“It’s just so fun to hate Ginny,” the self-referential teen of the titular duo of Ginny & Georgia says with a mocking tone early on in season two. But we don’t hate Ginny (played by Antonia Gentry, nailing that adolescent mix of grace, gawk, and grouch). If anything, we wish it was more fun to hate Ginny & Georgia, the murder-mystery mother-daughter dramedy that returns to Netflix with 10 new episodes. There’s a lot to like when it comes to Ginny and Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey), and the quaint town of Wellsbury, Massachusetts, that they relocate to—along with Ginny’s little bro Austin (Diesel La Torraca)—following the mysterious death of Georgia’s husband last season. The problem is there’s just too much of it.
The Gilmore Girls comparisons were near constant when the series debuted in February 2021. The surface-level similarities were accounted for: the bright, bookish teen daughter, the magnetic 30-year-old single mom, the postcard-worthy New England town, and the penchant for alliterative titles. However, particularly in its second season, Ginny & Georgia suffers where that early-aughts charmer succeeded—knowing exactly what kind of show it is. The Gilmore women cozily and confidently occupy an entire TV genre, one lovingly suffused with small-town quirks, pop-culture quips, and the atmospheric “la-las.” It’s less a show and more “a lifestyle, a religion”—but the Miller ladies are tasked with leading several programs all at once: issues-driven YA series, gritty family drama, high-concept crime thriller, and suburban soap, to name a few.
Take for example one of Georgia’s rants in a frustrated moment of parenting in season two: “Sneaking a boy through a window. Am I trapped in a ’90s show? What is this, Dawson’s Creek? What’s the next episode? Someone has a mental breakdown or hooks up with a teacher?” Not even two minutes later, she joins Ginny for a therapy session, claiming: “This is just like The Sopranos.” Ironically and jarringly enough, Ginny & Georgia regularly veers into both lanes, abruptly gear-shifting from relatable scenes of Ginny gabbing about boys and rebelliously dying her hair, to her mother, you know, killing people.
Despite the pulpy intrigue of Georgia’s considerable criminal history, the series—created by Sarah Lampert and showrun by Debra J. Fisher—is far more compelling when it follows the adventures of the younger Miller. Season one shallowly touched upon Ginny’s struggles with self-harm and her biracial identity (see: the viral and cringe “Oppression Olympics” smackdown between Ginny, who is half-Black, and her half-Taiwanese friend Hunter last season). The sophomore season gratefully and sensitively digs deeper into the storylines.
Expanding the whitewashed world of Wellsbury, Ginny is given a Black support system—a gaggle of new girlfriends in school, a thoughtfully appointed therapist, her once-absent dad Zion (Nathan Mitchell), who recently relocated to Boston—folks who look and live like her, and can act as a soundboard when a racist English teacher burdens her with adding diversity to the curriculum, or when her mother dons a Scarlett O’Hara costume for Halloween. The addition of therapy offers a direct line into Ginny’s thinking, the universal pains of growing up, and the specific struggles of how Georgia’s cons and crimes affect her, portrayed more effectively than those droll voice-overs the show has employed in both seasons.
If only similar insider access were provided to the rest of Ginny’s high-school cohorts, including her “MANG” BFFs Maxine (Sara Waisglass) and Abby (Katie Douglas), who are dealing with queer love and body dysmorphia, respectively. Ginny & Georgia doesn’t have time to flesh out their lives because it’s busy, well, being another show: a sudsy Desperate Housewives-meets-How To Get Away With Murder packed with private investigators, political scheming, and plenty of baby-daddy drama. Aaron Ashmore enters as Austin’s shady dad Gil Timmins, joining Zion, town mayor Paul Randolph (Scott Porter), and café-owner Joe (Raymond Ablack) as potential suitors for Georgia.
The disjointedness is worsened by the lead actresses often feeling like they’re acting on entirely different levels, Gentry opting for wide-eyed earnestness and Howey country-hamming it up with that big Julia Roberts smile and even bigger Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias twang. There is little linking the two protagonists, and that absence of a Lorelai and Rory-style love connection makes it difficult to believe Georgia when she performs yet another Southern-fried soliloquy about how all of her scams, seductions, and skeletons were out of sheer devotion to her daughter.
It doesn’t help that the series never fully allows Georgia to become the Big Bad thanks to frequent flashbacks to her tragic past as a teen mom (portrayed by Nikki Roumel) and Howey’s innate likeability. The show sympathizes with the scrappy mother, even when she’s committing the worst of offenses her children regularly suffer as a consequence. “I took all the darkness, and I ate it. I became it, like freakin’ Bane,” Georgia proclaims in one tense confrontation with Ginny. Still, Howey plays all of Georgia’s transgressions with a twinkle in her eye—less like a felony and more like a flirt—and even she doesn’t seem to buy her character’s supposed wickedness wholly.
“You’re such a force. You take up a lot of space,” Ginny tearfully tells her mother in season two. “Sometimes I feel like there’s not always room for me.” That’s the actual downfall of Ginny & Georgia—it doesn’t know when to get Georgia out of Ginny’s way.
Ginny & Georgia season two premieres January 5 on Netflix.