Review by Sean Boelman
Julia Child is undeniably one of the most iconic figures in the world of professional cooking, and there have been plenty of versions of her story told across film and television. Max’s Julia debuted last year to a positive reception, and the second season is now returning with more delicious behind-the-scenes drama.
The show picks up after season 1, with Child having launched the extremely successful The French Chef, traveling to France to find inspiration for her next season of the show. There’s one thing that season 2 of Julia cannot be faulted for — and that’s a lack of ambition. This season tries to take the show in several exciting new directions, but part of the issue is exactly that: it bites off more than it can chew.
Still, the show manages to carry over many of the things that people loved about the original series. With any show about cooking, viewers expect to see plenty of absolutely scrumptious shots of food, and there’s no shortage of delicious dishes to be found here. And the first half of the season, which takes place partially in France, is particularly beautiful.
As far as the story goes, it follows pretty much the beats one would expect of this arc. Julia is overwhelmed with the fame she receives from her successful first season and finds her allegiances torn between the public broadcast station, the corporate interests, and even those courting her to take her career in a different direction.
However, season 2 of Julia aims much broader and bigger when it comes to its societal themes. With topics from civil rights to birth control, it’s clear that this series wants to have something more to say. The show uses its supporting characters to explore these themes, but this comes at the expense of the trailblazing woman at the center of this story.
That being said, even if they do distract from the main storyline of Child’s character, these supporting characters are certainly compelling. For example, we get to spend a lot more time with Brittany Bradford’s producer Alice this time around, who adds a very human element to the show at several points. We also get a few new additions to the cast, like Isabella Rosselini as one of Child’s main collaborators.
And of course, Sarah Lancashire’s performance in the lead role as the eponymous chef and television personality is fantastic — maybe even better than last season. Now that she has gotten hold of the figure’s mannerisms, she can really start to add new layers of emotion to the character that she wasn’t as freely able to explore in the first batch of episodes.
Season 2 of Julia is not as strong as its first entry because it aims a bit higher than it should have. Still, when you are able to focus in on the elements that made the first season work so well — and are so charming about the show’s subject — it’s moderately enjoyable. Too bad it feels like things were just beginning to ramp up again at the end, as Max is notorious for canceling shows after their second season.
Julia streams on Max beginning November 16 with three episodes, with new episodes dropping subsequent Thursdays. All eight episodes reviewed.