Breeders season 2, episode 1 & 2 recap – “No Surrender” and “No Fear”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: March 23, 2021
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Breeders season 2, episode 1 & 2 recap - "No Surrender" and "No Fear"


Breeders returns with a double-bill in “No Surrender” and “No Fear”, and effortlessly proves itself as still the most frank depiction of parenting anywhere on television.

This recap of Breeders season 2, episode 1, “No Surrender”, and Breeders season 2, episode 2, “No Fear”, contains spoilers.

The first season of Breeders was, in my humble (and correct) opinion, the most honest depiction of parenting anywhere on television. And that doesn’t look as though it has changed in the second season of FX’s supremely underrated comedy, which debuted with two back-to-back episodes proving that things don’t get any easier as the wee ones get older.

The time skip is the most obvious difference in “No Surrender”, the first half of the double bill. Paul and Ally’s kids, Luke and Ava, are noticeably older, and the tone has immediately shifted to accommodate their literal and figurative growing pains. Paul and Ally aren’t struggling with being parents to a toddler again, and their relationship isn’t on the rocks, but they’re dealing with a slew of new issues, from teenage hormones to vulnerable parents and the fact that the evolution of technology has made the lives of teenagers much different, much easier, and yet still much more complicated.

What remains consistent in Breeders season 2, episode 1 is Paul’s anger. He’s still in therapy to try and keep it in check, and a clever flashback (a device repeated numerous times throughout both episodes, including to powerful effect in the second) shows how he’s evolving in his way of dealing with things at home. But when he and Ally discover that Luke has been leaving Ava at the after-school club to doss around in the park with his friends, Paul blows a gasket, and he only gets more irate when, the next day, Luke deliberately baits him by doing the exact same thing again.

As it turns out, Luke is doing this for a reason – he’s struggling with his mental health, which is a storyline that struck a chord with me given I have a similarly-aged daughter currently going through much the same thing. The time he pretended he was spending in the park with his friends he’s actually spending alone on a pedal-boat. At night, he lays in silence, wide awake, contemplating God-knows-what. At the end of “No Surrender”, Breeders cleverly flips what looks at first like a nice parental bonding moment into a realization that something is wrong with Luke – he’s too much like Paul.

Crucially, though, he’s not angry like Paul. He doesn’t have the same outbursts. He’s actually more like Jim, Paul’s father, who at one point in the opener Paul insists to a therapist will 100% die of something ulcer-related because he keeps all his anger and frustration on the inside. So, Luke’s quiet, distant demeanor is of particular concern to his father and remains so all throughout Breeders season 2, episode 2, “No Fear”, which finds Paul and Ally debating how best to approach their son’s obvious need for some intervention while also grappling with the fact that Ally’s single mother, Leah, has been burgled.

The burglary stuff is mostly played for laughs until the very end, but when Luke arrives there while bunking school, it ties things together a bit. He likes the quiet at his grandmother’s house, which is understandable since everything, from his home life to his schooling, is becoming “too much” for him to cope with. At one point Luke describes to Paul why he can’t fall asleep and what it feels like to wake up when he eventually does, and the next day he has a panic attack at school. In response, Paul, without discussing anything with Ally first, takes Luke to the doctors, where he’s diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

This is bold territory for a sitcom to broach, and what’s lovely about it is the thoroughly imperfect way that both Paul and Ally deal with it. Paul sees a potential diagnosis as a means by which to score some free goodies from school and get some exam leeway, which Ally is appalled by, but when it comes down to it Paul is also there for Luke in a way that Ally isn’t, taking matters into his own hands and getting him help while his wife is still fretting about how it might look. It amounts to a bleak ending in which Luke, with damp eyes, once again lays awake in bed – even Leah, after putting on a front all episode, nervously locks her door. Breeders consistently finds the funny side of complicated subjects, but the brilliance of it is how it lingers for a little after the laughter stops.

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