The Sex Lives of College Girls S2E5 & S2E6: “Taking Shots” and “Doppelbanger”

(L-R) Alyah Chanelle Scott, Renee Rapp, Amrit Kaur, and Pauline Chalamet in their dormitory living room studying
(L-R) Alyah Chanelle Scott, Renee Rapp, Amrit Kaur, and Pauline Chalamet The Sex Lives of College Girls Episode 5 "Taking Shots" Courtesy of HBO Max

The following contains spoilers for The Sex Lives of College Girls S2E5 & S2E6: “Taking Shots” (written by Justin Noble & Sheridan Watson and directed by Thembi Banks) and “Doppelbanger” (written by Mindy Khaling and directed by David Stassen)

I don’t know how they do it. Every week The Sex Lives of College Girls keeps getting better! Like the double-episode releases that have come before, S2E5 & S2E6 work hand in hand, almost like a full-hour episode. This story structure works super well for the tone of the show and the arcs of each episode. Every week feels like a mini binge.

I especially loved S2E5; I preferred it to their direction in S2E6. Although I understand what they’re trying to do with “Doppelbanger”, “Taking Shots” was a much more fun episode.

Last week, we saw Jackson (Mitchell Slaggert) tell Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) that he thinks she’s hot. It was lovely, and in S2E5, not only are Leighton (Renee Rapp) and Kimberly brought incredibly close because of Kimberly’s hormone injections and surgery, but Jackson adorably takes care of Kimberly when she gets locked out of her dorm high on whatever they gave her at the hospital. By the end of S2E6, they’re boning! We love to see it!

Again, I really hope they don’t end up in a situation similar to the Nico one. I don’t want to see Kimberly in a one-sided, other-woman scenario.

(L-R) Pauline Chalamet and Mitchell Slagger in Mitchells room after he takes care of her
(L-R) Pauline Chalamet and Mitchell Slaggert in The Sex Lives of College Girls Episode 5 “Taking Shots” Courtesy of HBO Max

Also, Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) got dumped by Canaan (Christopher Meyer) last week because she snooped in his phone. Now, Whitney is “focusing on herself”, which is fantastic to see. She’s really diving into this Bio-Chem class she’s taking, and her grades are gradually meeting the effort she’s been putting in. “Taking Shots” has Whitney dealing with a TA who keeps confusing her with the only other Black girl in the class. Whitney steps up for herself, and it’s an excellent arc for her. She oozes confidence at the end of S2E5.

However, one of the storylines I found disappointing in S2E6 was Whitney’s enemies to lovers stuck doing a lab together with archnemesis know-it-all who was rude to her and Bela at the first Bio-Chem lecture. I don’t even want to know his name yet, although I’m sure I’ll have to because they are definitely gearing up to make these two a thing.

I don’t think he’s worth redeeming. I thought the way they wrote him the first time we met him made him permanently dislikable. Male know-it-alls who purposefully call out/embarrass female students to the professor are on track to full-out incels.

Otherwise, I am really enjoying Whitney’s character development this season. I think she’s making some unique choices, and I like the direction they’re taking her character.

(L-R)Amrit Kaur and Alyah Chanelle Scott in the Bio-Chem lecture when Alyah is handed back the wrong test by the TA
(L-R)Amrit Kaur and Alyah Chanelle Scott in The Sex Lives of College Girls Episode 5 “Taking Shots” Courtesy of HBO Max

Leighton is still in her lesbian slut era; however, by the end of S2E5, she’s got her eyes on one lady in particular. I like Leighton as a character and understand the whole wanting to date yourself thing. I even liked when Tatum (Gracie Dzienny) and Leighton bonded at the end of S2E6. Still, I did find it off-putting after all of Leighton’s character development that the girls bonded over, essentially, bullying.

And then the massive throughline for both episodes was Bela (Amrit Kaur) and Eric (Mekki Leeper). Their casual thing turned into a relationship by the end of S2E5, and then by the end of S2E6, Bela had utterly screwed it up.

It really sucks; I know why they wrote what they wrote; it creates a bit of a circle in Bela’s growth. She behaved similarly when trying to get onto Eric’s comedy magazine staff in Season 1. And Eric’s motivation to outshine Bela and steal her spotlight in front of Dan O’Connell (John Reynolds), a famous comedian with a late-night show, was entirely within his motivation and ego. I think I’m sad for these characters. I thought they were endgame, and maybe they still can be, but they’ve certainly both acted in their own self-interest, completely ignoring their partner’s feelings. I still think these two are perfect for each other, but perhaps neither of them is emotionally ready for a relationship.

And with all that being said, you know what Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble have created is incredible because that kind of complex character fleshing is so layered and interesting.

(L-R) Mekki Leeper and Amrit Kaur on a bench on campus
(L-R) Mekki Leeper and Amrit Kaur in The Sex Lives of College Girls Episode 5 “Taking Shots” Courtesy of HBO Max

Besides the fact that every episode is hilarious and intuitive, each character’s emotional throughlines are incredibly strong and well-crafted. Even Lila (Ilia Isorelýs Paulino), Kimberly’s co-worker from Sips and Bela’s new comedy writer, had an arc in S2E6. It was so well done and faithful to what we understand about her character. Clearly, they’re taking time to expand the lives of side characters, which I have been craving, and I love the direction they’re going with it.

UGH. I love this show so so so much! And as much as there are choices sometimes that make me cringe, I’m still laughing and awing at the writing of this show. I mean, Mindy Kaling loves to give a woman of colour and white boyfriend; it’s like her signature. This can be annoying because sometimes it feels like a one-note character arc, but there are so many other honest redeeming qualities to this show that speak to women around this early to mid-20s range and those older looking back, reflecting on that time.

It’s funny, and it’s quirky, and it’s not pretending that women are always doing the righteous thing. That’s something Mindy Kaling has always done well, and The Sex Lives of College Girls is no exception.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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