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Smiling Friends Season 2 Review: Improvement Or Stagnation?

How does season 2 of Smiling friends stack up to the first? Did the show improve or stagnate? Here is one take on the season and episodes.

The titular Smiling Friends employees watch a weird movie in the break room. (Credit: Adult Swim)

Smiling Friends, as the name implies, is a show dead-set on bringing smiles to viewers. But has the second season lived up to the first? Has this season improved on what worked before, or has the show reached a plateau?

What Is Smiling Friends? (And Where Can I Watch It?)

Smiling Friends aired its first season back in 2022, with a successful 2020 pilot that was picked up by Adult Swim. Adult Swim is the adult animation block of Cartoon Network.

Smiling Friends has an extremely simple premise. Four employees of a non-profit organization go on strange or wacky adventures to help people smile. A majority of the episodes follow the duo of Charlie and Pim, though some explore other characters like Allan, Glep, or Mr. Boss. Unlike some other shows in the adult animation landscape like Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, or Family Guy, it usually favors optimism over nihilism or cynicism.

The show has aired every new episode on Adult Swim, and is available for streaming on Max (formerly HBO Max). Though the official Adult Swim YouTube channel does offer many clips for free viewing if you want a taste of what the show is like. Spoilers ahead!

Episode 1: Gwimbly: Definitive Remastered Enhanced Extended Edition DX 4K (Anniversary Director’s Cut)!

The debut episode of the season released on April first of this year, and what a way to celebrate April Fool’s! This episode bends the formula with Pim and Allan deciding to help Gwimbly, a failed 90s video game mascot who’s down on his luck (and resorting to Cameo to make any money). Charlie stays back at the office to try and help James, a violent man who can’t be pleased.

But the funniest part of the episode has to be Gwimbly himself. The character’s distinct animation style helps him stand out. And the concept of a washed-up or forgotten game mascot is one that is specific, but resonates with many viewers.

This first episode was really funny and set a great standard for the rest of the season. It also helps that a lot of users of social media collectively decided to gaslight each other into thinking Gwimbly was a totally real video-game mascot. Things such as memes and animations featuring Gwimbly took the internet by storm for a time.

Episode 2: Mr. President

When I saw the title of this episode, I couldn’t help but groan. I dreaded a polarizing foray into the world of American politics. My fears were quelled once the conflict had centered around a hilariously doomed presidential race. Said race is between the incompetent man-child, President Jimble, and the deranged TV-Celebrity, Mr. Frog.

You could draw all the real-world parallels you want, but the episode makes it clear that neither candidate is cut out for presidency as shown through Jimble’s disgusting incompetence and Mr. Frog’s killing sprees.

Yet I noticed a pattern here. That of seemingly recycled elements from season one episodes. Just like in season one’s episode 2, Pim and Charlie end up helping an important public figure (Mr. Frog as opposed to Jimble), and it doesn’t go to plan. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it may not bode well if ideas are already being recycled.

The presidential debate between President Jimble and Mr. Frog. (Credit: Adult Swim)

Episode 3: A Allan Adventure

If episode 1 bent the formula, this episode throws it away entirely. This time, we just follow Allan as he tries to procure a box of paperclips. This leads to insane action scenes including helicopter chases, undead pirate battles, a sasquatch, and more.

This was funny, but felt like the writers and animation team were just flexing their creative muscles to contrive all sorts of insane events. Events that lead to Allan and his landlord hanging out, smoking weed, and filling their bellies with diet soda as they play Burnout Revenge for the PS2. No, really.

This episode got plenty of laughs from me, but it didn’t really have a lot of substance. There were a lot of fun moments, and this was up there as one of my favorites for the season. But I could understand why some viewers may be disappointed with it.

Allan finally gets the paperclips he needed. Or does he? (Credit: Adult Swim)

Episode 4: Erm, the Boss Finds Love?

This episode is about Mr. Boss and his new demon wife. But things are not as they seem. Said demonic wife is apparently a succubus hell-bent on stealing Mr. Boss’ soul in service to her father, Satan.

It, just like episode 4 of season one, is an out-of-season Halloween special. Even the horror elements are delivered in a similar way to season one’s Halloween special, using uncanny animation styles and jump-scares.

However, I think I preferred the jokes from this episode over those in the first Halloween special. Overall, it was a fun watch that explored a cliché idea in a very humorous way.

Charlie watches a YouTube video that happens to be a cameo by Doug Walker, known by his online persona, “The Nostalgia Critic” (Credit: Adult Swim)

Episode 5: Brother’s Egg

Brother’s Egg sees a return to the original format of Pim and Charlie assisting someone smile. Except this time, the recipient of their help is Dr. Psychotic, a mad scientist attempting to create a homunculus with a chicken egg and human DNA.

