HBO Max’s ‘Hacks’ Season 2 Review

Photo Credit: HBO Max

Get your popcorn purse ready! 

HBO Max’s Hacks is back for a second season of laughs, raw emotional moments and the return of some great characters. Egos, loyalty and relationships are all put to the test. The dark comedy series continues to feature a wonderful cast, each with their own powerful character work, but the draw always comes back around to Deborah Vance (Jean Smart). Season two continues to spotlight Deborah’s complicated relationships with those closest to her in her tight circle of employees, friends and family. She manages to be both fiercely loyal to those she cares about while also giving them a hard time. 

Deborah and Ava (Hannah Einbinder) continue to be two sides of the same coin, having their many differences, but in many ways being of the same DNA. The chemistry of the two is natural and truly brings their unique relationship to life. Many times in the new season it feels as if you’re intruding on a personal and intimately private moment between the two, only for them to go back to their usual confrontational banter. There is admiration, hostility, respect and disgust all crammed deep into the moments where they go back and forth. 

In their short time together, Ava has really helped Deborah grow into a more confident and better person, or at least a more honest person, (but is she?) despite her holding on to some of her more grating and rough edges. There’s so much complexity. Just when you think you have one of them figured out, they find a way to throw you off or make a confusing choice out of spite or to prove a point. 

As entitled as Hannah Einbinder portrays Ava, it is a necessary and fascinating way to show these women may be from different generations, but at their essence share many of the same traits. They just manifest their ideas, goals, and relationships in different ways. 

For characters built to be so unlikable on the surface, the show always finds ways for you to want to root them on. The new season gives everyone moments of triumph and moments where they fall on their own face. They take it all in stride, finding ways to turn them into a strength or a moment to grow from. It may take time, but they always leave a mark and lay the ground for growth.  

I found the season full of fist pumping moments where all you want to do is cheer along. It could be a moment where someone is getting an earful from Deborah, or a moment where Ava calls someone out on their crap. You just want to keep rooting for these characters. All of them. Even when they make terribly poor decisions.

Blunt and hardened due to the rough path she took to get to where she is now, Deborah still has her walls up, but there are moments where you can see her truly becoming the woman she has always meant to become. It is incredible to see the subtle and overt moments of glee, panic, and fear on her face in intense moments of fight or flight. Deborah is not letting anyone get in her way this time. Just when you think you have Deborah figured out, she throws another curveball.

Taking Deborah’s act on the road this season provides for some great moments to play with different scenic locations, environments and types of people she encounters. Deborah and Ava being on the road together somehow manages to bring out the best and the worst in each other in their evolving dynamics. It’s a constant battle for who has the upper hand in their complicated relationship leaving the viewer wondering if it is a business partnership in the guise of a friendship or a friendship in the guise of a business partnership.

Being on the road also leads to lots of reflecting. Deborah finds time to reflect on the moments she missed out on, the sacrifices she had to make, the people she had to screw over along the way. All while holding it all very close to her chest, not to let too much of it out. Ava also learns more about herself along the way.

The season makes great use of the side characters when they pop in and out, though the balance of their time in each episode fluctuates, and you find yourself wanting more. As the season progresses, the show finds a better balance in their appearances. Deborah and Ava’s manager Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) has to deal not only with their ongoing conflict, but is still battling his frustrations with his assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter). Also dealing with Deborah and Ava is Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) who is still trying to figure out his own life and how to manage and balance a life outside of his job. The new characters that show up help to enrich the series more and provide for some great laughs. 

Season two is a seamless extension of the first season with powerhouse acting, emotions and story that holds up and continues to evolve into greatness. It will leave you craving more. The Emmys will be calling again without a doubt and Jean Smart deserves another trophy in this role of a lifetime. 

Do not **** with Deborah Vance. 

Hacks season two premieres on HBO Max May 12. Two episodes will premiere weekly with the season finale streaming June 2. Season one is available now.

Lee Arvoy
Lee Arvoy joined the TV Source team in the summer of 2020 as a TV Writer.

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