There’s a moment in Dave Season 2 that will break your heart. Dave (Dave Burd), still reeling from his breakup with Ally (Taylor Misiak), brings a girl home and attempts to connect with her in the only way he knows how: through music. He plays a familiar beat and encourages her to sing in autotune, as he and Ally once did. But despite his best efforts, Dave can’t get the girl to buy in, a failure that reminds him, once again, how alone he really is.
Loneliness is inescapable in Dave’s sophomore run, a self-aware collection of episodes that picks up on the emotional beats that made the back half of Season 1 so great. Whereas the first few episodes, with their emphasis on dick jokes and cringe comedy, lived up to the legacy of Dave’s rap name, Lil Dicky, the FXX series changed tack with a poignant take on mental illness in Episode 5, “Hype Man,” and never looked back. Subsequent Season 1 episodes explored the surprising connection between Dave’s DJ Elz (Travis Bennett) and their friend Emma (Christine Ko), the implosion of Dave’s relationship with Ally, and the effects of his burgeoning fame on those around him.
In Season 2, the pressure on Dave mounts when his label — which apparently chose to keep him after the “Jail” debacle — asks him to record a complete album. Dave has released singles before, including the famed “My Dick Sucks,” but never a full album, and he struggles to translate his creative vision into a longer format. As writer’s block sets in, he searches for distractions, but his narcissism and desperate need for control over his music have alienated even his closest friends.
While Dave may be at his worst in these moments, the show that bears his name thrives when it examines the thin line between self-confidence and self-destruction. In some episodes, like last season’s wedding episode, this tension is explicit; in others, it’s buried under layers of absurdity. The Season 2 premiere, for example, sees Dave and his entourage fly to Korea to film a music video with real-life rapper CL. Dave goes to great lengths to pander to K-pop fans with a song titled, “I Took a Shit in Korea,” and an offensive video that he insists is “Korean enough” after days (hours?) of research into the culture, but in an entirely unsurprising twist, his ignorance threatens to create an international incident that could render him forever unemployable.
Dave manages to escape his “International Gander” relatively unscathed, but the experience reverberates across the entire season. Mike (Andrew Santino) begins to question Dave’s commitment and seeks out other clients in an attempt to establish a workable backup plan. GaTa (played by the rapper of the same name, who also serves as a consultant on the show) becomes disillusioned with his hype man status and strikes out on his own. Ally works to establish a just-friends dynamic with Dave, but continues to butt up against his inflated ego.
These stories supplement Dave’s search for rap superstardom, but Dave never makes them feel less important. They highlight the wannabe rapper’s growing isolation as he watches everyone around him move on and move up, while he remains metaphorically stuck behind his computer.
To be clear, despite leaning into its emotional core, Dave Season 2 is still uproariously funny. The Korean music video fiasco is about as over-the-top as it gets, Ally’s storyline features a moment worthy of a spit-take (in this case, literally), and the show harkens back to Dave’s past at Jewish summer camp in an outrageous Benny Blanco-centric episode. Guest stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kendall Jenner also lighten up the mood and force Dave to look outwards when he’d prefer to navel-gaze.
In a press conference last week, co-creator and executive producer Jeff Schaffer explained that in Season 2, Dave’s support system has disappeared right when he needs it most. Throughout the season’s first five episodes, Dave does little to rebuild that safety net; instead repeatedly getting in his own way, even as his friends explicitly tell him what they need from him. However, Dave does offer glimmers of hope that our protagonist is headed down the right path: while he can’t always correct his mistakes, he’s at least able to see them for what they are. Gone are the days of dick jokes and denial — Lil Dicky is evolving, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.
Dave Season 2 premieres on FXX Wednesday June 16 at 10:00 PM ET, with new episodes airing weekly through July. Episodes will be available to stream the next day on FX on Hulu.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.