This Abbott Elementary review contains spoilers.
Abbott Elementary Season 2 Episode 1
Abbott Elementary got renewed for a second season shortly before its 13-episode first season even concluded. That’s because the show takes a severely misunderstood workplace setting, public schools, and breathes new life into it for families all over America. Unless you’re in education yourself, it’s hard to picture what teachers and administrators go through each day to give their best efforts and prepare students for their lives in and out of the classroom. Think of the show as a peak behind the curtains, a way for parents to gain a little more empathy for the adults who dedicate so much of their lives to a selfless career.
For anyone wondering whether the sitcom hits the same notes in its second time at bat, the answer is a resounding yes. Quinta Brunson’s heartfelt mockumentary is back and just as optimistic as ever, picking it up right after the summer vacation. Abbott’s teachers and staff are back for development week, a set of days before the students arrive that are used to prepare for the trials and tribulations that are presumably ahead for everyone for the next 10 months at school. With the new year comes several challenges for each of the main characters. Janine (Brunson) is still recovering from her breakup in the first season finale with long-time, hang-on boyfriend Tariq (Zack Fox).
While the split was best for Janine’s personal growth and maturity at this time in her life, she quickly realizes she can’t just bury herself in her job to cover up the fact she’s sad and struggling to pay her rent. Jacob (Chris Perfetti) discovers this hardship when he sees Janine’s emails while helping her set up the classroom, and calls on Gregory (Tyler James Williams) to confront her about it.
The storyline helps open up a beautiful dialogue about work-life balance and persevering through personal hardships when you are doing your job. To make sure both parts of your life are whole and fulfilling, they both need tending to. Janine tries to focus on making this the best school year ever, ignoring the immense new pressures she’s feeling away from school. This backfires in ways she never thought about. Tariq used to pay for 20% of the rent each month (lol) and he also had seven outstanding parking tickets while driving Janine’s car. She is still responsible for this money, and she doesn’t accept how overwhelmed she is until her car gets a boot placed on it during development day.
When you let your personal life go, it absolutely will make you an inferior teacher, and vice versa. Barbara (the newly Emmy-award winning Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) are able to finally help Janine realize she needs to tend to herself before she can help the kids in the ways she hopes to. This is a bittersweet moment, as it feels like many real-life teachers have been made to feel they don’t deserve any me-time to decompress and prioritize.
The main B-plot revolves around Gregory and Barbara helping each other through unique struggles at the start of the year. Gregory, inexperienced and ready to micro-manage the school year, takes Barbara’s advice to embrace the unexpected. As a teacher, you can’t plan out every day to perfection. There are going to be issues that arise where you just need to go with the flow and make the best of a bad situation.
Gregory is able to return the favor for Barbara and find an old table in the storage room of the school that will assist a special-needs student in a wheelchair. It’s a poignant moment showing how well Gregory is able to turn lemons into lemonade, a skill the best teachers simply can’t live without.
As an audience, we’re still hopeful that Gregory and Janine will get together romantically at some point in the future. Especially now that Tariq is out of the picture, the flirtatious moments between the two seem a little more palpable, like they can actually turn into something. The banter and chemistry between James Williams and Brunson is eerily reminiscent of the Jim and Pam pairing from one of Abbott Elementary’s inspirations, The Office.
ABC is surely proud they’ve found the sitcom that will anchor their relevance on Wednesday nights for years to come. In an era dominated by streaming franchises and offbeat comedy-dramas, Abbott Elementary shows us there’s still love and laughter left to be found on broadcast television.
Abbott Elementary season 2 airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.