Netflix’s ‘Sex/Life’ Is Back to Satisfy Your Softcore Desires
As the first season of Netflix’s Sex/Life wrapped up, our heroine Billie (Sarah Shahi) found herself in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, she had Cooper (Mike Vogel), her drop-dead gorgeous, chiseled husband, a great father to her two small children with a lucrative job that was helping save the world. But the sex? Meh. On the other hand, she had Brad (Adam Demos), her drop-dead gorgeous, chiseled past love, a mega-rich music producer unfortunately burdened with abandonment issues that made him a bit of a douchebag. But the sex? Skyrockets.
What’s a modern gal to do? This is the question hanging over Season Two, which finds Billie and her bestie Sasha (Margaret Odette) trying to balance carnal desire with practical dilemmas most humans would kill to have. With its softcore aesthetic, cast full of surrealistically beautiful people and characters saddled with oodles of dough, Sex/Life, created by Stacy Rukeyser, is a study in first-world problems writ large. But beneath the wall-to-wall sex and actors faking orgasms lies a pretty smart look at some eternal questions. Such as: What happens when a hot marriage (or even relationship) cools down? Why does the grass always look greener when you’re thinking about moaning into the other guy’s ear? And why is it so hard to have it all, even when society keeps telling us we can?
As the new season starts, Billie and Cooper are getting divorced, which means she must split her time between her palatial Connecticut home and her killer Manhattan apartment. Sasha, riding the success of her new book, is trying to reconcile her existence as a money-making brand of female independence with the reappearance of her first and forever love, Kam (Cleo Anthony), a drop-dead gorgeous, chiseled doctor who runs a hugely successful humanitarian enterprise. (There are no vocational failures in Sex/Life). Cooper, on the rebound, is having a torrid affair with his boss, Francesca (Li Jun Li, who dazzled as Lady Fay Zhu in Babylon), but also sleeping with anyone who crosses his path. And Brad, the extremely well-endowed but emotionally distant pop tycoon? He’s getting married to the Vogue cover model Gigi (Wallis Day).
Deep breath. Followed by heavy panting. The Sex in Sex/Life is frequent, fleshy, and highly athletic. It really does feel like something you might have once seen at 3 a.m. on Cinemax (or so I’ve heard). There’s so much sex that it can actually get a little boring. During one hot and heavy rendezvous I found myself scrolling Twitter, waiting for the next dialogue scene to commence. Make no mistake, it’s good sex. It just loses a little something when it becomes the rule rather than the exception.
And yet there are also refreshing touches here. Sex/Life boasts more female gaze than male; at one point it even drops the phrase “male gaze,” popularized by the feminist critic Laura Mulvey. In this way, the series’ female perspective extends to its visual approach. Season One created a stir when Cooper trailed Brad into a gym shower and observed his significant member. Yes, Netflix goes full frontal. Sex/Life also embraces diversity. Sasha and Cam are a successful, wealthy, and, yes, attractive Black couple (when they’re a couple, anyway; Sasha is leaning more toward her marketability as a single lady than toward the possibility of true love). Billie’s new amour, the (successful) restaurateur Majid (Darius Homayoun), is Persian (and he has great abs); Billie is half-Persian, and Shahi, the actress who plays her, is the daughter of an Iranian father and Spanish-Iranian mother. Sex/Life puts the mostly-lily-white Sex and the City to shame.
Is Sex/Life a little ridiculous? Sure. But it’s also a good deal of overheated fun that manages to think far more progressively than it needs to, especially for a show that creates absurd body image expectations (if you’re not built like a model, you’d best get off the set). So, here’s to Billie and the gang. May they get everything they ever wanted. Or at least have great sex trying.