Season 1 of the Hulu series starring Bryant was "unabashedly about Annie deciding that she will no longer live a stunted half-life spent apologizing for her body — that she will take up as much space as she damn well pleases. She will be fat and loud," says Laura Bogart. In Season 2, Bogart adds, "Shrill still delivers robust barbs against sizeism — this season skewers the capitalist hollowing-out of 'body positivity' — while demonstrating that Annie also has a life of challenges and choices beyond her weight. She worries about readers finding her writing, or whether her father will remain healthy. Her body isn't the site of neurotic fixation, it is the vessel that carries her through the world. No more, no less. Just like anyone else. Just like me. I know how terrifying it is to leap out of the ever-whirring hamster wheel of diet culture."
Season 2 underscores Shrill's weaknesses while barely developing its characters: "With its Portland Oregon, setting, muted affect and wan cinematography, Shrill could be mistaken for a particularly unmemorable Sundance film," says Inkoo Kang. "But after two seasons (comprising 14 episodes, or a whopping seven hours), it feels like we've only reached the end of a screenplay's Act 1. It doesn't help that this follow-up season tacks more toward satire and comedy, exposing how brutally unfunny the show can be." Season 2's puttering plots, says Kang, reveal Aidy Bryant's limitations as a lead actress. "The comedian mugs for the camera here as she does on Saturday Night Live, pantomiming emotions with the subtlety of a Greek mask," says Kang.
Shrill gets bolder and better in Season 2: "If the show’s first season was about a young woman daring to call out abuse–from strangers, bosses, her mother, men–this new one is more about learning to push beyond that," says Karen Valby, adding: "In its second season, the show isn’t screaming for our attention. Instead, it trusts that a smart and funny woman’s steady progression into a fuller life is its own kind of battle cry."
Aidy Bryant says she had to fight for her Shrill sex scenes: "How can you have a story about a person’s body and about their relationship to their selves and not involve sex?,” she says. “I just always felt like so many fat characters were so sexless, or the sex was hypercartoony, where it was like she jumps on a man and she’s going to break his dick off and suck him until he’s dead or whatever. But I always was having cool sex and had boyfriends."
Bryant admits it feels more natural playing a self-confident character this season: "Basically, playing this season felt more real to me in a lot of ways because I think it’s quite closer to kind of where I am in my own life. Nine out 10 days I feel good about myself," she says. "... The image that comes to mind is basically a trip wire. Where it’s like you’re going through your days, you’re feeling good and then something or someone happens to you. It’s similar to the thunderbolt of pain with Twitter. There’s a zing in your life and you kind of have to reach inside yourself and work through it and keep going. I think that’s more comparable to what life feels like for me at this point. But certainly, first-season Annie was me in my early 20s. She’s a lot of us."