Mae Martin’s Feel Good will leave you feeling many things, ‘good’ being just one of them. Season 1 graced our screens last March, just as the UK’s first official lockdown hit. We were met with a love story between Canadian comedian, Mae (a semi-autobiographical version of Martin themself) and English teacher George (played by Charlotte Ritchie of Fresh Meat and Drifters).
What happened in Season 1?
There was everything a good love story needs; romance, passion, deep connections…and a secret past of drug abuse. We are then spun into a whirlwind – Mae attempts to grapple with with addiction, their past and relationships whilst George comes to terms with being in her first queer relationship, and how to introduce this into her world. In Season 2, these storylines are extended, but we hear more about Mae’s past trauma, discussions about gender identity. For George, we get a wonderful insight into her own feelings, restoring a balance of her independence and vulnerabilities.
Written by Martin and Joe Hampson, one of the first things that strikes you about Feel Good is its pace – dialogue is witty and sparing, with miscommunication being represented realistically and comedic timing hitting every single mark. In an interview with NME, Ritchie says one of her favourite things about Mae is their ability to be thinking about so many nuanced issues in one go, and that’s really a glimpse of that in the show. Without being shoehorned in, each episode approaches such a variety of contemporary issues – feminism, gender, wealth, work, trust, dependency, environmentalism, nihilism, just to name a few.
The brilliance of Tragi-comedy
Within less than 30 minutes per episode, Martin and Hampson have been able to give us a slice of what it means to exist in this modern world as a queer person. It’s through these multi-layered plots that Martin reminds us of the complexities of people’s psyches; how many seemingly unrelated things can pool together and overlap in someone’s experiences. There is a marriage of the mundane and the extreme, the funny and the despairing that just works so well. The performances of, not just Ritchie and Martin, but each individual supporting actor, paints a stunning picture of life, each tragic or exposing moment expertly balanced by a punchline. Comedy has always been viewed as a vehicle to explore tragedy, and Martin’s personal approach at crafting Feel Good works perfectly, especially in our current political and social landscape.
Representation and visibility
Without giving away any spoilers, my personal biggest takeaway from Feel Good is the representation of a queer relationship. It feels like letting out a breath you were holding, to see a relationship between a woman and non-binary person which portrays the magic ethereality of love, without patronising the idea of ‘queer perfection’; both protagonists make mistakes and endure difficulties in their relationship, exactly in the same way that heterosexual couples do.
The realism of the characters, even when they’re making questionable choices, makes them so loveable; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where I’ve cheered on, and begged, for there to be a happy ending as much as this one. The closing scene of the final episode illustrates this exhalation immaculately, as the opening riff of Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers (chosen by Martin for the spookily accurate lyrics) plays over shots of countryside, you will leave the show needing a good few minutes (hours? Days??) to recover from how wonderful it really is.
Watch Seasons 1 & 2 of Feel Good on Netflix.