Awkwafina Is Going Through Changes in Clever ‘Nora From Queens’ Season 2

After her adventure in China last season ended in her being kicked out of the country, Nora Lum (Awkwafina) is back to her old life in the second season of “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.” The season opens with her working in a CBD store, but the failure-to-launch 28-year-old still longs for something more out of life. This year, Awkwafina and her team dig deeper into the character of Nora, putting her in more imaginative situations that cause her to self-reflect and grow.

Part of what makes Nora so endearing is Awkafina’s willingness to embrace her silly side and put Nora in unflattering situations, such as when medical situations lead to her exposing her nude body, which happens more than once. She still lives at home in Queens with her grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn) and her widowed father, Wally (BD Wong), but in the season two premiere, she imagines a whole other life complete with a successful job and a relationship with her crush, Daniel (Jaboukie Young-White). But even in her dreams, she messes up, and an accident involving a hair dryer and a toilet results in her having broken legs. The dream leads to her taking the first of the numerous small steps she takes this year to better herself.

Episode two takes advantage of the recent trend of milking humor from early aughts nostalgia when Nora, in an effort to take better care of her health, gets stuck in a MRI machine during an earthquake and gets transported back to 2003. Chloe Fineman is perfectly cast in this episode as Greta, a seemingly basic party girl with a sinister secret. The Lum house gets crowded in episode four when Nora’ cousin Edmund (the always hilarious Bowen Yang, fresh from his Emmy nomination for “Saturday Night Live”), formerly a hot shot in Silicon Valley, moves in while he focuses on reinventing himself as an actor. 

Episode five tackles elder fraud. No, Grandma doesn’t fall victim to a scammer, but some of her friends do, and Grandma, who we love in a large part due to how protective she is of those she cares about, leads a plot to track down and exact revenge against a mystery man terrorizing seniors. Something that makes “Nora from Queens” fun and separates it from other sitcoms is how it proves that one can get into shenanigans and have insecurities at any age. Nora, Grandma and Wally each have episodes in which they try to be something they’re not in order to impress peers, but ultimately decide that they’re better off being themselves. Wally also has to work through some insecurities and fears to grow closer to Brenda (Jennifer Esposito), his first serious love interest since Nora’s mom passed when she was a baby. 

Family bonds become stronger this season, and in episode six, Wally finally introduces Brenda to Nora, who we learn has a history of driving away his girlfriends. Nora’s juvenile behavior is explained in another creative twist, as an imaginary friend who resembles a deranged sports mascot is pushing her to act out, and she must say goodbye to him in order to grow up. Later, during a blackout in episode seven, Nora and Wally have a touching breakthrough after she admits that she turned to a sympathetic phone sex operator for motherly advice as a teenager.

At the end of the first eight episodes of season two, it becomes more than apparent that both New York and Nora are changing, which isn’t the worst thing. Although Nora is only 28, she and her longtime friend Melanie (Chrissie Fit) discover that a great deal of transformation has taken place around them since they were teens. Although a third high school friend, snotty doctor Jennifar (Catherine Cohen), makes fun of them for being townies in episode three (as if NYC is just another town), they are not just sitting around being stagnant. The end of episode eight promises a new adventure, as Nora offers to drive Edmund across the country. Her journey in finding something in life that she is passionate about will certainly resonate with many viewers, and while it’s hard to imagine Nora living anywhere but Queens, it is pretty obvious that she needs to move more outside of her comfort zone in order to experience further growth, and the west coast might be just the ticket

Awkwafina is Nora from Queens” season two premieres Aug. 18 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.