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HBO Max's I Hate Suzie Is the Best Show You're Not Watching (Yet)

The dark comedy from Billie Piper and Succession's Lucy Prebble returns for a second season on December 22.
  • Billie Piper stars in I Hate Suzie Too (Photo: HBO Max)
    Billie Piper stars in I Hate Suzie Too (Photo: HBO Max)

    In recent years, television programs centered on messy millennial British women have dominated our screens. From Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s highly successful Fleabag and Michaela Coel’s riveting I May Destroy You, to Aisling Bea’s delightfully devastating This Way Up and Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck, the trope provides a foundation for complex explorations of womanhood and female desire. These shows and their creators let women be imperfect, self-destructive, and complicated yet relatable humans. One show that fits perfectly into this ever-growing sub-genre of TV is I Hate Suzie, the Sky Atlantic/HBO Max dark comedy created by Billie Piper and Succession writer-producer Lucy Prebble, which returns with a short Christmas special on December 22. 

    Piper plays Suzie Pickles, a former teen pop star turned actress who lives in the English countryside with her husband, Cob (Daniel Ings), and their young Deaf son, Frank (Matthew Jordan-Caws). After landing a career-changing role as an “aging princess” in a Disney project, nude photos of Suzie with a man who is not her husband are leaked to the tabloids on the day a glossy Cruella De Vil-inspired photoshoot is scheduled to take place at her home. Suddenly, Suzie is more relevant than she has been in years as the cracks of her seemingly stable personal life get exposed. 

    Structured as a journey through grief, each episode takes Suzie and viewers through one of the eight stages, from shock and denial to guilt and anger, ultimately concluding with acceptance. The episodes play with tone, with one entry flirting with horror elements and another featuring a fantasy sex sequence. As Suzie attempts to grapple with the fallout of the public crisis, her agent and childhood best friend Naomi (Leila Farzad) is trying to prevent Suzie’s career from spiraling further downward and providing a shoulder for her to rely on, to the point where Naomi’s own life takes a backseat. Through their bond I Hate Suzie explores its most fascinating and meaningful love story and the importance of female friendship. 

    A rich character study of a deeply self-centered woman, I Hate Suzie never defines the eponymous character by her faults but rather uses them to paint a chaotic portrait of someone who has spent her entire life defined by others and is now attempting to find her footing and take control of her own narrative in a manner that will naturally cause her to make mistakes along the way. And as much as the series is dedicated to inspecting every corner of her mindset, it extends the same development to its supporting characters, who are as equally messy and flawed as she is. 

    The three 50-minute episodes that make up I Hate Suzie Too pick up not too far from where the first season left off. Suzie and Cob are now deep in a nasty custody battle that causes Cob’s hostile nature to grow stronger as he tries to make her life even more of a living hell through demands such as regular drug tests in order to prevent Frank from celebrating Christmas with his mother. At the same time, Suzie is competing on Dance Crazee, a Strictly Come Dancing-esque celebrity dance competition show, in an attempt to rehabilitate her public image and afford the mounting legal fees.

    She initially isn’t much of a favorite among fans after performing an unconventional and expressive dance routine in the show’s opening moments — someone on her team also suggests it may be because she is no longer a blonde — and later gets paired up with her older first ex-husband, Bailey Quinn (Douglas Hodge), for the duration of the competition. Meanwhile, Naomi attempts to create distance by no longer being Suzie’s agent but ends up getting sucked back into her immediate orbit as she helps babysit Frank and listens to Suzie vent. 

    This time around, the series is much more narrowly focused on Suzie’s evolution and ongoing emotional breakdown through a more dramatic lens, although the dark humor is certainly still there. Nearly every aspect of I Hate Suzie Too revolves around Suzie in some way shape or form, even when she isn’t on screen. She feels guilty for the role she played in the downfalls of her various relationships so by attempting to prove that she is a good dancer, she is trying to make herself and others believe that she is also a good mother, friend, and person. The first season ends with Suzie finding out she was pregnant, and the second installment portrays an unflinchingly raw look at her abortion and the impact it has on Suzie afterwards as she once again keeps her feelings bottled up. Regardless of how much she tries to convince everyone that she has her life together, this season homes in on her slow, albeit not subtle, unraveling. 

    Anxiety is at the heart of I Hate Suzie. Speaking with Deadline, Prebble noted that she was “fascinated” by anxiety and that she and Piper wanted to develop something that was not only focused on viscerally portraying anxiety within the series but also made viewers feel as though they were experiencing a constant panic attack. The series is immersive and claustrophobic as Suzie’s life unravels, and the camera work uses evocative close-ups and a frenzied style to capture her increasingly manic state. 

    What makes I Hate Suzie such a brilliantly special show is the powerhouse duo that is Piper and Prebble, close friends who first met on Showtime’s 2007 series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. It’s clear that they have a deep trust built within their friendship and creative collaboration, and this is a series that fully relies on trust and the freedom to be vulnerable to succeed. Loosely using Piper’s personal experiences as a former child star who is now most recognized for her role in Doctor Who, and whose life been widely publicized as the outline for the series, the pair dissect the entertainment industry’s treatment of women, the misogyny ingrained in it, and the way women can be stripped of their autonomy in the age of social media. 

    When the first season debuted in 2020, it was met with critical praise and earned five BAFTA nominations, but flew under the radar in the U.S. due to a lack of advertisement that led to it quickly being buried amongst HBO Max’s vast catalog. In both seasons, Piper gives a fearless and brutal performance, and paired with the compelling and hilarious writing, it turns I Hate Suzie into one of the most masterful shows of the 2020s. Whether or not Piper and Prebble have more I Hate Suzie in store for us in the future, we can only hope that Warner Bros. Discovery doesn’t come for this daring gem next. 

    I Hate Suzie Too premieres December 22 on HBO Max. 

    Jihane Bousfiha is a culture writer based in Florida. 

    TOPICS: I Hate Suzie Too, HBO Max, I Hate Suzie, Billie Piper, Lucy Prebble