Hulu’s Shrill ends its second season with an undeniable feeling of promise. In the last shot of 2020 finale “HR,” we see Annie Easton (co-creator/star Aidy Bryant) turn towards the fireworks being set into the sky by her best friend Fran (Lolly Adefope) and her giddy pals. There is hope and a small spark of danger in Annie's eyes. Then she looks back at on-again, off-again boyfriend Ryan (Luka Jones) with that same edge in her smile.
Ryan looks noticeably less happy than Annie does. That’s because Annie has just broken up with her beau in the middle of the street. On most series, such a split would have at least a vein of melancholy to it — of sadness over love that has been lost.
“HR” gives us no such attitude. That’s because the finale promises the best is yet to come for its heroine — including, possibly, the rise of her most dashing love interest, Lamar (Akemnji Ndifornyen).
The Shrill season 2 closer has one uncomfortable driving force: the aftermath of the Weekly Thorn office learning Annie and Ryan had sex in the server room during penultimate episode “Salon.” It would be a livable betrayal if Annie could blame the mortifying information leak on a nosey co-worker. But Ryan was the culprit. Ryan spilled the beans about his and Annie's work-day hookup to fellow distribution guy Reggie. Reggie then gabbed to the rest of the office. Annie is brought to tears over the realization in “Salon” and then humiliated at the beginning of “HR” in multiple ways over the subject.
“Salon” and “HR” digs into all the ways Ryan doesn’t fit into the person Annie is becoming. Not only does Ryan put Annie’s job at risk in “Salon”, but he is noticeably out of place at Gabe’s (John Cameron Mitchell) party for Portland’s intelligentsia. Towards the end of the event, Ryan calls all of the attendants “pretentious assholes.” Annie counters that she wants to be one of them. In “HR” Ryan loudly details his office sex with Annie during a company-wide meeting, putting her career into further jeopardy. Then Ryan forces Annie to take his pillow so he could feel more at ease in their relationship — despite Annie’s rational desire not to carry around a bedroom item after a sexual misconduct allegation. All Annie asks for in return is a day to cool off from the drama and collect her thoughts.
By the end of the finale, Ryan denies Annie the one sliver of space she has requested.
It is that refusal that pushes Annie to rethink Ryan. It abruptly dawns on Annie that she has been spending all of her time with Ryan teaching him how to be in a relationship. “I want an adult,” Annie tells him. “I want a real partner.” This announcement forces her to consider just how toxic the foundation of her relationship — Ryan forcing Annie to escape his home via a rusty back fence due to embarrassment — is. It becomes obvious to Annie she shouldn't be with someone who ever put her through such disrespect.
So Annie dumps Ryan. When he incredulously asks Annie if she is going to go date other guys, she responds, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do,” marking the final line of season 2.
The episodes leading up to “HR” give us a few hints as to whom Annie may be seeing in a prospective season 3. “Salon” offers up a perfect foil to Ryan in Nick, a handsome illustrator who designed Annie’s favorite Thorn cover. Nick is immediately invested in Annie’s career — he’s the one who introduces Annie to Thorn publisher Sheila — and is dressed in full pants for a dinner party, unlike Ryan. “Salon” even settles on the tiny ways Nick clearly signals his interest in Annie. Nick touches the small of Annie’s back and takes her hand to escort her to Sheila. It’s legitimately cute.
However, Shrill season 2 builds up no possible love interest quite like it does with Lamar, Fran’s brother. Back in season 1, Annie and Lamar hooked up after years of sexual tension. Season 2’s fifth episode, “Wedding,” digs into their connection now. The beginning of the installment confirms Lamar and Fran’s parents are aware of their son’s “sexual relations” with Annie and supportive of it. When a family member asks if Annie — aka “white wife” — is for Lamar, his dad Lucky happily yells, “Why not!” Later, Lamar and Annie share a very intimate joint by a pool. They nearly kiss, and Annie admits she really wants to make out with Lamar but cannot because of her relationship. Lamar is horrified that Annie’s boyfriend is the “piece of shit” who “treated her like trash,” no matter how much she claims Ryan has changed.
“I just think you deserve more,” Lamar — whom Annie will share a platonic bed with by the end of the episode — sighs. In Shrill season 3, she may just get more.