How is it that a show steeped in magical realism consistently manages to deliver some of the most authentic and realistic portrayals of humanity on television?
Even in the midst of a pandemic, the show beautifully captured the grief and loneliness and overwhelmingness of the world we find ourselves living in without even uttering the words coronavirus or COVID-19?
It's a true testament to the series' power, and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 2 Episode 1 was no exception.
Picking up six weeks after Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 12, the season premiere deals with Zoey adjusting to the many changes that have happened since Mitch's death.
Having spent the past month and a half-hidden out in Maggie's house, dealing with her internalized grief, Zoey emerges to find her friends, colleagues, and workplace in a state of flux.
Zoey: Avoidance has been a glorious thing. Allowed me not to deal with anyone or anything.
Mo: Including your powers.
Zoey: You know that I haven’t heard a single heart song since my dad.
Mo: I’m aware, but I’m also hoping these powers come back before I lose interest in you, but be honest: You miss them, just a little bit, don’t you?
Zoey: I mean honestly the world has been upside down for so long all I want is to feel normal. So if my powers really have gone away, I mostly feel relieved.
Dealing with these changes in just one aspect of our lives would be enough to send us into a tailspin, so watching Zoey try to navigate this new and somewhat confusing world is highly relatable.
2020 was a year of change for everybody, as the world we now live in is almost unrecognizable from a year ago.
Like us, Zoey has had her entire life upended, and watching her try to make sense of her place in all of this and put the pieces back together is like looking in a mirror.
It's a masterful hour of television, and the writing is superb.
You can tell the writers took great care with the writing, even managing to capture the beauty in the mundane, such as being able to breathe clean air for the first time in months. Sound familiar?
When setting out to write the season opener, the writers may not have known the world would still be turned upside down, as Zoey put it.
However, they still set out to tell a complicated and heartbreaking story about the aftermath of grief, and even if the world weren't in such a chaotic time, the episode still would have resonated, albeit on a smaller scale, for most of us have lost a loved one at some point.
Taking a step back from the overarching picture, most of the episode deals with Zoey and her interpersonal relationships and how those have changed.
One of the biggest developments is Zoey taking over as executive director of the fourth floor.
Zoey: I was kind of hoping to ease back into work slowly. This isn’t exactly easing.
Joan: No, this is jumping into the deep end during a raging fire while vultures circle your head, just hoping you don’t drown or get burned or have your head pecked to death.
Though this means we have to say good-bye to Lauren Graham's Joan, watching Zoey in this new managerial role should be fun as our protagonist learns the ins and outs of being the boss and leading her own team.
In the past, whenever Zoey got into a bind, she could go to Joan for advice and support, but now that safety net is gone.
Everything falls on Zoey's shoulders, and we have to wonder whether or not she's up to the challenge.
While I love Zoey to pieces, she's bound to struggle in her new position, as she lacks a lot of the professional experience necessary when commanding her own team.
She was only promoted a few months ago and now finds herself with an even bigger undertaking.
It's going to be an adjustment, and it'll most likely take a couple of episodes before Zoey gets into the swing of things.
However, once she does, it'll be a sight to see.
Elsewhere, the dreaded and obnoxious love triangle seemingly came to a resolution sooner rather than later.
For the time being, it seems Zoey has chosen Max, and while starting a new relationship so soon after losing her father may not be the smartest decision, it's great that she actually picked the right person.
Zoey: You always have to move forward. Speaking of, I am well aware that you and I have yet to talk about what happened that night.
Zoey: The night, and I’ve certainly had the time to think about it.
Max: Oh. I feel like I’m waiting for a drumroll or something.
Zoey: It’s just you have to make choices in life, carry on, right or wrong.
'Ship wars can be a big part of any fandom, but does anyone actually like Zoey with Simon?
The characters have no chemistry, and their entire relationship felt forced.
Yes, they bonded over their fathers' deaths and related to each other on that level, but otherwise, they really have nothing in common.
It's as if the show was trying to copy others and drum up excitement over who Zoey would pick when really no one was that invested in Zoey pursuing a relationship with Simon.
Max, on the other hand, has always been a clear choice.
He and Zoey have a solid foundation for building a relationship, and the characters' chemistry is off the charts.
