The nature of “High Maintenance” isn’t to focus on the ins and outs of storytelling, but rather to detail the human condition. All art forms, stories and television shows are about this human condition in some way or another, but the ever-changing cast of characters, the variety of their dilemmas, the diversity of their lifestyles and yet the underlying similarities between each one in “High Maintenance” goes several steps further in really reflecting what life is. This reflection has always been the show’s trademark, but the premiere of the second season on Friday emphasized shared human experiences even more strongly than usual.
The premiere didn’t change the show, keeping old tricks from the previous season like stunning camerawork, energetic soundtracks and bicycle montages. The premise is the same, The Guy riding around on his bike to deliver pot to various clientele around New York City. He comes into contact with random side characters that become the subject for the next five or ten minutes, giving the audience a short glimpse into the life of someone we might think of as inconsequential in other contexts.
However, one thing was different. The season two premiere portrayed New York the day after some unnamed tragedy, automatically giving the episode an overarching theme and connecting the characters in a way that has never happened before. Throughout the episode, people are grieving, they’re upset, angry, scared. Exactly what terrible thing happened is never revealed, which is what makes it so powerful. More than ever, and on a much larger level, the audience can see themselves within the show. Airing in such a relevant time, with terrorism, mass shootings, bombings and all the hate circulating in the world today, reactions like those in the episode have nearly become second nature. It’s easy to see ourselves upset, angry and scared. It’s easy to picture ourselves having the same conversations that random characters have over lunch in a restaurant. By leaving the nature of the tragedy up for interpretation, the writers allow us to insert our own experiences more so than the show allowed for in the past.
For the most part, “High Maintenance” has never been depressing. Most of the problems are solved, even if the solutions are little baby solutions, indicating things might get better in the future. This premiere was no different, and given the elevated significance of the “problem” in this episode, the solution holds more gravity as well. Sometimes, people do terrible things, and the rest of the world feels it. Just like the characters in the show, we wonder if things can ever get better, if there are any good things left or if the world is just spiraling out of control into hate and violence. In this premiere episode, all these questions are asked, but the final scene gives us an answer. A hispanic restaurant worker rides a train home late at night with his young son. The son’s purple balloon gets away from him, and another passenger retrieves it. Soon the entire train is batting the balloon around, smiling in the way people reserve for small children, marveling at something so good in the middle of what has been a terrible day. Despite the world’s ugliness, “High Maintenance” reminds us that there is beauty too.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.