Season 1 of ONE MISSISSIPPI dealt with surviving in the wake of trauma: Tig’s cancer, her intestinal disease, and of course her mother’s death all rained down on her at once. It was a season about finding humor in the darkest of moments. Season 2 has a lighter, brighter tone. It focuses on rebuilding after trauma, but it also understands that sometimes healing means revisiting and recalling the darkness.
Where Season 1 often makes us laugh uncomfortably: as if we are “the giggler at a funeral,” Season 2 reminds us that laughter is good. It’s okay to seek joy and meaning after loss. Season 2 finds Tig returning to Mississippi not because she has to, but this time because she chooses too. After losing creative control over her radio show in Los Angeles, Tig decides to return once again to her childhood home and do her show at the local radio station. The fact that she has a massive crush on her producer, Kate, doesn’t hurt either.
However, while Season 2 is lighter than Season 1, it never shies away from difficult or controversial subjects. Right from the beginning, Tig’s uncensored talk about the irony of Biloxi changing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to “Great Americans Day” to include Robert E. Lee in the celebration causes her to lose much-needed sponsors. Given that this was certainly written and shot prior to Charlottesville, it feels both prescient and achingly timely.
Throughout the season, Tig also deals with discrimination due to her being openly gay. She’s refused entrance to the hospital to see her sick stepfather by a bigoted nurse. It’s a scene that feels equally absurd and all too real. The idea that a hospital employee would refuse to allow a close family member to see their sick loved one is atrocious, and yet similar incidents happen every day to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Tig’s anger shows, but she still handles the situation with a level of dismissiveness and humor that is admirable considering the way she’s being treated.
She uses the same tactics when she’s approached by two members of the “New Hope Ministry” who assure her they can help her “pray the gay away,” to which she responds, “What if I want to pray the gay to stay?” It’s a moment that is equally laugh out loud funny, and deeply affecting. Prejudice is alive and well (and becoming louder and more overt) in our country, but to see it deflected with calm sarcasm and humor is heartening. However, Tig’s response isn’t without consequence. Her interaction with the ministry members causes the loss of her remaining sponsors, and she and Kate fear the end of their show. Tig and Kate luck out when Ezra Weiss, a sort-of Ira Glass stand-in, picks up their show.
Tig isn’t the only one rebuilding after loss. One of the season’s best storylines is that of Tig’s stepfather Bill. Still mourning the sudden loss of his wife, Bill finds an unexpected connection with a woman who works in his building. Bill regularly rides the elevator with Felicia Hollingsworth, and when a bout of vertigo causes her to take him to the hospital, the two strike up a tentative friendship. Both Bill and Felicia are deeply restrained people with clear OCD tendencies. Yet, they find their mirror selves in each other, and ultimately develop a sweet and meaningful relationship. Felicia opens up Bill’s eyes to the ongoing struggles of African Americans, and rather than dismissing her, he educates himself. It’s a fantasy fitting with the sometimes daydream-like nature of One Mississippi, but one that reminds us that it takes only a little effort on the part of white people to learn and empathize with people of color.
One Mississippi is at it’s best when it gives into to Tig’s inner fantasy life. In Episode 1, Kate grabs Tig’s hand, and we are enveloped in a fantasy sequence of Tig being pulled through an adventurous journey. My favorite of these interludes is after Kate kisses Tig for the first time. Convinced that they will finally be together, Tig imagines Kate coming into the office and they sing “Ring of Keys” from Fun Home to each other. What makes the scene work so well, besides the obvious song choice, is the decidedly un-Broadway nature of their voices and movements. The moment is both fantastical and grounded, and ultimately broken when Kate declares that she’s straight. Of course, sexuality is rarely so binary. Tig senses that Kate is interested in her, and she’s patient with her friend and crush.
Meanwhile, Remy finds himself in pursuit of a relationship of his own. He first attempts to get closer to Vicky, a friend from his Civil War reenactment group, by attending church with her. However, unlike Bill, Remy is obtuse when it comes to racism and fails to stand up for Vicky when a fellow reenactor questions why Vicky participates when Chinese soldiers didn’t even fight in the Civil War. Vicky corrects the man on two points: first, she is Vietnamese, and second, there were a number of Chinese soldiers in the Civil War. Vicky is clearly and rightfully offended, but Remy tries to defend the guy as not knowing any better. Vicky pushes the point that the current political climates gives racists permission to speak their minds, and she questions who Remy voted for. He responds that he didn’t vote, so don’t blame him. It’s an important scene that reminds us of the complicity of the sweet, lovable Remys of the world.
In it’s six short episodes, One Mississippi, manages to tackle a number of large difficult topics: racism, sexual assault, and grief among others. One would expect this to feel overwhelming, and yet it’s doesn’t. The show still manages to strike a light tone. It’s the perfect blend of pointed political commentary and joyful humor.
One Mississippi gives us complex characters across the spectrum, and no one ever feels like a token. Gay, straight, black, white, red, blue, the characters in One Mississippi are whole and nuanced. Tig can be fierce in her fight for justice, but also fail to recognize that some stories are not hers to tell. Remy can be loving and supportive while still being oblivious to his own white privilege. Bill can be rigid and obsessive, but ultimately express deep emotion.
One Mississippi,like its characters, defies easy classification. Even to call it a “dark comedy” is too simple because the comedy is often pure and light. The show find true moments of joy and levity while never failing to compassionately tackle challenging, controversial, and timely subjects.
Tucked away on Amazon Prime, and given little to no marketing, One Mississippi risks being lost in a sea of content, but I sincerely hope it finds an audience. This is the show we need in our world right now.
Season 2, Episodes 1-6 (S02E01-06)
One Mississippi is currently streaming on Amazon Prime
A.R. Wasserman | Contributor