When Central Park first debuted on Apple TV+, it was… fine. Just fine. In my original review, I noted that the segments of the show without songs constantly felt weaker than the musical numbers with the colorful cast of characters feeling like disparate parts rather than a cohesive whole. Having seen eight episodes of Season 2, twice as many as I'd seen of the first season when I wrote my review, I am happy to report that whatever kinks there were in that season have been worked out. Central Park Season 2 is a delight, start to finish.
The second season really feels like the creative team behind Central Park was able to play around even more with the characters and setting, which has become a hallmark of related shows like Bob's Burgers. The Tillerman family of Owen, Paige, Cole, and Molly no longer feel confined to more rigid roles or forced to awkwardly inhabit strictly defined character beats.
Owen's still anxious, Paige is still relentless, Cole is still obsessed with a dog he can never have, and Molly is still trying to figure out how to navigate life as a young woman that loves to draw comics, but it's all a bit more relaxed. The sophomore season seems to know when to lean into these traits and when to just let loose. There's a whole episode about Molly and Fista Puffs, for example, that somehow never makes itself unwelcome.
Notably, this season marks the new voice actor for Molly. Kristen Bell stepped down from the role last year following concern about her voicing a mixed character. Bell's performance was never in question, however, which means that the new voice of Molly, Emmy Raver-Lampman, had big animated shoes to fill, but Raver-Lampman takes to the role in this season with panache. Whether it be musical numbers or punchlines, she makes it clear with every note that she was the perfect pick for the role, regardless of the circumstances.
Central Park is at its best when it allows itself to get a little weird while maintaining a foundation of seriousness. In any other show, an entire musical number about a character being proud that they are from Weehawken, New Jersey might come across as cloying or bizarre, but not here. Here it offers a fascinating look at the inner life of Helen, voiced by Daveed Diggs, and lets Diggs really show off with what is an admittedly very silly song.
While not every song is going to be as infectious as the aforementioned one from Diggs, Central Park Season 2 nails what it's trying to accomplish more often than not. It's sillier than the first season without straining, more poignant in unexpected ways without feeling too ornate or overwrought, and generally just stronger for having a season already under its belt. If you were left a little disappointed by the first season, the second season makes a strong argument for continuing to pay attention. The cast and crew are finished warming up, and the curtain has lifted on the main act.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Central Park Season 2 is set to premiere tomorrow, June 25th, on Apple TV+ with new episodes releasing every Friday. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the animated show right here.