My Mad Fat Diary S2 Ep1 – Alarm

The gang goes camping

The critically acclaimed series My Mad Fat Diary, based on the book My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl, has finally returned on E4. Over the full year hiatus between seasons one and two, you may have recognized lead Sharon Rooney in a cameo on Sherlock, but fans are ecstatic to see her return as Rae, the teenage girl struggling with mental illness and body image issues in the 1990s.

The episode begins with Rae flipping through the pages of the titular diary from last season, offering the viewers a few flashbacks to jog our memories. Given that her diary is full, she decides instead to write letters to Tix, her friend who died last season. We get a lovely montage of everyone goofing off in the summer, playing with bubble wands, wearing baggy jeans, and not a single person checking a cell phone. Ah, the 90s.

Then the gang gets together to talk to Rae about her being ill, since they know very little about her time in the hospital. This is smart move from the writers, because it allows new viewers to get caught up on Rae’s illness without at all feeling like a “Here’s what you missed on My Mad Fat Diary segment.

One of the show’s strengths is its relatability. Even if you haven’t experienced mental illness or Rae’s specific form of body image issues, the characters feel real. When Rae goes on her first date with Finn, I think everyone can relate to her worries that it meant more to her than it did to him. The show also has some brilliant lines sprinkled throughout, both hilarious and profound. When Chloe suggest that maybe Finn meant it as a friend, Rae replies, “I don’t want him as a friend. I want him to go down on me for so long that he has to evolve gills.” The nostalgia continues with relationship conversations taking advice from highly regarded sources such as the now defunct Just Seventeen magazine, a UK equivalent of the Seventeen or Teen Vogue magazines my friends would study on the gym bleachers with complete reverence.

Rae and Finn kiss in her bedroomOne of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments of the episode was when Finn fingered Rae on her bed, and the ceiling transforms into outer space. As the stars blast through and the music swells, it’s impossible not to laugh at Rae’s visualization of complete euphoria. Of course, in true teenage fashion, her mother barges in and their makeout session gets cut short. I can’t even be bothered, because Rae’s mother Linda was one of my favorite characters from the last season. I think UK TV shows for teens and young adults typically do a better job of making parents seem like real, flawed characters. We get to see Linda make mistakes with her love life and struggle with the fact that she’s “old.” It’s refreshing to see a parent going through problems of their own that don’t directly tie into their child’s life.

Concerned that they’ll be the only virgins in college, Izzy and Rae come up with the idea to go camping so they’ll have the perfect opportunity to have sex with their boyfriends before college starts. Rae gets a shock when she learns that college starts in only five days—something she would have known if she’d realized where her mom had been putting her mail. Linda is occupied with trying to look younger, especially given that her boyfriend is so much younger than her. “Look, I’m going through the change. […] Weird things are happening to me. I cried at Wheel of Fortune today.” Oh, Linda.

When the girls go to shop for lingerie, Rae’s self-consciousness reemerges. A single ad featuring an airbrushed model catches Rae’s attention. The ad seems to follow her throughout the episode, Rae noticing it plastered throughout town. This still rings true today, with the media’s “idealized beauty” being unavoidable. Her insecurities grow when she sees Finn in the shower, and immediately leaves his house before he realizes she was there. While she doesn’t match up to the ideal she compares herself to, she thinks Finn looks picture perfect. I think most of us have let feelings of not being worthy of someone hold us back,

Linda and her boyfriend Karim come home with a new TV, and we’re suddenly reminded of how 90s the show is. Not only does it come in a square box, not a thin rectangle, but it comes with a VCR built in! Crazy. Of course, when Rae realizes that the TV goes in the bedroom, despite her mom not owning any VHS tapes, she does the math: porno. While her mom is out, Rae watches the porn, which is probably the worst thing that someone with self-consciousness issues can do. If there’s one type of person I don’t want to see when I’m feeling bad about myself, it’s porn stars.

While meeting with her therapist Kester, Rae’s problems throughout the episode really come to a head. She avoids talking about Tix’s death, something she still really hasn’t accepted. When she comments that Finn is “delicious, too delicious,” she says it was just a joke. In an exercise of word association, she calls herself “fat,” but states that she does like herself in a tone that sounds like she’s trying to convince herself as much as she’s trying to convince Kester.

Finn surprises Rae with a camper that he's decorated to make more romantic.The gang goes on their camping trip, but all seems lost to Rae when Chop says he only has two tents. Luckily for Rae, Finn had a surprise planned and led her to a camper with candles and strings of lights. “I was so turned on, we were gonna need a canoe and life jackets.” However, her insecurities get the best of her when she sees a photo of them together and it hits her just how out of her league she believes he is. She tells him that she has a massive headache to get out of potentially having sex. Well, it wouldn’t be those awkward teenage years if everything went according to plan.

As college starts, Rae has flashbacks to her terrible experiences in school before making friends with her current gang. While having a panic attack, she goes outside for a breath of fresh air, not realizing she set off the fire exit alarm. There we see a boy smoking and the camera holds onto him for a beat, letting us know he’ll be more important later.

Back at therapy, Kester addresses Tix’s death, encouraging Rae to seek closure with her since Rae didn’t attend the funeral. We then see Rae leaving the letters to Tix which narrated the episode on her grave and saying goodbye. We then jump to Rae at group therapy, where we notice Liam, the boy from college Rae caught smoking.

Clearly, Liam will be an important part of the rest of the season. Given Rae’s concerns that Finn is too far out of her league, Liam may be a love interest that she has an easier time seeing herself with. Or, he could be a new friend at college, allowing her to take comfort in the fact that someone there is also going through what she is. Either way, I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the eight episode season.

What do you guys think of Liam and how his story will intertwine with Rae’s?