The TBS limited series returns for its second season with new roles but the same quick wit.
Miracle Workers: Dark Ages is such a welcome cure for the winter blues. Based on Simon Rich’s short story ‘Revolution,’ Dark swaps the gates of heaven for the dank and miserable Middle Ages, and it’s a hilarious antidote for those who couldn’t stand the fervor over Game of Thrones‘ final season. With the creative team returning, Dark Ages maintains the same level of intelligent humor but makes us consider relevant social issues like class inequality and fake news.
When Geraldine Vismanathan’s Alexandra graduates from school, she’s not interested in carrying on the family business. Her last name, after all, is Shitshoveler, and her father, Eddie (played by a sweet Steve Buscemi) is eager for her to follow in his footsteps. In a more regal setting, Daniel Radcliffe’s Prince Chauncley is also struggling to carry on his father’s appointed legacy, but he’d rather give his pet ducks some choreography. No invading other villages or violent bloodshed for this prince, thank you very much. Karan Soni is a royal adviser trying to climb the respective ranks within the castle, and Lolly Adefope returns as Maggie, a nun who finds loopholes to enjoy her day between prayers.
There’s is something more relaxed about this entry into the Miracle Workers universe. Instead of racing to rescue all of humanity, we get to relax and spend time with these characters as they bemoan their normal routine. It’s a noticeable and surprisingly effective change of pace that allows us to really meet and spend time with these characters. If creator Simon Rich decides to change everything up so drastically like this every year, sign me up.
Daniel Radcliffe is a comedic revelation as Prince Chauncley. Since growing into more adult roles, Radcliffe has been game to do anything, and that’s on full, dimwitted display in Dark Ages. It takes a really smart actor to convey true, bright-eyed idiocy, and he is a lovably privileged dolt. Vismanathan, in a more straight man role, is charming and deeply funny as a character who dreams of getting out of her small town but is often pushed back by the morons around her. In one of the best episodes, Alex spars on Harvest Day with her uncle who cheers on their king’s barbaric practices. Where have we heard of something like that before…
I wasn’t expecting for the show to deal with such important topics like inequality between rich and poor and show how fake news has always been around us. With Simon Rich at the helm, however, we should learn to expect this. With his essays and short story collections (and with FXX’s Man Seeking Woman), Rich manages to hold up a mirror to us in such a subtle and loving way that we often find ourselves in his characters and his situations–Dark Ages is no exception. There is a beautiful simplicity to the jokes this season that is reminiscent of Monty Python. It’s a balancing act that’s hard to imitate and easy to envy.
There is something for everyone this season. You want political commentary with your shit jokes? Dark Ages has you covered. Season one was heavenly, but Dark Ages makes you see the light.
Miracle Workers: Dark Ages airs on TBS starting on January 28th.