Where the premiere played out like a romantic comedy in twenty-five minutes, season three’s second outing feels more like a traditional episode of Please Like Me. This may sound like a criticism, but in fact it’s the opposite. Josh Thomas’ trademark wit is more present than ever and the episode features some of the brilliant pathos that the series has excelled at since the pilot. Even better, the supporting cast gets some quality air-time this week. As much as I adore Josh Thomas, Please Like Me is strongest when it behaves more like an ensemble.
The episode splits its time between three main settings; Josh and Tom’s place, Alan and Mae’s house and a lesbian bar. Josh and Tom are in the midst of a hilarious feud once Tom discovers that Josh reneged on their apparent no bread, no gluten pact. As usual, Josh voices my exact thoughts with perfect succinctness, “I just thought maybe bread isn’t the enemy”. Josh and Tom have always squabbled like an old married couple, their natural rapport aided by the fact that Thomas and Ward have been best friends off-screen for years. Arnold joins the two for dinner and announces that he has finally decided to come out to his conservative, homophobic father. In one of the episode’s best exchanges, Tom asks why Arnold’s father “hates gays”, to which Josh quickly chides, “It’s not like being scared of dogs, it’s not like he was bitten by a homosexual as a child”.
Meanwhile, Josh’s dad Alan is distraught after he learns his partner Mae had a one night stand with a stranger while she was pregnant with their child – they’d met online and connected over his pregnancy fetish. I’ve always commended the way the series handles arguments between its characters, often quietly, but punctuated with real, brief bursts of hurt and anger. Alan is almost non-reactive until he eventually breaks and we get to see her acutely betrayed he feels.
The third major plot thread involves Rose dragging her new housemate Hannah (a reluctant buddy from her stint in an institute last season) to a lesbian bar. To viewers unfamiliar with the series, this side-plot might come across silly or contrived. For Rose, however, this is her way of forging a genuine connection with Hannah, one that culminates in the two admitting that they actually do like each other. It’s one they both desperately need if the opening scene of Hannah self-harming is anything to go by. Their story wraps up rather sweetly with Rose by Hannah’s side as she struggles to throw up on the sidewalk.
These storylines are compelling enough to stand on their own, but the moments where they intersect are pure gold. Both Alan and Rose are quick to call their son when their nights go awry, and it’s great to see this kind of co-dependent parent/child relationship portrayed on television. Josh’s parents can be just as clueless as he can be, yet they continue to lean on each other for support. But my favourite part of the episode is undoubtedly when Josh coerces his father into a roleplay with Arnold where he is to take on the role of Arnold’s father and react to his coming out. It starts out fairly comical – Arnold is belting out a rendition of ‘Chandelier’ and Josh is giving his dad constructive criticism of his performance, but then the scene morphs into something sincere. It touches a nerve for Alan and it’s unclear if it has to do with his current emotional state, if it’s linked to Josh’s bravery in coming out to his family, or if it’s something else entirely. Either way, it’s a beautiful moment, and I have to admit that my eyes weren’t exactly dry either.
Please Like Me has another excellent week and I just hope that ABC has the sense to let this series go on for as long as possible. There aren’t nearly enough Australian comedies of this calibre.