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Review: Transparent S2 E01

The Pfeffermans have returned for season two of Transparent and they’re sure to be every bit as funny and heartbreaking. Just the opening scene sets the tone beautifully. On the day of Sarah’s wedding to Tammy, the photographer has a simple request: to take a family photo of the Pfeffermans. Of course, the Pfeffermans being Pfeffermans, over complicate this to the nth degree and we spend a good five minutes of constant yelling and disregard for anyone but themselves (their narcissism has come in full force nice and early this time around). It’s just amazing to see how relatable they can be, while also being completely in a league of their own. We just know that nothing here will go according to plan for the rest of the season.

Adding to the drama of this season, now that everyone has come to terms with Maura’s transition, is the introduction of Maura’s side of the family, particularly her sister. There’s a lot of tension there. The sudden appearance this season was funnily explained away with Sarah needing more of “her people” at the wedding. While it may seem like a nice enough gesture, including extended family for something as big as a wedding, it had hard consequences. We find out that Maura is estranged from her sister and the rest because of their close mindedness. Maura attempts a sort of reconciliation and offers to visit their ill mother, but her sister rebukes her request by stating their mother would be disgusted to see Maura in her transitioned state. It seems there’s very few people Maura can truly call family.

Then we have Sarah’s second thoughts about the wedding itself. All last season we saw Sarah pretty much giving up the life she had built up in order to be with Tammy. But even last season we knew Sarah was fickle. First she cheated on her husband, Len, with Tammy only to later cheat on Tammy with Len. Instead of being a grown up and talk to Tammy about her doubts, Sarah goes through with the wedding then later escapes to the bathroom to confess to Ali that she’s always hated Tammy. The only comfort comes from Rabbi Raquel who mentions Sarah and Tammy aren’t legally married until the papers have been signed by the council. When asked what is a wedding for if it’s not a legally binding thing the rabbi beautifully (and depressingly) says it’s a ritual, a pageant, nothing more.

Lastly, and most interestingly, we get a very different type of flashback. All throughout season one the flashbacks told us a little bit more about the Pfeffermans, particularly Maura, but this time around we are taken way back to Germany in 1937. The camera pans across a room of people who are clearly exploring their sexualities in private. At the end of the episode, while Ali is on the balcony of her room, we see a woman from this flashback sitting in the background. There is no explanation thus far what this means but it seems as though we’ve got something fascinating building up.

Jill Soloway, creator of the show, mentioned that this season was going to focus less on Maura, which is a good idea. It gives her character more space to grow. But more than that, it allows us to see how the family is developing because, after all, Transparent isn’t exclusively about what it’s like to be transgendered, it’s about family.

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