If you blasted through season one of This Way Up like we did, you’ll be very happy to know that the comedy is finally back on our screens this week. In the two years since the first series aired on Channel 4 in the UK and later on Hulu in the US, the global pandemic has changed our world forever, bringing new meaning to many of the show’s themes, including loneliness, mental health and the importance of family.
Although season one of This Way Up made waves for its honest approach to heavy topics, the show's main pull has always been its ability to undercut tension with dry, sarcastic humour. Led with ease by Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan, the first series followed Irish sisters Áine (Bea) and Shona (Horgan) as they came to terms with the aftermath of Áine’s "teeny little nervous breakdown" and subsequent stay in a rehab facility.
Following Áine as she reacclimatizes to London life, the series showed her reckoning with her reliance on others as well as what the future might hold post-rehab. Áine’s job as an English tutor to a French boy named Étienne soon became a welcome distraction when she fell for his dad, Richard. Elsewhere, Shona worked through her own set of issues, which ended in an entanglement with a colleague, despite being in a long-term relationship with her loving boyfriend, Vish.
For the show’s second season, we pick up precisely where we left off as the sisters discuss Shona’s recent engagement to Vish while squished into a claustrophobic infrared sauna. Sweltering in the heat, Shona tries to convince Áine (and herself) that she's excited about her upcoming nuptials before deviating into Catholic prayers to ward off the rising temperatures. Unaware of her sister’s infidelity, it isn’t until Shona makes a comment about wanting an ill-advised, pre-wedding fringe that Áine realizes something might be seriously wrong.
This isn’t enough to take Áine’s attention off her date night with dishy dad Richard, though. With Étienne heading to Paris for the weekend, the pair can finally be alone together for the first time. Waving him off at St Pancras like awkward parents, the pair clumsily flirt as they make plans for their evening sexcapade. Cue the classic ‘getting ready for a shag’ scenes of washing off hair removal cream in the sink.
Unfortunately, Áine’s excitement about her evening can't distract Shona from her messy situation at work. Packing for her big move to Vish’s gigantic suburban home, her nervousness about making a major commitment is clear to see. As she navigates office life alongside her business partner/lover Charlotte, the idea of building a proper grown-up future feels very far away.
Written by Aisling Bea and executive produced by Sharon Horgan, This Way Up is the perfect example of what female-fronted comedy can look like in the hands of women. Blending poignant discussions about the big, scary things with hilarious one-liners and gross gags, the show feels entirely true to life, showing how universal feelings can manifest in a multitude of messy ways.
Though the first episode certainly errs on the light-hearted side, the undercurrent of the show is bubbling away with deeper potential. With Shona’s engagement casting a shadow over the sisters' co-dependent relationship and Áine’s blooming romance having the potential to leave her heartbroken and unemployed, This Way Up’s second season is clearly going to be just as high stakes for its characters as the first. We, for one, can’t wait to watch.
Stream This Way Up on Hulu now.