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This Way Up Season Two: Sisters Are Doing It for Each Other

Yes, I am writing about This Way Up for the second time in a week. Yes, I again used a bad pun on a song name as the title of a post. No, I don’t plan to stop anytime in the near future. Partly because the second season was released last Friday on Hulu, and partly because the bosses around here like me enough that they keep me around even when I make puns and use the term “punintentional.” I can’t explain any of it. Except for the show part, because the second season was every bit as great as the first one while still leaving a drastically different feeling.  I don’t want to get too spoilery with the specific plot points because I imagine not everyone has binged it (three times) yet, but I will say the tone this season was less about Áine reacclimating to reality and more about how to handle when reality doesn’t live up to your expectations.

To be clear, the season was still amazing and funny and fun to watch. Full disclosure: it did take me approximately 74 minutes to watch episode four because I needed to repeatedly get up and walk away from the computer when Áine and company did some terribly cringey yet charming stuff. Not because it was bad, but because I was feeling too much and needed to step back. On the opposite side was the actual clapping and shouting I did. Real roller coaster for a three-hour show. But while I’m not going to spoil anything, what I am going to do (possibly at length) is talk about how much I love Áine and Shona, and beg that if you don’t currently have a sister in your life, you need to get one.

Sisters seen in their natural habitat: managing their mother

To clarify:

  • sisters do not need to be genetically related to you
  • sisters do not need to be women
  • sisters are mostly the person you’d ask to check to make sure the weird mole on your back(side) isn’t dangerous
  • your sister is the person who will come closest to perfectly unconditional love

That last one is the point of this whole post, but the first ones are good qualifiers. Your sister can (and over the course of a long relationship probably will) play the role of friend, mother, bad influence, confidant, partner in crime, and most importantly biggest cheerleader. No matter what you did or how badly you screwed up, your sister is the person who says, “you made a bad mistake, but you’re a good person and we will fix this.”

That’s not to say that other relationships can’t be nurturing and supportive, it’s that the dynamics are always different. You can (and probably should) love and support your partner, but that relationship hinges on being conditional. It’s laid out in the contract that some of us choose to sign. The whole “love and honor, sickness and health” thing has the appearance of unconditional love, but also means “if you don’t do these things, I will leave you.” Parents usually love their children unconditionally, but those same parents are still the ones to punish you if you screw up (or even worse tell you they’re disappointed). In the same way, for a lot of people, even as adults, telling your parent that you really screwed something up is hard because who you are as a person is a reflection on what they did. There’s a power imbalance happening even when you’re an adult that usually gets in the way. Your sister, though? She’s on it.

Sisters will often mimic each other’s behaviors in a sign of support and because the floor looked comfy

None of which means that you can’t fight or get angry with your sister, just that the fighting isn’t threatening to the relationship at all. Áine can be annoying and demanding of Shona, Shona can be a little hard on some of Áine’s decisions. Neither one of them is pretending that they or the other is perfect, but they wouldn’t want the other one to be different. It’s flat out acceptance of the other even if they maybe talk a little too much (which is a terrible thing to say about a person).

In Áine and Shona’s relationship, a lot of the trouble in their respective lives isn’t because they don’t love and support each other, but because they weren’t willing to depend on the other as much as they probably should have.  Remember the line from the end of season one where Áine told Shona she didn’t want to lie to her, she just didn’t want to make her sad? You should because it was great enough that I’ve now referenced it in both of these posts. But in a great call back to that, near the end of season two, Áine now gets to tell Shona, “You really need to tell me more stuff, Shona.”

I don’t even have any analysis for that, I just completely love it. It’s the nicest, best thing I can think of, and it makes me happy. On the show, a year ago Áine did something desperate and extreme and sad, and Shona got to tell her that she should let her help.  And now only a year later, Áine gets to be the one to tell her older, perfect sister that she can depend on her more.  Because relationships are dynamic and no person is only the worst thing they did and when you’re scared of telling someone you did something wrong, there will, from now until the heat death of the universe, never be a better response than, “We’ve got this.”

Also, your sister knows your best karaoke song and will do it with you. Always.

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Emily has very strong opinions on very unimportant things and will fight you on those things for no reason. She's been known to try to make friends by quoting Brockmire and John Oliver at you. She's from Chicago and will remind you of that fact early and often. Do not feed the Emilys.

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