It’s important for a returning series to make a strong impression. Wolf Like Me’s second season kicks off with a white wedding between leads Mary (Isla Fisher) and Gary (Josh Gad) that very quickly turns into a quasi-Alien nightmare of blood and screaming and horrified people shouting ‘what is that?’ while Mary looks on only mildly perturbed.
Did we mention Mary is a werewolf? That’s probably going to be important later on.
The first series of this dramedy was built around the slow-burn relationship between regular-messed-up single dad Gary and messed-up-because-she’s-a-werewolf Mary, culminating in a final episode where we finally got to see her go full wolf and Gary fully accepted exactly what kind of relationship he’d got himself into (one where his girlfriend eats people).
It shouldn’t really be a surprise that this season begins with Mary pregnant, but still: she’s now a pregnant werewolf. This can’t be good.
Originally Wolf Like Me used being a werewolf as a metaphor for having a dark side you were worried someone you loved wouldn’t accept. This season, the worries – and the metaphor – has shifted to pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, much of the first episode involves both Mary and Gary freaking out about what they’ve gotten into, only their worries are a little more … furry.
Gary is watching wolf birthing videos at work (‘did you know it’s possible for a wolf to give birth to up to ten pups?’); Mary is demanding her pregnancy be induced to avoid it taking place during a full moon.
He’s also built a fancy new basement dungeon for Mary to lock herself into in their new home together, but she finds herself rushing back to her old home (and scaring off some potential buyers) so she can hide out in the basement where she still feels at home. And neither of them are looking forward to what the ultrasound might reveal.
Making fun of the feel-good vibes foisted on pregnant couples is well-worn territory. Here Wolf Like Me has an edge; turning into a ravenous monster every month is a pretty good excuse to treat breathing exercises and hugging with contempt.
It’s a series that’s not afraid of going broad with the comedy either. After the class, Gary’s left alone while a bunch of dads walk off saying ‘It’s so good having other dads to talk to – imagine not having anyone? Wouldn’t that be shit’.
Often the term ‘dramedy’ rings alarm bells. This is the good kind – a decent drama with a few jokes mixed in, not a series that isn’t dramatic or funny enough to be either. It helps that the half-hour episodes keep things pretty tightly focused.
The only subplot in episode one involves Gary’s daughter Emma (Ariel Donoghue) is starting high school, which rapidly provides Mary with an opportunity to get protective. A later episode sees Emma bringing home the class rabbit to take care of, which clearly will not go at all wrong in any way.
With plenty of plot to get through (Mary’s former professor shows up later in the season, answering a lot of questions Gary didn’t know he had), jokes to make, and the occasional moment of horror thrown in, there’s not a lot of room to mess around. That means the performances have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to the characters.
Gad gets a little less to work with as the supportive dad, but he projects an essential reasonableness the series wouldn’t work without. Things are a bit weird, but he’s going to go with it; so far at least, his instincts have been good.
Fisher’s always been good at putting out a lot of energy, which is why she’s such a strong comedy performer. Here a lot of that is turned inward; Mary is skittish and uneasy, only snapping into focus when she’s being protective. This season she’s a little more settled and secure, but there’s still plenty of scope for her to feel out of place even in human form.
Sometimes it’s just a sudden craving for raw meat; other times it’s an argument with Gary about what really happened at the end of last season (and don’t think that’s not going to come back to bite them). He thinks her wolf form recognised them and didn’t attack, she thinks she didn’t attack because she’d just eaten someone. It might be an important distinction when there’s a new baby in the house.
Of course, first the baby has to come out. At a mother’s meeting Mary casually asks ‘does anyone else worry that their baby will eat them from the inside?’ Finding that point where comedy, horror, and all-too-human worry collide is what Wolf Like Me does best.
And as the bond Gary and Mary have found comes increasingly under threat, those collisions start coming fast; keeping this wolf caged is going to require more than just some soothing videos and a couple of steel shutters you control with a mobile phone.
All episodes of Wolf Like Me season 2 premieres on 19 October on Stan.