The animated comedy Big Mouth debuted in 2017, which means that Nick Birch (Nick Kroll), Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney), and all their friends have already been in middle school for six years. With two more seasons on the way over the next two years, these kids have been experiencing the pains of puberty for more than half as long as they’ve been alive. It puts into perspective the limits of a series that explores a very specific time and universal series of events.
The 2022 spinoff, Human Resources, seemed to solve that problem. Instead of a coming-of-age or school-based story, it was positioned as a workplace sitcom. The creatures introduced through the perspectives of the central characters in Big Mouth didn’t just disappear into a void when they weren’t around — they went back to an office with countless other departments and monsters and clients, a set with a seemingly endless well of inspiration for stories.
But Netflix announced earlier this year that Season 2 will be Human Resources’ last, ending two years before Big Mouth wraps up in 2025. Over the last year, the two shows have remained tethered, sharing characters and storylines, and Big Mouth’s final two seasons promise to continue that symbiosis. It was Human Resources, however, that was primed to be the last one standing. In fact, it’s the Netflix show that could have outlasted every other series on the streamer.
As an animated series, it’s already better positioned for longevity than most of Netflix’s offerings. Unlike a show like, say, Stranger Things, there’s no worry about cast members aging out of their roles, no big-budget effects to worry about, and no real need for actors to be in the same room to share a scene. The concept of the series is specific enough to stand out in Netflix’s library without stepping on the toes of other original programming, but the office setting makes for a relatable and understandable format. The fact that said office exists in a completely made-up realm where earthly rules don’t apply makes anything possible.
Of course, it's one thing to have that freedom without knowing exactly how to use it and something entirely different to wield it to create something smart, inclusive, and extremely silly. The newly released Season 2 does just that by introducing some new creatures while focusing on an entirely different set of human clients, offering an opportunity for more representation among the cast and narrative.
For example, disability rights activist Alice Wong plays a fictionalized version of herself. She is primarily guided by her lovebug, Rochelle (Keke Palmer), but soon grows to have a complicated relationship with the newly introduced Hope (Niecy Nash-Betts), which is made worse when Rochelle turns into a hate-worm.
On the surface, personifying each emotion into its a cartoon character may seem like an oversimplification of what Alice and other clients are feeling as they navigate the world. But humanizing even the smallest human emotion allows for a nuanced exploration of why love turns to hate, how hope can lead to disappointment, why logic alone can’t solve every problem, and how often throughout someone’s life the hormones that make them the horniest can appear out of nowhere. It’s a tactic that’s not just useful for the younger audiences that Big Mouth may draw — what Human Resources really taps into is the idea that all people (yes, even adults!) are just doing their best to figure out how they feel and why.
A wide variety of people could easily fit into Human Resources’ template for exploring universal human emotions, and there are many more nuanced emotions begging for departments and employees of their own. The series debuted with a firmly established and perpetually reloadable premise in place, and Season 2 is proof of its staying power. Unfortunately, at least for now, its potential will go unrealized, and we’ll be left having to figure out how to deal with what and how we feel about that on our own.
Human Resources Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.