Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble‘s HBO Max comedy series, The Sex Lives of College Girls, is back for Season 2. The first season, which premiered last year, was met with critical acclaim for its fresh take on the college perspective and everything that comes with it — sexuality, friendship, relationships, and yes, sex. The new season picks up just a few weeks after Season 1’s conclusion, and our lead quartet continues to navigate the trials and tribulations of Essex College.


The cliffhanger of Season 1 was the revelation that Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) has lost her scholarship due to her cheating on a test. Kimberly, who is by far the least privileged of the group, must now figure out how to come up with thousands of dollars to pay her tuition. Leighton (Reneé Rapp) has finally come out and has to catch up on all the sexy fun her straight friends have been having. Football is over, and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is struggling to figure out “her thing” in life, causing her to feel lost and inadequate. Everyone’s favorite sex-obsessed comedian, Bela (Amrit Kaur), continues to forge ahead with her writing career, having left The Catallun (the show’s prestigious Harvard Lampoon equivalent) when she was sexually assaulted by an editor, and is now trying to build a female-only competitor magazine.

With all of this kicking off a second season of shenanigans, the show again does a great job of balancing trivial and serious issues that the girls have to overcome. One moment, they’re receiving lap dances from frat boys at a climate change event and the next, Whitney has to reckon with racist microaggressions from her Teacher’s Assistant. No matter the issue, the series handles it all with grace, the appropriate amount of levity, and great humor.

Image via HBO Max


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The Sex Lives of College Girls works because of its nuance. The concept itself is nothing overly unique, but you have to look past the basic premise to figure out what makes this show so special. It covers all bases of topics that young people, particularly women, face without ever feeling like it’s cramming too much, or trying too hard to be relevant. The girls get STIs, they look through their boyfriend’s phones, they face countless moments of sexism (and for Bela and Whitney, racism). It encapsulates the experience that so many viewers can identify with — a trademark strength of Kaling’s sensibilities as a creator.

The last season did this to great effect in following the aftermath of a sexual assault allegation and showing what victims face when they come forward. Bela has to work extra hard to break into The Catalan because she’s a woman of color. Leighton has to reckon with the person she always wanted to be and how coming out may compromise that image. Kimberly has to live as the poorest person she knows among the mega-rich and Whitney can’t figure out the person she wants to be, all in the shadow of her senator mother. But at the same time, Kaling and Noble have no interest in making the girls flawless martyrs. They mess up, make mistakes, and don’t always do the moral thing or even the feminist thing. The show always brings it back to the reminder that these girls are just kids and they really don’t know much about the real world, but they’re going to do their best with what they’re given.

What makes the show work is essentially how it focuses on Gen Zs without ever alienating other generations. It mentions TikTok without revolving around it or any other touchstones of Gen Z culture that would make older generations’ heads spin. It never feels like the characters have been written by people years older who have no clue now younger people talk, which is a recurring faux pas that this Gen Z writer is extremely tired of. They don’t speak in text talk or say a type of emoji to express how they feel. They’re not caricatures written by older generations to satire and mock the youth of today.

It’s also a welcome change to watch a show about teenage girls with no mention of dieting or the need to lose weight, no toxic competition between the girls for boys’ attention. Friendship and camaraderie are at the center of the show, and Kaling and Noble show that they can live in harmony with raunchy sex and frat parties. The Sex Lives of College Girls takes tropes from past movies and shows like it but puts a modern spin on everything — making it both rooted in the current zeitgeist and timeless.

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Image via HBO Max


The four leads are better than ever, as they each bring nuance and their own sense of charisma to their characters. Rapp’s Leighton is the privileged and ruthless rich girl, but underneath it all, she’d do anything for her friends, who it’s clear she loves dearly. Chalamet makes Kimberly more than the smart, shy girl — who undoubtedly has the most challenges to overcome in this season, but her optimism and perseverance are a joy to watch. Whitney’s identity crisis, brought to life by Scott, is something that we can all relate to. This particular storyline hits home as shows and movies like to present college as an oasis before you have to do any hard thinking about yourself, but Whitney’s search for her passion gives the show that hit of reality it starts to lack at times. The standout is Kaur, who, in literally every scene, raises the comedy bar to a new level. She’s fun, horny, and dedicated to whatever cause she chooses on that certain day. Each of the actors embellishes their character with a distinct spark that sets them apart from one another but also makes them work together as a whole perfectly.

If there’s anything to criticize about the show it would be that this season is a pretty close copy of the first. Season 1 has the shock value of setting an unexpected precedent with the novelty of a fresh story like this; by comparison, Season 2 can feel a little stagnant at times, with certain subplots feeling overused. Still, it’s always fun, with many jokes in possession of that searing awareness that Kaling especially is so good at. It still manages to offer the four girls some character growth, and hopefully, it will be renewed for further seasons so we can watch Leighton, Whitney, Bela, and Kimberly become the women they have no idea they want to be. Horny, sexy, funny, and fresh, The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 is a warm welcome back to Essex. It may not add a lot of layers to the first season, but it knows what it’s good at and sticks to it.

Rating: B+

The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 premieres on HBO Max on November 17.

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