Many fictional television shows and web series are set in fictional towns, which become integral to the plot of the show. There is Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls, Mystics Falls in The Vampire Diaries, Hawkins in Stranger Things, and Capeside in Dawson’s Creek. Most of the time, these fictional small towns become an inherent part of the residents’ lives, so much so that most of them are unwilling to move to bigger cities and learn to live around the charms and quirks of such places.
Sweet Magnolias, a Netflix original romantic drama created by Sheryl J. Anderson, is based on the books by Sherryl Woods. The first two seasons of the show are about three independent women from Serenity, South Carolina, and how they have managed to establish themselves in the community as people of utmost importance. Maddie, Helena, and Dana Sue have been friends since their school days. They are maneuvering through their lives as middle-aged women and are trying to find a foothold in the town, which is part of their identity.
Helen Decatur is an attorney at law, and so far, she is the only one with a stable job who remains successful among the three of them. She comes across as an endearing person of a helpful nature who would go out of her way to aid anyone in need. Her sweet nature hides the pain she has been carrying since breaking up with Ryan Wingate over him not wanting to have kids, followed by a pregnancy and a miscarriage. Even with so much going on in her personal life, she remains a pillar of support for her best friends, Maddie and Dana Sue.
Sweet Magnolias does a decent job of showcasing the inborn friendly and gracious nature of the people in the town of Serenity. This place is presented as a paradise that is filled with people who are always good-hearted and god-fearing, with almost no major conflicts affecting their daily lives. Serenity the town can also be considered the lead protagonist of the show because of the attachment the residents have to it. The morality ratings are so high in this town that it is borderline nauseating after a point.
Maddie, stay- at-home mother of three, is in for a rude shock when her husband, Dr. Bill Townsend, unceremoniously leaves her after having had an affair with Nurse Noreen and impregnating her. Bill and Noreen decide to get married, leaving Maddie and her kids devastated and having to pick up the pieces of their now broken family. Maddie is on the lookout for a job to stabilize herself financially. Maddie and Bill go through the divorce but also the pain of having to live in the same town for the sake of their kids. The kids: Tyler, Kyle, and Katie, are new to this setup, and the older two boys are the ones who have been most deeply affected by the divorce.
Maddie finds her foothold when Helen and Dana Sue invest their money into opening a spa meant for women and offers her the job of running the place, which she wholeheartedly accepts. Through the first season and the second, we see Maddie go through the ups and downs of having a full-time job coupled running the errands for her kids and venturing into a relationship with Tyler’s baseball coach, Cal Maddox.
Sweet Magnolias brilliantly shows how women take center stage in managing things around them. They are not just mothers but ambitious career women and business owners who are ready to work hard and provide for themselves. The flip side is that Sweet Magnolias puts a lot of onus on the female sex being the superwomen, who can carry out multiple tasks at a time without paying heed to exhaustion. It is Maddie who does the heavy lifting of taking care of her kids, and her case is similar to Dana Sue’s. The importance of male involvement when it comes to childcare is discussed only in passing. There is only one scene of Cal helping Kyle, Maddie’s son, with physio after he meets with a car accident. That, again, is considered a job only meant for men. Both seasons could have broadened the spectrum of how both men and women contribute to making their lives fruitful.
Dana Sue Sullivan, a chef and restaurant owner, lives with her teenage daughter Annie; she is separated from her long-term husband Ronnie, and ever since she has only focused on her work and surrounding herself with a good team inside and outside of her work. Her and Helen’s plan of opening a spa comes to fruition despite its hiccups and helps the audience understand how women tend to look beyond their emotional burdens and focus on being financially independent. She dates Micah, her business partner, and later a farmer named Jeremy, who had also invested in her restaurant. Dana Sue turns out to be the most practical of the trio because she is aware of her priorities and has two businesses to depend on for a steady flow of income.
Every episode until the end of Sweet Magnolias Season 2 has the three women coming together and sipping margaritas to discuss their good and bad news. The importance of women bonding over life problems is on full display in Sweet Magnolias. It is delightful and very real to watch their chemistry, and that can only be attributed to female show creators and writers.
