Mozart in the Jungle Season 2 Review: Another High Note for Amazon's Unheralded Comedy

Mozart in the Jungle S02E01, S02E02, S02E03, S02E04, S02E05, S02E06: "Stern Papa," "Nothing Resonates Like Rhinoceros Foreskin," "It All Depends on You," "Touché Maestro, Touché," "Regresso Del Rey," and "How to Make God Laugh"

Editor's note: This review covers the first six episodes of Mozart In The Jungle Season 2, including some plot developments. It contains slight spoilers, so if you're particularly spoilerphobic, beware. 


Mozart In The Jungle is the kind of show that wouldn't have existed three years ago. Or if it had, the approach to the story—an inside look at the New York performing arts scene—would have been drastically different, and likely much louder. But in a world stuffed to the brim with scripted shows and where traditional ratings metrics no longer apply, Mozart doesn't have to try to be the Edgy Classical Music Show, or Like Girls, But With Obos that some network would have shaped it into in 2011. 

In fact, that both seasons of the show have been released in late December, when most people have their attention elsewhere, tells you that Amazon does not expect Mozart to appeal to tens of millions of viewers. And the show is much better for it, growing more confident by the episode in Season 2 and following its characters down odd, digressive routes that aren't consistently narratively satisfying but are entirely compelling. 

Here is a quick plot refresher: Mozart In The Jungle offers a previously unseen look at the performing arts culture in NYC, though it increasingly only concentrates on a fictional prestigious orchestra led by the charismatic maestro Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) and his former assistant/sometimes make-out partner/2nd chair oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke). Using Hailey as the entry point into this distinct world, Season 1 examined the struggle necessary to become a musician at this level, but also introduced her (and us) to the politics of the orchestra and elite society. Though Hailey and Rodrigo have a smoldering romantic connection, Mozart dedicated even more time to less splashy stories about the other, older players' sex lives, work schedules, and concerns over labor conditions, wages, and general inequality. 

In Season 2, the show's exploratory, curious nature takes Mozart to even more places, both narratively and geographically. Hailey's progression naturally rubs against her lingering feelings for Rodrigo, but the romance is quickly shuttled aside so the show can turn the spotlight to the orchestra's stalled union complaints, its more successful exploits on the slow-pitch softball field, and an anxiety-producing trip to Mexico City. Along the way, Mozart amplifies its look at the personal lives of older characters played by Saffron Burrows, Malcolm McDowell, and Bernadette Peters and efficiently mixes in a few newbies like a lawyer played by Gretchen Mol and a classical music podcast host played by Jason Schwartzman (and yes, that's as amusing as it sounds). In short, Season 2 is weirder, more assured, and better than ever.

Of course, in becoming a better show, Mozart In The Jungle also ditches most of the pretenses of being an episodic story. Some of the best episodes in Season 1 successfully integrated digressions or stylistic flourishes into traditional episodic structures. The first six episodes of Season 2, in contrast, are far more scattered, jumping from story to story with purpose, but also a willingness to let scenes or moments continue beyond a familiar endpoint. Likewise, the show has clearly embraced the "seasons, not episodes" model made popular on streaming platforms and pay cable. Episodes don't function as individual units, as the first few deal with the aftermath of the previous season and then attention turns toward the big Mexico trip where the orchestra is slated to perform and where Rodrigo faces a bittersweet homecoming.

I'm typically not a big fan of this strategy due to its impact on the experience of individual episodes and its role in the larger "all at once" strategy of streaming video platforms. Yet, for this show, it mostly works. There are enough ongoing events like the Mexico trip or the orchestra's legal issues to keep the show from spinning out of control, and, really, no one is watching Mozart In The Jungle for its immaculate plotting. 

This slightly altered approach also permits the show to further fashion its vibe after the eclectic energy of Bernal's Rodrigo, who continues to be one of the more watchable geniuses in recent TV memory. In Season 2, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak—Rodrigo's non-traditional ways continue to clash with the orchestra's donor-baiting administrators, his drum circle parties don't sit well with the management of his apartment, and the search for a new assistant to replace Hailey predictably spins him into an outburst or two. The good stuff, however, comes when Rodrigo returns to Mexico to not only play a big show but reunite with his mentor, a man who seems far from intimidating but generates quite a bit of anxiety in his flashy mentee. In the hands of a lesser performer, Rodrigo's quirks and flightiness would feel far too put upon. With Bernal at the helm, the character is loveable, if occasionally frustrating. 

