Sweet Magnolias throws a lot Maddie Townsend's (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) way in season 2.
While season 1 chronicled Maddie's divorce from Bill, season 2 explores the next stage of her life. "It was more interesting to me because it felt like an opportunity for her to really decide the life she wanted," Garcia Swisher tells EW of that change. As she deals with the fallout of the car crash that ended season 1 and Cal's anger issues, Maddie is forced to think about what kind of person she wants to be. The result is a much braver version of Maddie who is actively using her voice and setting boundaries for the benefit of her children as well as herself.
Both of Maddie's sons are struggling after the season 1 crash: Kyle with his recovery and Ty with his derailed baseball dreams. "She [is] learning to trust herself again and figuring out how to best navigate being a mother," Garcia Swisher tells EW. "The kids and their safety are most important to [Maddie], so she has a lot more on her plate in the new season. Now the real work begins."
Garcia Swisher relates to Maddie as a mother, so she deeply understood how frustrating it was for her character to help an uncooperative Kyle as he recovers from his injuries. "Even just being a mother and putting myself in Maddie's shoes. It was heart-wrenching to think about how I would feel watching them deal with these big life crises," she shares.
Complicating Maddie's connection with Kyle is his relationship with Noreen, whose relationship with Bill ended their marriage in season 1. Kyle and Noreen's bond ended up helping Maddie deal with her husband's cheating and Noreen's resulting pregnancy. "Seeing how they meant something to each other allowed Maddie to deal with what happened [between Bill and Noreen]. I think this would have been a goal for Maddie, but [their relationship] helped hurry things along," Garcia Swisher says.
The closing of the vast chasm between the two women is a refreshing storyline to see. When Noreen returns to town to forge a path of her own, and is invited by Isaac to be his roommate, Maddie is able to connect with her separately from Bill. "I felt very strongly that they needed to find some way back to each other. It would have been easy to hate her, and that's just not who Maddie is," Garcia Swisher says. "It's an important story to tell. Finding that grace and a way to forgive can be life-changing for everyone involved."
When Maddie discovers that Bill is Isaac's biological father, she finally decides to put her ex-husband behind her entirely. "What I wanted people to feel from that scene was a sense of strength and ultimate closure," Garcia Swisher says. "Maddie is no longer responsible for, or will she even pretend to be responsible for, the choices Bill makes." Maddie's focus shifts back to Kyle and Ty as she prepares to share the news of their older half-brother.
A surprising added test for Maddie comes Cal's anger issues. The football coach's season 2 journey allows for everyone, including Maddie, to get to know him better. Cal's past and how it impacts him doubles as a way for Maddie to reflect on her own life. Both Bill and Cal kept secrets from her — and she's determined not to have a re-do of her marriage with her new relationship.
While growing in her personal life, Maddie's biggest transformation might be in how she fights for the small businesses of Serenity after learning that Mary Vaughn and the mayor are making changes for their sole benefit. The work she does leads to Serenity needing a new mayoral candidate. "It's really about her finding her voice," says Garcia Swisher, adding that while Maddie has no interest in being mayor, she would make a great campaign manager.
Despite all the work she's done, Maddie's life is in a state of chaos as season 2 ends. Not only does she have to prepare her kids for the news that Bill is Isaac's father, but Cal's season finale fight leads to his arrest. "I don't know how easy it's going to be to put the pieces back together after this one," Garcia Swisher shares.
Maddie is going into a potential third season a very different woman than when Sweet Magnolias began. "She is more present and a lot more brave," Garcia Swisher explains. Given where season 2 leaves her, she'll need all strength she can muster.
Sweet Magnolias season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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