Max understands Zoey on such a fundamental level, and him giving her the "shield" ring before going back to work was everything.
It was such a sweet gesture and proved Max knows Zoey better than anyone else, so her finally realizing that he was the one she was meant to be with was a truly satisfying moment.
Again, that's not to say they're meant to be or OTP, but he clearly is the better choice at the moment, though their timing isn't ideal.
Max: Oh, hey, since it’s your first day back at work, I wanted to get you something.
Zoey: Oh, Max, I…
Max: Relax killer, I’m not proposing. Just open it. It’s a shield with a musical note on it. I actually had them reverse the note so it looks a little more like a Z. I just thought after everything you would want a little extra strength to shield you from the world when you need it.
Zoey: Please tell me you bought this from a magical antique dealer in Chinatown.
Max: I actually did, so whatever you do, do not get it wet. Seriously.
Zoey: I won’t.
Zoey has decided to carry on with her life, but jumping into a new relationship so soon after Mitch's death may not be wise.
She's still trying to get her bearings with all the changes that happened in her absence, and while she has feelings for Max, it might be better to take things slow or wait a while.
Hopefully, when all is said and done, their friendship remains intact. It would be a shame if a premature romance ruined their entire relationship.
Lastly, we need to talk about Zoey and Mo's friendship, which has quickly become one of the best non-romantic relationships on the show.
Mo may claim they're only friends with Zoey so long as she's interesting, but their actions in this episode proved otherwise.
They were a true friend to Zoey this episode, oscillating between giving our protagonist a shoulder to lean on and tough love.
It's been great to watch their friendship evolve, and I loved that Mo called Zoey out on her "champagne problems."
While it's terrible that Zoey is dealing with her father's loss, Mo was right in that some of Zoey's troubles were very "First World" problems.
No one else would have given Zoey a harsh dose at reality -- except maybe Joan -- and Zoey reciprocated by letting Mo into her world in her own way.
Mo: Let me offer you some perspective. As tough as it is to lose your father, you’re going through what I like to call ‘champagne problems.’ I don’t know. Should I take the new promotion? I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from. Which boy should I choose: the handsome one or the more handsome one?
Zoey: Which one is the more handsome one?
Mo: I’m not telling you which. Meanwhile, my boyfriend’s out at sea. We haven’t spoken in 11 days, so I’m not sure how much longer this long-distance thing is going to work out.
Zoey: I’m sorry. I really don’t mean to be selfish.
Mo: And I don’t mean to be giving you this tough love while you’re still going through it, but we all have our stuff, Zoey. And while you were in a bubble for the last six weeks, life went on. so eventually you’re going to have to stop running away, keeping people at an arm’s length, and not making decisions. Clearly, the universe agrees with me.
Mo is really the only one who Zoey confides in about everything, and it's been a real treat to watch their relationship bloom.
They have such fun and light energy and bring us many much-needed comedic moments, especially when episodes tend to be tragedy-heavy.
Some stray thoughts:
Despite the somewhat unrealistic nature of Zoey's fast-tracked promotion, it can be overlooked because, first, it's a television show. Second, it's great to see women in leadership roles in a mostly male-dominated field. We definitely need more women in these types of roles.
Did anyone else cry when Mitch gave his video testimonials? Just me? That was a great way to incorporate Peter Gallagher, and I wouldn't mind seeing Mitch again in some capacity if it made sense for the story.
I love George, and he must be protected at all costs. He's such a giant teddy bear, and I will harm anyone who dares to hurt him, including Tobin. It also doesn't hurt that he's played by Harvey Guillén, who stars as familiar Guillermo de la Cruz on What We Do in the Shadows. The actor is a true gem.
Max's unicorn business idea is essentially a restaurant version of Grubhub. When I first heard about it, I felt like that already existed in an app, but then I realized Max meant a restaurant version. Pretty cool, even if it is vaguely similar to Rose Apothecary from Schitt's Creek.
Does anyone else really care about David and Emily being new parents? As a background plot, it's OK, but I'd hate to devote a lot of screen time to these characters, which work best as secondary ones.
So what did you think, TV Fanatics?
How do you feel the episode did in capturing the world's current predicament through the lens of Zoey?
How will Zoey do being the new boss?
What's your favorite relationship?
Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the season premiere, remember you can watch Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.