It’s good to have “Man Seeking Woman” back.
In its second season premiere, “Wings,” “Man Seeking Woman” repeats the winning formula that made its first season such an unexpected delight. As in the first season, Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel, “This is the End”) navigates a surrealist dating world with his best friend, Mike (Eric André, “The Eric Andre Show”), and sister, Liz (Britt Lower, “Unforgettable”), at his side. With the help of self-referentially deployed TV and movie tropes, the show uses absurdist fantastical elements to tell relatable stories about millennial dating (last season, for example, featured Josh attending a wedding in literal Hell to emphasize the perils of going to weddings while single).
The episode begins with an excellent introduction, as Mike is visited by a pair of weary soldiers coming to deliver some tragic news: Josh has a girlfriend, and as a result he won’t be spending much time with his best friend anymore. The scene uses the popular trope of the sad arrival of troops to break the news to the family of a deceased soldier, likening the impending death of a friendship to an actual, physical death. It’s all there in one hilarious line: “Doctors say he may never hang again.”
Because of “Man Seeking Woman” ’s tendency to structure its episodes in roughly three segments, some episodes can feel disjointed. So while there’s a strong narrative through line with Josh and Mike’s friendship in jeopardy, it still feels oddly structured. Mike is the main focus in the first act as he struggles to keep his friendship intact, but the second act pivots to tell the story of Josh and his girlfriend Kelly (Sarah Gadon, “Maps to the Stars”) going on a trip to a cabin with Kelly’s high school friends. Then the third act pivots again, as Josh and Kelly break up and Josh returns home to find that Mike improbably has a college-age child (Maya Lowe, “Killjoys”), apparently created when Josh and Mike “accidentally jizzed into the same toilet and then it got struck by lightning.” In this final sequence, Josh tries to bond with his daughter, referencing the common story of a father desperately trying to connect with the family he abandoned.
Despite the slight awkward feeling that the shifting plots create, all three of the stories are strong. The first one especially is excellent because Josh is almost always the sole viewpoint we get to see, with Mike relegated to the over-the-top funny best friend role. The second act uses a parody of slasher films like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” to show what it’s like trying to fit in with your partner’s friends, who all have their own inside jokes and a shared history you’ll never be a part of (in this case, an accidental murder that resulted in a lumberjack being brought back from the dead to get revenge). And the closing segment ends cleverly, with Josh and Mike sending their daughter off to college, musing on how it seems like just yesterday that she came into their lives.
Still, by far the strongest material is when “Wings” focuses on the dynamic between Josh and Mike and the core idea of the episode: it’s hard to date and still maintain your friendships. It’s a relatable struggle that millennial daters understand, and seeing it presented in such a fantastical context makes it both hilarious in its absurdity, and yet all the more real.