The jokes this time around blend edginess with the show’s unique voice to create an episode pretty reminiscent of season one. While it does stick closely to season one’s formula, the episode still feels fresh when placed in the middle of these other formula-defying adventures.

This episode may not have been my favorite of the season, but it was one I enjoyed a lot. I especially appreciated the humorously uncanny rotoscoping and 3D animation used for some characters and scenes.

Charlie and Pim meet Dr. Psychotic in his laboratory. (Credit: Adult Swim)

Episode 6: Charlie, Pim, and Bill vs the Alien

This episode may just be my favorite of the whole season. This time, Charlie and Pim (alongside Bill), get abducted by aliens. But this situation changes from life-and-death to an alien party with the real danger being peer pressure.

This episode blends together a lot of my favorite aspects of Smiling Friends‘ humor. Relatable and realistic situations or conversations juxtaposed to absurd conditions and characters, fast-paced animation and humor, and an amazing joke at the very end of the episode that ties it all together with one final laugh.

The episode stands on its own without the established formula as a funny and absurd, but almost relatable story. A standard peer-pressure/party plot turned up to eleven with campy sci-fi tropes and crazy visuals to accentuate the show’s usual humor.

Charlie, Pim, and Bill looking for a UFO in the sky. (Credit: Adult Swim)

Episode 7: The Magical Red Jewel (aka Tyler Gets Fired)

For a penultimate episode, the premise is pretty simple. The A plot consists of Mr. Boss and Pim go to Spamtopia to buy a magical gem. This is a dynamic that hasn’t been explored much before. The B plot of the episode follows Charlie and Allan as they watch after Mr. Boss’ kid Jason.

I felt conflicted on this episode though. On the one hand, most of the jokes landed for me, and the humor is still on-point. Mr. Boss and Pim’s quest explored a unique character dynamic we haven’t seen before, while still being funny.

But Charlie and Allan’s side of the story felt a bit more mean-spirited than most other character conflicts in the show. They get into a physical altercation which while pretty funny, felt like something that a show like Family Guy or South Park would do for a quick laugh. Overall I still enjoyed the episode but the tone of the B plot didn’t resonate with me as much. Some viewers online also (jokingly) took issue with the sudden firing of Tyler.

Episode 8: Pim Finally Turns Green

This episode was a great finale to cap off the season. When I watched it, I enjoyed it so much that I forgot about the wildly inaccurate synopsis. That’s part of the beauty of this episode and the show.

Sometimes the episodes veer so far away from the title and synopsis but you end up just being there for the ride. It’s really fun to experience. This episode mainly follows Pim as he unintentionally brings an ugly snowman to life with a radioactive Daffodil. Pim and Rotten the snowman form a bond until Rotten learns about death and spirals into an existential crisis. Eventually however, Rotten overcomes his fear of death and gets to enjoy a day at the beach. In Smiling Friends fashion, things do go awry, but in a chaotic and funny way.

This episode was a very fun way to end things. I’m just curious what would have happened if Pim actually turned green. Regardless, I’m really happy that we got this episode to end the season on a high note. This is a strong contender for my favorite episode all season.

Rotten, also known as the “worst snowman ever” comes to life before their eyes. (Credit: Adult Swim)

The Season Overall & Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I loved this season, but I’m not really sure if it surpasses the first. The first season to me had more overall memorable moments. But season two brings a lot of fun to the table as the episodes aren’t afraid to be more experimental and chaotic.

Do I think season two is outright better than the first? No. Do I think the series plateaued in quality? Not really, I think the stand-out hits of the season were amazing, on par with if not better than the first. Every episode had great jokes and twists that kept me on my toes, so even the parts I liked less were still enjoyable.

If I had to rank the episodes from my favorite to least favorite, it would probably be 8, 1, 3, 6, 2, 4, 5, and lastly 7. None of the episodes were straight up “bad” in any way, but I simply liked some episodes more than others. And that’s okay, perhaps some people liked episode seven far more than I did. And as long as the show is still entertaining and making viewers smile, then I’d say the season was a success.

I guess given the show’s premise its fitting that I’m optimistically awaiting season three, which has been confirmed to be happening alongside brand new shows for the network.

Written By

I'm an English Major and Writing Minor who wishes to write engaging, entertaining, and thoughtful works about the topics I am passionate about. At the moment, I am especially interested in topics such as the medium of writing itself, web/indie animation, video games, literary criticism, and prehistory/paleontology.

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