How Hacks Season 2 Disintegrates Female Competition

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In a recent interview with Collider, Hanna Einbinder describes Chop‘ second season as “elevated”. After the overwhelming success of their first season, Einbinder and Jean Smart Team up again to play comedians Ava Daniels and Deborah Vance as they embark on a cross-country road trip to test Deborah’s new material. Viewers may recall from season one that Deborah and Ava had their fair share of ups and downs, but ultimately developed a calm understanding that they were more alike than different. Their similarities make them a great writing duo, but their differences make them dynamic characters.

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The confrontation with the two protagonists in this season should definitely be considered elevated. Deborah definitely has a lot more insight and wisdom in the entertainment industry than Ava, who is still making the essential first steps in her career. Her years of experience have left her somewhat embittered and closed off to other people, especially other women. At the time Deborah was rising in her career, there was a noticeable “one seat at the table” mentality. Years of fighting her way to the top and continuing her struggle to this day have brought Deborah a fierce competitiveness, and this season puts that personality trait under the microscope.

RELATED: ‘Hacks’ Season 2 Review: Why Forgive When You Can Even Get?

The first half of this season revolves around Ava’s drunken email to several writers suggesting that Deborah’s horrific behavior be used as material for her new show. After telling countless stories about her abuse, she comes in to Deborah, who tortures her by making her read the horrifying news out loud. Now that Deborah knows the truth about what Ava is Yes, really thinking about her changes their relationship forever. One would assume that someone as seemingly selfish as Vance wouldn’t want her to be constantly reminded of her mistakes on tour – but instead of firing her, she keeps Ava on the team, even if she punishes her many times in the process. The first of many payback ploys is a breach of contract lawsuit that she pursues over Ava for most of the season, even after the two have spoken again. Obviously, this isn’t about money for Deborah, it’s about reminding Ava of her place in her hierarchy. To Deborah, Ava is awkward and careless, but this misstep reminds Deborah not only that even someone below her can usurp any value she holds, but that Ava truly sees her for who she is. As someone who’s built their life around their career and lets everything else fall by the wayside, it would be confusing if their shortcomings were projected in this way. Deborah’s first instinct is to bring down the person causing these negative feelings, rather than looking within. This kind of reflection does find its way into the women’s relationship, but only when a very important reunion takes place.


In Ava’s words, Deborah’s goal with her new set should be jokes that don’t make her the punching bag in her own story. As a result, Vance’s set continues to create a distance between her and her audience as she casually discusses the lowest point in her life, namely when her little sister had an affair with her husband and “stole” him. Watching Deborah continue to revamp this particular part is extremely revealing throughout the season as the same few lines are retold many times. She continues to hit a wall with the relatability of this story. That all changes after he meets an old comedy colleague, Suzy (Harriet Sansom Harris). Early in their careers they worked in the same showcases and clubs until Suzy gave up comedy altogether after a competition with Deborah. Wracked with guilt, Deborah Ava reveals that she sabotaged Suzy at the time and she believes that’s why Suzy stopped doing comedy. She justifies her action by saying that she firmly believes that there is “only room for one woman, if at all” in the final round of the competition. After Deborah confesses, she learns that her actions were not responsible for Suzy retiring from stand-up. However, her unhealthy obsession with taking down any woman she sees as a threat has led to much turmoil in her life, both personally and professionally. This revelation opens a floodgate for Deborah. In her next performance, she completely changes the setting of her energy-slaying piece and it lands. She is inspired to try a different perspective because she now realizes that she needs to acknowledge the role she is playing in their failed relationships. After her set, she tells Ava, “I also have to admit what I did wrong. You said it yourself, I have to hold myself accountable.” When did Ava say that explicitly? In her email to the showrunners, which got her into trouble in the first place. The very thing that drove a wedge between her and Deborah for the first half of their tour has now become the answer. Research has found that “women invite and value healthy competition,” but because of a ingrained, internalized sexism, we’re trained to see each other as threats for the ultimate prize. No doubt it was Deborah’s encounter with a lesson from her past that enlightened her: “Being a bully” and “putting everyone down” will only get her so far before her worst enemy becomes herself.


The final of Chop In Season 2, all of the tension and subsequent growth between the two women comes to a head. Deborah developed her new set and turned it into a homemade special. At a party celebrating her success, Deborah gives Ava her thanks in her speech. As the studio execs pledge their newfound talent, Deborah looks on with envy. Ava is essentially the image of Deborah here, even in a dress that Deborah chose for her and initially hated. She’s drawing positive attention from every angle, and from the same studio minds who underestimated Deborah’s worth when she first pitched the special. From someone as competitive as they are, we think this might evoke a spiteful reaction. In the very next scene, Deborah fires Ava from her team. But there is absolutely no animosity. She tells Ava that she needs to learn to be a “shark” like Suzy described her. Deborah knows there’s no way Ava could capitalize on this sudden interest if she was attached to her, so she lets her go. Instead of being envious of an up-and-coming talent, she wants the young naïve to thrive. This is in stark contrast to the way the two left things at the end of Season 1, when Ava tried to spread her wings and felt so awful that she finally quit, only to get a nasty email as to send reply to their violation. After all that, the two stand by at this streaming service party because Ava pushed Deborah to rekindle her stand-up. After an entire season of doubting and undermining her, Deborah finally took Ava’s advice and it paid off. When Ava first started working with Deborah, she was inexperienced, entitled, and had a terrible attitude. Still, she had great instincts. Sometimes these strong opinions about Deborah’s proven set made her defensive. Once she dropped her guard and accepted Ava’s talent as something they could both improve upon, they were able to embark on this amazing journey together. That’s how she discovered that other women and comedians aren’t her competition, they’re her Heritage.


In the final moments, Ava learns that Deborah has dropped the lawsuit. They won’t see each other again, not even in court. She has severed the only remaining ties with Ava, who is noticeably disappointed that she is no longer being sued. This means that Deborah’s inspirational goodbyes were not for theatrics, as this symbolic reminder of Deborah’s power over Ava is now null and void. Although Deborah has been trained her entire life to see other successful women as her direct competition, through this act she recognizes that she needs to change her perception of the women around her. Contrary to how she left things with Suzy all those years ago, she wants to lead Ava to success and not drag her down to better herself. After decades of feeling like she wasn’t getting her fair share of her marriage or career, Deborah has exited Season 2 with the realization that competing with other women comes at great personal cost, with costs to her art form and for the ones she loves.

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