TV review: Transparent (season 2), Amazon Prime Instant Video (5 stars)

TV review: Transparent (season 2), Amazon Prime Instant Video

Jeffrey Tambor continues to shine in LGBT drama

Transgender is a complicated subject. And whatever you might think of the Kardashians, Caitlyn Jenner helped bring the topic into the mainstream. Comedy / drama Transparent certainly isn't jumping on any kind of bandwagon, it was one of the programmes that helped kick start serious discussion on the issues involved.

Transparent follows the lives of the Pfefferman family after patriarch Mort, now Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), comes out as transgender in his 60s. Season one picked up a slew of well-deserved awards, including two Golden Globes and five Emmys, and thankfully season two is just as good. Relatable, involving, poignant and brilliantly observed.

Tambor is the dramatic and emotional centre of the show, facing prejudice and confusion in his / her new life as a woman. However the real strength of Transparent is the fantastic ensemble cast. It's not a dysfunctional family but it is very complicated. In particular the three actors who play Maura's adult children – Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass), Ali (Gaby Hoffman) – are all incredible. Anyone who witnessed the birth scene in season four of Girls will know Hoffman gives everything to her role.

There's a wedding, a pregnancy and a break up all packed into the first episode of season two. Things rarely go according to plan for the Pfefferman's: Josh's pool party ends in tears, chaos and cake while the boundaries in Maura and his ex-wife Shelly's (Judith Light) relationship are getting increasingly blurred. There are also several brief flashbacks to 1933 Berlin and it'll be interesting to see how this motif develops as the series progresses.

Transparent is billed as a comedy but writer / director Jill Soloway has crafted a wonderfully understated and restrained drama that hasn't lost its touch when tackling big issues with little fuss. Embracing the fact that while love is at the heart of most relationships there's also hate, despair, misunderstanding and sadness. It refuses to preach or hector. While much of the show is set within the LGBT community Transparent is equally about family, aging, loneliness and longing, skilfully capturing the essence of modern life beyond sexuality or gender.

Transparent, season 2, will be available on Amazon Prime Instant Video from Fri 11 Dec.