SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from the season 2 finale of The Sex Lives of College Girls.
The writers of The Sex Lives of College Girls are not ashamed to call themselves “agents of chaos.” To be fair, it’s part of the job description: “I mean, we tell the stories of 18- and 19-year-old girls living together,” laughs showrunner Justin Noble, who co-developed the series with Mindy Kaling. So it shouldn’t have been surprising when Season 2 ended on a pretty sour note for its protagonists (other than Leighton, more on that later).
Bela (Amrit Kaur) cheats on Eric (Mekki Leeper) with a famous comedian (John Paul Reynolds), betrays her co-writers on the Foxy by approving a school newspaper that singles her out instead of the entire team, and tells a writer who’s asking for their feedback to stop the comedy. Miserable and overwhelmed, she decides to leave Essex College without telling her roommates.
And after trying to suppress her crush on Whitney’s (Alyah Chanelle Scott) ex-boyfriend Canaan (Christopher Meyer), Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) spontaneously follows him from a party and kisses him. She doesn’t realize that Whitney had the same idea and saw the whole thing – until the next day, Whitney specifically asks if anything interesting happened. Kimberly nervously says no, and Whitney later marches to the Kappa sorority’s home to ask if she can stay there instead.
“I’m proud of the show that we don’t have a ton of girl-on-girl wars. We don’t want to see catfights,” says Noble. “But we always knew we were going to build in this place that Kimberly had a crush on Canaan and Whitney was aware of. There was no way around it. It wasn’t actually intended to cause a fight between our girls. But boy oh boy has Kimberly created a situation from which she must extricate herself.
With the Season 2 finale now streaming on HBO Max and the series officially renewed for Season 3, Noble unpacked Bela’s ego, Whitney and Kimberly’s animosity, and Leighton’s newfound freedom Diversity.
Let’s break down the finale character by character. This is Kimberly’s second time dating a boy behind a roommate’s back. Last season she was secretly dating Leighton’s brother Nico (Gavin Leatherwood). Where does this pattern come from? It’s surprising; She seems to be the roommate most eager to create a happy home.
It feels real to me because — in a way I know — she’s afraid to break bad news. She values these friendships so much, especially Whitney’s, and she doesn’t want to screw it up. She’s not quite sure how to handle this Canaan situation, so she doesn’t want to preemptively say, “Hey, this is happening,” because she doesn’t know where to go.
We have this idea, who goes in the room together in sophomore year? That was always the most fascinating part of my studies for me. It literally heralds a test. It says, “Hey, you all lived together. Do you like yourself enough to start living together again?” I remember being in the meeting when it happened and looking around like, “Oh my god, are we going to answer in front of everyone and say we want to live with these people ?” It was such a high-pressure environment. So we see this very sweet moment played so well between Pauline and Alyah where they vulnerablely walk towards each other and say, ‘I don’t know anything else, but one thing I know for sure, I want to live with you next year, and we will Find out who else is in.” And then, in one quick motion, Kimberly pursues another hot boy – the hottest she has pursued yet! – she jeopardizes the whole thing. But unlike Nico doing a pull-up and Jackson emerging from a bathroom, we’ve seen an indentation between Canaan and Kimberly, and this crush is coming from somewhere other than just glistening abs.
This does something for Whitney’s character as well, as she had a fairly traumatic breakup with her soccer coach in season 1, but Canaan calmly and maturely breaks up with her, and then she has an affair with Andrew (Charlie Hall).). What drove this move from an inappropriate relationship to a serious relationship to casual sex—and then back to her feelings for Canaan?
In season 2 she starts with Canaan and things are good. But when football was removed and she didn’t know what to do next, a big part of that breakup was her own insecurity. She feels challenged because Zoe is a tech wizard, and at the same time, Whitney feels like, “I don’t know what my academic drive is and everyone else knows.” This explodes when she can’t help but be jealous of Zoe to be and checked Canaan’s phone and caused this disconnect. Their breakup is defined by Canaan saying, “You’re not ready for this.” In Season 2, we see her fix that. She starts to challenge herself and ends up killing it in this academic field. She finds herself. Then she starts dating this guy and we don’t send her but we don’t Not “Shipping them, and I think that’s because Canaan dropped them. She actually holds a candle for him. Hopefully what we don’t realize by the end of Season 2 — or early Season 3 — is what led to Whitney and Canaan’s downfall, which is that Whitney doesn’t know where she’s been: That’s fixed. So suddenly she says, “It’s not Andrew. Canaan is endgame. Check out Canaan at this party! I’ll follow him.” And the timing, as we construct it as agents of chaos in the writers’ room, is just perfectly imperfect.