Similar things can be said about Kirke as Hailey. This is a type of character that we're all extremely familiar with and, when played poorly, can come off as an immature, brattish amateur in a world of professionals. The show goes to good lengths to highlight just how hard Hailey works, to the point where her attempts to move beyond assistant duty start to have negative consequences on her personal life in Season 2. But this isn't some kind of lame "can she have it all?" story. Hailey is driven, with a growing confidence smartly underplayed by Kirke. In Season 2, she's unafraid to tell Rodrigo no (most of the time), or to make her presence felt more regularly within the orchestra's ranks, or to spend the evening with other famous musicians that are just as charmed by her as she is in awe of them. The character still serves as the audience surrogate, but Hailey is far more in control of her own story this time.

Beyond those two main characters, it's the small touches or eager interest in unsexy topics that makes Mozart In The Jungle worth watching. The aforementioned highlighting of the orchestra's softball team reappears a few times in the first sex episodes and is absolutely what you'd expect it to be: middle aged people playing softball and talking trash. It's delightful. Even that one of the only cast additions is Schwartzman's Bradford Sharpe, the perfectly named podcaster, punctuates the show's interest in the minor stuff.

In a TV landscape where every show is desperate for our attention and most seek to get it with flashy action sequences, stunt casting, or tenuous connection to some previously popular intellectual property, Mozart In The Jungle is a breath of fresh air because it so clearly has no interest in any of that. That might mean that the show is entirely inessential to most viewers—again, it's being released on December 30th for pete's sake—but for those who do watch, it's a wonderful detour into a world of exceptionally skilled people, presented by those who clearly care more about atmosphere and tone than twists and cliffhangers. We need more TV like this.

Season 2 of Mozart In The Jungle is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.


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Jan 05, 2016
I just read the last paragraph of this review--- Hey MORON THE SHOW IS BASED ON ANOTHER PROPERTY A NOVEL!!!!!

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24998.Mozart_in_the_Jungle

The Memoir of Classical Musician Blair Tindell. Do you not read the credits?
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Jan 04, 2016
The stupidity of this review is mind blowing in magnitude!!!! After reading this my already intense misanthropic tendencies to borderline Krakatoa levels. I think what set me over the top was the misguided notion that some how Amazon is spending literally millions on a series without expecting massive returns in profits! Yes, I bet Jeff and the gang in the Boardroom got together one day and said Let's do something philanthropic today we'll make entertainment cheap and affordable with no profit for us. Obviously, that is why Amazon is in BUSINESS FOR THE LITTLE GUY!

Cory did you failure Business Management course hence your attempt to be a Journalist?
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Jan 01, 2016
It is such a pleasant show to watch :)
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Dec 31, 2015
I absolutely adore this show. After season 1, many musicians complained that the actors weren't all that good at pretending to play their instruments, that the characters did too many drugs or had too much sex compared to the tameness of the real world. While I think this is true of any show, I think this season went out of its way to address those issues. The episode with Lang Lang was just fantastic as were most of the guest appearances.

Most of the all show is fun. The only thing that takes me out is the location shots. I swear half the show is shot at breathtaking shots of parts of New York/Mexico for what is essentially a 10 - Half hour comedies. It shows how much Amazon is willing to spend to get critical acclaim on par with Netflix/HBO.

Anyone that has Amazon Prime should see this. It's worth a 30 day trial if you haven't done one of those already.
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Dec 31, 2015
It's a good and easy binge watch. Doubt anyone would call this their favourite show, but it's different and well acted, so if you have any free time on your hand watch it. This is also one of those shows that are better to watch when you're high. One complaint though, there isn't enough off Anna Maria this season that girl is one Interesting human.
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Dec 31, 2015
We just found this show, love it!
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Dec 30, 2015
I haven't season 2 yet. I probably will, some time when there's nothing else on. (Now would be a good time, but I'm catching up with The Leftovers). I thought season 1 was OK, but not more than that.

It's only a "comedy" in the sense of the Emmys, i.e. in the sense that the episodes are short. The show is rarely trying to be funny.
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Dec 30, 2015
Good to hear it's only getting better. I really enjoyed season 1 and am looking forward to curling up with this in January.
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Dec 30, 2015
Thanks for writing about this show! Haven't seen the second season but I loved the first one and I wish it got more hype.
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