‘Hacks’ returns, but its confident rhythm does not

The show’s heart and message are hard to find in season two, even as Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart’s chemistry sizzles.


Ava and Deborah — and Deborah’s corgis — arrive in Las Vegas. Photo by HBOMax

Mira Fox, The Forward

Hannah Einbinder is a firecracker — and not just because she’s a redhead. Bursting onto the scene with HBO’s “Hacks” last year, she was immediately nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her first major foray into acting. The snappy, multigenerational comedy pitted Einbinder’s millennial, washed-up Ava against Jean Smart who played an aging standup comic named Deborah Vance; the dynamic between the two was zingy even as the show plumbed more complex depths of alcoholism, sexism and troubled family relationships.

Back for season two, the show seems to have developed a better understanding of Einbinder’s strengths as an actor, leaning into her awkward physicality and the bisexuality she shares with her character. Unfortunately, it simultaneously seems to have lost sight of its own strengths. “Hacks” still lands sharp one-liners, but the second season leans on the successes of its predecessor instead of further developing its characters and plot.