Leighton ends this season happiest after Season 1 about her sexuality mostly in the closet. This inner conflict feels resolved after she left Kappa, and her mother, a Kappa, supports her. What inspired the Greek aspect of life?
Leighton is such a fascinating creature. She grew up in a world where, like many queer people, she donned a mask, and the show slowly watches the layers of that mask peel off. Kappa was the last remnant of it. When she chose Kappa as a 16-year-old in high school, it wasn’t the authentic Leighton Murray. That was locked Leighton Murray. Who she is as a person overlaps a lot with Kappa: she’s judgmental in a fun way, she’s got impeccable style, she fits in there. But it reminds me of that line her dad says in the coming out scene in episode 8, where she says, “Maybe I’m really good at being closed off,” and the dad in a way that works for feels a particularly wise straight person says, “Is that a good thing?” It’s something queer people unconsciously get good at, and it’s probably not in our best interest. So when she gets a chance to be standing there with her mom and she starts to hear herself almost out of body talking about gender issues, which aren’t great in the Greek scene, she finds herself quoting things like that [her friends at the campus women’s center] would have said, and it tells us, that this may not be where Leighton Murray lives authentically.
Bela, as she says to a school official in the closing moments of the finale, repeatedly hurts people this season by putting her ego and career goals first. She doesn’t seem to learn from it. What are you researching? And why doesn’t she tell her roommates before she decides to change schools? That also seems hurtful.
Bela is the embodiment of ambition. We know this from the moment we meet her and she talks about not being sure if she wants to be Seth Meyers or have sex with Seth Meyers. Her mind is literally sprinting to the writers’ room on “Saturday Night Live,” and like she’s missing a plane at an airport, she’ll bump into a few people along the way. I don’t think it’s on purpose. I think Bela is a kind hearted person – selfish for sure, but she never bothers to be mean. She’s just set on what she wants.
We see that she falls in love with Eric and she brutally cheats on him and breaks his heart and she feels bad about it. And what we’ve never seen from Bela before is this moment of self-reflection and we leave this scene thinking, ‘Okay, Bela, get fit. See who you are.” Then, in Episode 10, the show gives her an opportunity, the first test of it, and the stakes couldn’t be lower. A cute beta author asking for advice. And Bela fails the test. It couldn’t have been easier, and she just couldn’t. She’s still herself. I think it’s burned into her DNA that she just needs to talk about how brutal this path is. It’s not for the faint of heart and she’ll win. And Georgia just doesn’t have it and Bela wants to do what’s best for Georgia and tell her that.
And in terms of what she does at the end of the season and why she hasn’t spoken to our girls and why she doesn’t confess to the girls in the Foxy that she spoke to the editor, it feels really true to me that someone pursuing this career obsessively perfectionist. To get into that “SNL” writers’ room, you don’t get there with an 8 out of 10. You get there with a 13 out of 10. She can’t screw it up, in her opinion. When she hears herself, this laundry list of all the things she’s done, she reflects that she’s not on that path. She failed the perfectionist test. And I think that doesn’t lead to their goals. Instead of staying where she made those mistakes and having to dig herself out, what drives her to success is starting over somewhere else with a clean record.
Bela does everything to cheat on Eric with this famous comedian, but it’s still interesting compared to last season as everyone helped Whitney understand that her older coach shouldn’t have been stalking her. Why can’t Bela break this unhealthy habit of using sex for her career? She also gave handjobs to the Catullan editors last season.
That is exactly the intention behind this moment. The handjob moment is over. I also think the truth of the matter is that an 18-year-old girl who has a crush like that might only be sexually interested in him, aside from the self-serving career aspirations. But I think Bela has a lot to figure out. She’s a knee-jerk reactor. She has an impulse and she is very confident that her impulses will lead her to success. That’s part of what makes them so funny, but it probably doesn’t prepare them for their happiest future. The show tells us it’s time to explore that. To be clear, on the show we say to Bela, “Explore it! Discover it!” And we watch them very consciously Not explore it. That feels authentic to me. Life keeps telling us, “This is a lesson you need to learn,” and we humans say, “I’m not learning that lesson yet!”
This interview has been edited and abridged.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/sex-lives-of-college-girls-season-2-finale-explained-1235461929/ The Sex Lives of College Girls showrunner explains the season 2 finale