‘I Hate Suzie’ Is the Perfect Feel-Bad Show for the Holidays

The end of the year is a time for self-reflection. Sometimes, if you’re looking for a TV show to watch as the calendar waits to flip over, the goal is to find something that reflects a little bit of yourself back at you. Wind down in the vicinity of a fireplace and let a show wrap you like a warm blanket.

For those who want to go the opposite route and lean into every last shred of anxiety, “I Hate Suzie” Season 2 is here just in time for your end-of-year celebration of choice. A show that began as a laser-focused fame dramedy released on HBO Max in the heart of 2020 (not exactly the most calming chapter in world history either) returns for a follow-up, with Billie Piper’s former child star Suzie Pickles back under the fictional microscope again.

More from IndieWire

In the cheekily titled “I Hate Suzie Too,” Suzie’s marriage has all but crumbled after the release of a blistering tabloid story. The resultant custody battle with her estranged husband Cob (Daniel Ings) is the heaviest burden Suzie is carrying, but it’s not the only one. Her friendship with agent/longtime confidant Naomi (Leila Farzad) is on the rocks, she’s floundering on a “Dancing with the Stars”-esque celebrity competition show, and she’s still dealing with the fallout from an unwanted pregnancy.

The continued brilliance of “I Hate Suzie” is the clarity with which it presents all of Suzie’s choices, ranging from the misguided to the disastrous. The armchair psychology is at a minimum here, particularly because Suzie is thrown into situations (reality show confessionals, divorce hearings, crisis PR meetings) where she’s confronted with questions about those decisions. There’s no cheeky ambiguity about what she’s done or even what she wants. “I Hate Suzie” becomes a case study in whether her karmic punishment fits the crime.

Everyone in this cast is locked into what this breakneck emotional season needs. There’s a potent mix of anger, betrayal, and viciousness that Ings slips into every Cob interaction. Farzad somehow keeps all those same feelings on Naomi’s side, mostly tamped down in the way that people in rocky friendships manage to weather them. Suzie’s son Frank (Matthew Jordan-Caws) also pulls off the seesaw between a kid adoring his parents and using them as targets during times of uncertainty.

“I Hate Suzie” - Credit: Tom Beard/HBOMax
“I Hate Suzie” - Credit: Tom Beard/HBOMax

Tom Beard/HBOMax

And there aren’t enough praises for Piper, who embraces every inch of Suzie’s mistakes without a hint of judgment. You can see the mental gymnastics that Suzie goes through to justify each impulsive choice. When there’s a minimal chance that things might work out her way, there’s a sliver of hope that peeks through on Piper’s face. In a season filled with crushing realizations and overwhelming disappointments, it’s illuminating to see the points where Suzie is genuinely happy. “I Hate Suzie” is at its most gutting when Suzie is one step too slow to realize that the things bringing that happiness are quickly slipping through her fingers.

As you might imagine, this isn’t exactly a joyful chunk of TV. But there’s an audaciousness in this show’s approach to stress, as orchestrated by writer/co-creator Lucy Prebble, where the only way out is through. This season’s director Dawn Shadforth finds the optimal times to take a claustrophobic approach to where the camera is in relation to Suzie and her volatile mental state. It’s a testament to both Prebble and Shadforth that the same feeling of tension flows through the entire season, regardless of how far away everyone is. Kicking off with plenty of forward motion and barely ever letting up, this is basically the “Mad Max: Fury Road” of backstage show business dramas.

“I Hate Suzie” is also one of the strongest arguments for the British TV model. After a fuller-length first season, this new three-episode arc is a concentrated dose. There’s no padding or downtime or deep breaths to recuperate. Each new conversation adds another stone to Suzie’s chest. By the end, you almost share in that struggle to breathe.  It’s the equivalent of building an entire season out of that one high-strung episode of “The Bear” from earlier this year. At risk of putting two great slices of TV against each other, this finale makes that twenty-minute pressure cooker feel like a breezy, afternoon stroll.

Shadforth also helps deliver some magnetic dance sequences here, from the hazy opening of the season through the various rounds of “Dance Crazee Xmas” Suzie both endures and indulges. It’s psychological ballet as metaphor, deployed to perfection. Performance is the one area of Suzie’s life where she seems to have things decently figured out. It’s also the closest thing that “I Hate Suzie” has to a respite. Part of what makes this show fascinating is the act of bracing for what comes when the music stops.

Both seasons of “I Hate Suzie” are now available to stream on HBO Max.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.