Dispelling the Felicity Sophomore Slump Myth: The Show's Polarizing 2nd Season Was Actually Its Best — and We Have the Receipts to Prove It

Felicity Season 2

* “HELP FOR THE LOVELORN” (S2, E11) | Arguably the biggest creative swing in Felicity history, this Twilight Zone homage was a random and indulgent gamble that paid off spectacularly, resulting in one of my favorite hours of television ever. From the stunning visuals to the haunting score to the intentionally over-the-top acting, the episode — written by Abrams and directed by OG Twilight Zone helmer Lamont Johnson — was a perfect marriage of art and unabashed gimmickry that also underscored Felicity’s ongoing romantic journey. All of that plus we (sorta) found out what was in Meghan’s mysterious box!

4. “THE SLUMP” (S2, E12) | Russell received a total of zero Emmy nominations for her work on Felicity, and this episode — Season 2’s best — really brings home the injustice of it all. The future Americans Emmy contender delivers one tour-de-force after another as Felicity comes to grips with her parents’ separation. “The Slump” — written by Abrams and directed by Reeves — also marks Amy Aquino’s unforgettable introduction as Felicity’s no-nonsense, classical music-obsessed, chain-smoking counselor Dr. Pavone. If I were to list my five favorite scenes in Felicity history, the cold open that serves as Aquino’s debut would, without question, make the cut.

Other observations from “The Slump”:

* Watch those initial Pavone scenes and marvel at Russell’s perfectly modulated reaction shots as Aquino’s unorthodox shrink pushes all of Felicity’s buttons, much to her profound irritation.

* There were so many standout lines in the episode, but my favorite is this one from Pavone to Felicity about her parents’ history of manipulation: “This is a sporting event. This is Martyr Ball. They got the sticks and you’re the puck — and you’re telling me you’re not angry?!”

* Twenty-year-old me would’ve dropped out of college to backpack through Europe with Ben in a heartbeat.

6. “THE ARETHA THEORY” (S2, E21 — the final two scenes) | Ben’s “time machine” line to Felicity is so corny, but it packs such an emotional wallop, largely due to Speedman and Russell’s beautifully subtle scene work. Combine it with the subsequent private outdoor movie screening montage high atop New York City that served as the couple’s official reunion, and I challenge you to find a more romantic five minutes on any young adult drama ever.

7. “THE BIGGEST DEAL THERE IS” (S2, E23) | The funniest episode of the season, the finale takes place against the backdrop of Javier’s wedding to Samuel, and finds Felicity facing another summertime Sophie’s Choice: Does she spend her four-month break with Ben in California, or does she remain in New York to pursue a-once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity? With a little push from Dr. Pavone, she wisely picks the latter. But not before Felicity and Ben turn Javier and Samuel’s rehearsal dinner upside down with competing passive-aggressive toasts (uproarious!) that give way to an explosive argument within earshot of the 40 assembled guests, which then gives way to the two of them impulsively having sex for the first time (way to upend expectations!) within earshot of the 40 assembled guests.

The refreshingly unsentimental development builds to a heart-stopping antepenultimate scene in which the couple finally exchange I love yous. But in a fitting, full-circle twist, it’s Ben who utters the three magic words first. It works because it makes perfect sense while also feeling like the the most wonderful and well-earned surprise.

Other observations from “The Biggest Deal There Is”:

* Another brilliant Meghan-Felicity cold open. Another ingenuously-timed cutaway (i.e. Felicity recoiling in disgust in the wake of Meghan oversharing about her sex life with Sean).

* Speaking of Sean and Meghan, I was on the fence about them as a couple. But then he gave her that skull necklace. And she quit Wicca camp. And just like that, I was all in.

* Ben feigning interest in Richard’s summer travel plans and Richard not picking up on it, FTW.

* “Biggest Deal” marked the first episode-specific collaboration between future Alias and Lost colleagues Abrams and Jack Bender (the former wrote the hour, the latter directed it).

* Felicity needling Ben about his pronunciation of “anything” during their first post-coital canoodle session is so oddly specific and sweetly intimate.

* I love that the final person Felicity interacts with is Dr. Pavone, and that you can track how much their relationship has evolved over the course of the season. What started out as a combative and adversarial doctor-patient relationship gave way to an abundance of mutual trust, respect and affection. Felicity and Pavone were the high point of an extraordinary second season, not to mention Felicity‘s most underrated love story.

OK, fellow bingers, let’s talk: Where do you stand on all things Season 2? Drop your thoughts in the comments. Who knows? I may even chime in myself.