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TV Review

My Mad Fat Diary review: How did series two measure up?

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Seven weeks ago, My Mad Fat Diary returned to our screens and we were thrilled to discover that it was just as good as the first series. But how would the rest of the episodes live up to that? Would Rae's journey to college hold up the show? Would things remain as funny and heartbreaking and insightful? Luckily, yes.

Sharon Rooney as Rae in My Mad Fat Diary

© E4


There's something about My Mad Fat Diary - a special quality to it that programme makers everywhere are surely wishing they could bottle. How does a series like this manage to be so sweet, so clever and so amusing all in one go? Yes, a large part of it is down to the excellent cast, and yes, a large part of it is down to the writing. But when it all just comes together like this, it's hard not to assume there's some kind of magic going on.

That's not to say that the show is in any way perfect, but it's so honest that it often feels surprising. Presumably, most people relate to Rae and her inner thoughts in one way or another - even if they perhaps don't take it to such extremes as she does - which is part of the series' greatest strength. No other show, particularly for young people, so perfectly captures the inner turmoil of being a teenager, and the boredom and scandal and huge importance of it all. Even Skins tended to glamourise it all a little, whereas My Mad Fat Diary is nothing if not uncompromising about it all.

Some of the stars of My Mad Fat Diary

© E4


That said, was tonight's closing episode a little too pat, a little too happy happy? Yes, probably. That didn't stop me from coughing back an embarrassing level of tears both when Finn arrived at the hospital to comfort Rae and at the end of the instalment, when Rae finally overcame her own insecurities to spend the night with him (incidentally, bringing the whole series full circle.) It was a very pleasant ending - so much so that it makes me worry about the possibility of a third run, something I desperately want - but I suppose after the emotional turmoil we've been through in the past few weeks we deserve a bit of romanticism.

Because My Mad Fat Diary isn't only honest when it comes to the realities of teenage life and life with mental illness; it's also honest about its characters. It's not scared of showing how flat out horrible Rae can be at times. The moment in this finale, for example, when she tells her mother bluntly that she doesn't care at all about the arrival of her unborn sibling is like a cold gasp in the throat. But it's not just the odd unlikeable scene; we've had it actually forced upon us at times, to the benefit of the show.

Sharon Rooney as Rae in My Mad Fat Diary

© E4


Devoting the penultimate episode of the series to Chloe's diary, and her own take on things, was a risky move - but one that utterly paid off. While Rae's always had her negative points, seeing things from Chloe's point of view for once was hugely powerful. It was part of the show's attempt to demonstrate that everyone is struggling inside - a message taken to its conclusion in tonight's closer - but never felt forced.

Instead, it compelled Rae to examine her behaviour (even if she didn't change it all immediately.) It's intriguing that she immediately copied Chloe's own devastatingly dreadful coping mechanism of sleeping with someone to feel better - which invariably never works. Liam (the magnificent Turlough Convery) might have thought it was a blessing that they were both as "f**ked up" as each other; really, it was the worst possible thing for them.

Jodie Comer as Chloe in My Mad Fat Diary's second series

© E4


The problem that Rae then faced - how to love herself when she's aware of what horrible things she has done in the past - formed the journey in this episode. First, she has to make amends with Kester - the wonderful Ian Hart, putting such complexity in the role. Kester was largely a stabilising presence in series one; the fact that he too has lost his temper and turned Rae away and made mistakes is genuinely interesting - they're working through this together. But with his help, Rae recognises how she needs to change her interactions not only with other people, but with herself.

Some of this is too obvious - she bonds with her mum after a health scare, for example, which is genuinely moving but not overly original in storytelling terms. Similarly, while it's hard not to cheer for Chop when he finally backs up Archie against homophobic abuse, it's a heroic stand that we've seen before. On the other hand, the moment where she stands up and 'rescues' Chloe rips your heart apart, as Chloe sits in a bed looking dreadful and crying her eyes out and insisting that she's fine, before finally conceding that she's scared. It's impossible to tear your eyes away, even as it's mightily uncomfortable.

Nico Mirallegro as Finn in My Mad Fat Diary's second series

© E4


So maybe with everyone back together and Rae loving her new sister and being treated to a new bedroom and forgetting about her father and ending it with Liam and getting back together with Finn and Chloe safe and Danny out of hospital - well, maybe that's too happy of an ending. Honestly, though, as we hurriedly wiped away the tears, it was hard to care too much.

This series of My Mad Fat Diary has had us laughing, wincing with recognition, sobbing and generally loving every second of it. It should be required viewing for teenagers - hell, for everyone. Now, can we please, please, please have a third run?

What did you think of this episode - and this series - of My Mad Fat Diary? Let us know below!

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