The Season 2 road trip that the HBO Max comedy embarks on "makes Deborah’s interior struggles real," says Alex Abad-Santos. But it also shows what life is like for somebody for whom working is all that matters. "The way Deborah interprets the world around her — its ills, its tragedy, its happiness — is through comedy, a notoriously fickle artform," says Abad-Santos. "If Deborah’s life flashed before her eyes, it would consist of standup, her late-night show, her missed opportunities, her Vegas residency. The montage wouldn’t include her husband, her child, her sister’s betrayal, or her husband’s death. To Deborah, nothing really matters if it isn’t related to comedy. Hacks works this season because you slowly realize that this road trip is a total gamble for Deborah. There is no backup plan. Who she is, the way she needs the world to see her, her understanding of joy and pain — it’s all on the line. This comedy tour is a matter of her own survival. But is that all too ghoulish, too narcissistic to admit?"
Would Hannah Einbender be starring on Hacks if she wasn't the daughter of SNL legend Laraine Newman?: Einbender, who barely had any acting credits before landing her Emmy-nominated Hacks role, can't escape what Vulture calls the "Hannah Horvath dilemma.": "If we eliminated nepotism in Hollywood, we wouldn’t have Hollywood," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "But I think particularly for creative fields, it’s not like, This is my terrible nephew, let’s stick him in the mail room. Particularly when somebody has to actually stand on a stage and make people laugh — there’s an immediacy to the response to whether or not they’re succeeding. You’re probably pretty good because you have a nepotistic relationship with this thing you grew up around. That you’ve had a lot more exposure to. Is that not fair? Of course it isn’t fair, but it doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job. It just means you had a lot more opportunities to get good at it. That plus the ability to have access to like, What kinda moves do I need to make?"
Hacks' return offers a "satiating fuel for joy-parched souls": "I have come to learn that few images spark more joy than that of Jean Smart in a leopard print glamour kaftan swanning through the Nevada desert," says Kevin Fallon. "Hacks premiered last year like a ray of light piercing through storm clouds. The world feels pretty terrible right now. It felt pretty terrible then, too! What’s more fun than years of static misery? What a time to be alive! But if things don’t seem to have really changed, other than the specifics of what exactly is making the act of existence so particularly crushing at any given moment, at least this hasn’t changed either. If the simple pleasures we get, the fleeting distractions that uplift, are fun things to watch on TV, then Hacks is still the serotonin blast, the satiating fuel for joy-parched souls, that it was."
Hacks and I Love That for You explore the intergenerational bonds between women at the fringes of the entertainment industry: "Together, the two shows explore what these women provide for their audience, and what they’ve trained that audience to expect from them," says Alison Herman. "Like her real-life inspiration Joan Rivers, Deborah is a tireless worker, taking every gig and endorsement deal she can. One of those many hustles is a show on QVC, a job she’s less passionate about than Jackie, but she still gives her all. Both Hacks and I Love That for You are acutely aware of home shopping as the ugly stepchild of mainstream retail and television alike. It’s a status the shows exploit for comic effect, but also thematic resonance. Neither Jackie nor Deborah is taken seriously by some of their peers. They gain a following by catering to a demographic that feels similarly unseen."