Primetime

The Girlfriend Experience Season 2

Amy Seimetz, Lodge Kerrigan

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The second season of Starz's chilling serialized drama — about highly paid sex workers who provide their clients with the full sexual and emotional girlfriend experience — focuses on the lives of Anna, caught up in the corrupt world of Washington politics, and Bria, an ex-sex worker in hiding who can’t escape her past.

Anna Garner (Louisa Krause), a sex worker who specializes in providing a so-called girlfriend experience, is recruited by Republican super PAC finance director Erica Myles (Anna Friel) into a conspiracy to blackmail a competing fundraiser. Under intense professional pressure, Erica begins to find an emotional outlet in an openly vulnerable — and potentially self-destructive — sexual relationship with Anna.

Bria Jones (Carmen Ejogo), a highly paid sex worker, has just turned state's evidence against one of her corrupt clients and, through the witness protection program, is forced to relocate to Mexico with her resentful daughter. Experiencing withdrawal from her former life of decadence and feeling the addictive pull of transactional relationships, Bria begins a sordid series of interactions with a sleazy motivational speaker.

Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, The Girlfriend Experience has found itself a unique place among anthology shows that change characters season to season. Showrunners Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz shift to not one but two entirely new storylines, each with their own set of episodes. Avoiding any salacious ideals of sex work, they present their own complementary views and create a thoughtful dialogue. The cold, spare world where Erica's underground dealings take place exists as a counterpoint to the lavish lifestyle that Bria longs for. The distant, often-obstructed view we get of Erica and Anna's intimacy makes Seimetz's lush use of lens flares more impactful when highlighting Bria's emotional turmoil.

This brilliant interplay in structure mirrors the push/pull of the characters as their desires, insecurities, and closeted skeletons feed off each other, creating haunting themes that will resonate with viewers for weeks after.

MICHAEL LERMAN

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