sweet chemistry and the utter realism of their interactions. Do we wish they’d spend more time trying to understand each other and the intricacies of their relationship? Well, of course we do. Is it the rare couple in real life who figures all of this out for the best, easily? Of course it is.
Starstruck’s effervescent take on life and love feels almost universal in its approach. The characters come alive with the sort of realism rare in comedy, endearing them to the audience despite their mistakes. The leads are, of course, incredible, but the supporting cast is just as strong. Whether it’s Jessie’s cadre of friends–including permanent frown Sarah (Lola-Rose Maxwell, who plays drunk exceedingly well) and lovelorn Joe (Joe Barnes)– or Minnie Driver as Tom’s snappy (if slightly cliche) agent, Cath, they consistently deliver.
It’s hard not to spoil the little twists and turns that Jessie and Tom’s journey take. Suffice to say that the charms of the ensemble cast and the sympathetic and hilarious writing make Starstruck season 2 as must-see as the first.
Starstruck season two premieres on HBO Max on March 24th.