'Ah, the mystique!'
The first season of Girls5eva ended on the four remaining members of the eponymous music group not only officially making their comeback by storming the Jingle Ball stage to perform, but also with a casual comment from Gloria (Paula Pell) that she thought the fifth member of their group, Ashley (Ashley Park), faked her death. So, naturally, there is a lot to unpack in the second season.
Creator and showrunner Meredith Scardino is keeping these new eight episodes true to its ensemble musical comedy roots, though, focusing first on continuing the momentum these women achieved with their performance by getting them a record deal and putting them in "album mode." Therefore, the majority of the first four episodes of Season 2 see them in and out of the recording booth, on a seemingly impossible deadline to turn in their tracks to Property Records, the latest expansion of Drew and Jonathan Scott's empire. It takes until Episode 5 for the Ashley of it all to finally be addressed.
In the episode, Gloria gets her citizen detective moment, investigating whether a mysterious pop star who uses autotune to modulate her voice and wears a full beekeeper's costume to hide her appearance could actually be their fallen friend.
"I feel like Gloria, she holds onto things, and I feel like is a bit of survivor's guilt — and a bit of maybe she wasn't there for her friend as much as she should have been and not wanting it to be true," Scardino tells Metacritic. "So, it felt like an important story to have Gloria confront all of those feelings and finally be like, 'Maybe I have some stuff to work out. I don't want to accept the truth because it's hard and it's sad.' But it speaks, in some ways, to the disposability of people in the limelight a lot of the time."
Alas, that pop star — aptly named T.K. (which, in journalism, is a placeholder meaning "to come" when you need to fill in real information later) — is not Ashley; she is just the daughter of a DJ who needed a gimmick (played by Amber Ruffin).
Scardino says that Ruffin was the first actor the show went to to play T.K. because they wanted somebody who would be a pure, fun surprise when she was unmasked.
"When we were pitching it, we just kept imagining this Lady Gaga voice and then all of a sudden it's like [yelling], "Ah, my mystique!" We wanted there to be a very obvious tonal shift when the mask came off, and it just felt like Amber would be so funny doing it," Scardino explains.
Although Gloria is disappointed she doesn't find her friend, she promises Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry) she will let the search go since it turns out T.K. isn't Ashley. She does let it go (at least for now), and the women channel their love for and sadness over losing Ashley into a ballad for their new album. The song even features Ashley's voice through her outgoing voicemail message, which still exists because Gloria has been paying for her cell phone service all these years.
"The truth is hard," Scardino says. "The end of that episode makes us all cry. Matt Whitaker wrote some of that song, I wrote some of that song, and Jeff [Richmond] wrote the music for that song. It's really beautiful and it's got that mix where you're feeling emotion and then you're also laughing when Gloria yells that thing about, "It should have been me; I did a lot of cocaine — so much cocaine.'"
Still, although Scardino says her writers' room wanted "to get Gloria to a place where she accepted" the loss of Ashley, "in theory, there is the possibility that she could be alive."
"We didn't 100-percent close the door," she acknowledges. "But it felt like the kind of thing that maybe in TV world the person might be alive, but in reality, it felt like she probably wasn't."
Girls5eva Season 2 is