The first season begins with Maddie and Noreen at loggerheads because Maddie is angry at Noreen for breaking up the family. Noreen ends up becoming good friends with Maddie’s second child, Kyle, and they seem to form a cordial bond. The two women, by the end of the second season, also form an affable bond, as Maddie accepts Noreen’s child as her kid’s half-sister and wants the new mother and her daughter Rebecca to be around Tyler, Kyle, and Katie. The progression is presented in a rather simple manner, where there is hardly any conflict. The lack of complex discord and the emphasis on kindness trump all the negative emotions in the show.
The children of the leads go through plenty of ups and downs throughout the two seasons. Maddie’s elder son Tyler, being a gifted baseball player, is feeling the pressure of performing well while at the same time coping with the separation of his parents. He also goes through a phase of battling an injury to recover from it. Tyler, finally, after a lot of thinking, lets go of his ambition to be a professional baseball player. Tyler’s whole life so far has been about the game, and his willingness to step outside of it shows the challenge he wants to take. His girlfriend’s issues also helped him understand the meaning of privilege. The on-and-off friendship between Tyler and Dana Sue’s daughter Annie finally ends with the two reconciling as friends by the end of the second season.
Annie, just like Tyler, is battling her issues with her parents remaining separated and is trying to understand her mother’s plans and motives. Their arguments and conflicts are not very layered, but they aptly describe every relationship between a mother and her daughter. The narrative of issues between her and Tyler and Kyle is a bit overstretched until a decent conclusion is delivered by the end of the second season. Kyle struggles with being the middle child of the family, and the feeling of getting lost in the crowd is overwhelming for him. His angst and inability to find a person to speak to about his issues led to arguments within the family. His getting into an accident and recovering from it is part of Kyle’s journey from being a distressed kid to rediscovering his love for acting. The children and their arcs are decently explored, but there is a lot of sugar coating involved in making it seem the teenagers are always brooding, angry, or seeking the attention of the person they like.
‘Sweet Magnolias’ Season 2 Ending
Frances Wingate, the endearing elderly lady of the town who is loved by the entire community, passes away, and the town is gearing up for the funeral as per the deceased’s instructions. The woman wanted her life to be celebrated, and the town went out of its way to do that because this is how they do it in Serenity. The name of the town itself portrays the townspeople as peace-loving people who tend to find quick solutions to their conflicts. Her passing meant the return of Ryan, Helen’s ex-boyfriend. At this point, he is unaware of Eric, Helen’s current beau, and that she went through a miscarriage. He proposes marriage to her on the night of the funeral, and Helen is left shocked.
Dr. Bill Townsend is also in for a surprise when town newbie Isaac turns out to be the biological son of him and the town newspaper editor, Peggy. Her teen pregnancy was hushed up by their parents, and Peggy had to give up the child. Isaac returns to Serenity to look for them and ends up coming across his true identity. Bill is trying to accept that he has another child out of wedlock. His life is going through big changes, and the third season will be about him coming to terms with them.
Dana Sue and Maddie come to know of Cal’s anger management issues, which resurface when an old acquaintance out of nowhere makes an appearance and misbehaves with the two of them. The season two finale ended in yet another dramatic manner, with the audience getting to see the good-natured Cal getting arrested. Dana Sue receives a check of big amount as inheritance money from the deceased Mrs. Frances. She and her friends are delighted and shocked at the same time, and Dana Sue knows where she will put the money. Ronnie and Dana Sue reconcile to give their marriage another chance. The couple informs Annie about the same because their daughter has been waiting for this news for a while. This is new for Dana to give a person a second chance, and in the third season, we will be more concerned with their compatibility.
There is also the appearance of a new character in the show, who, by the looks of it, comes across as an old nemesis of the trio from their school days. The lady in question seems to be back, seeking some answers from the Sweet Magnolias. The women are not looking forward to her drama, but the audience will get more of her in the third season.
Sweet Magnolias happens to be a show that has a surplus of everything positive. Happiness, forgiveness, love, romance, and, most importantly, friendship. We are expecting the third installment to be an extension of what we witnessed in the first two seasons, and there will be a lot more zeal this time around.