ToughPigs Roundtable: Back to the Rock Season 2

Published: July 3, 2024
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Now that season 2 of Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock is done and dusted, as is our series of weekly episode reviews, we have a lot of thoughts and feelings about Fraggles and Gorgs and Doozers and Pogey and Brett Goldstein and… well, the whole shebang.

That’s why we got some of the ToughPigs team together for a good ol’ fashioned roundtable discussion. Read on to find out more about how we really feel about Back to the Rock season 2!

Coming right off the baloobiuses of season 1, how did the new season of Back to the Rock compare?

Joe Hennes: I thought this season was fantastic.  I laughed, I cried, I sighed with a heart full of love and nostalgia.  The individual episodes felt as strong, if not stronger, than the first season’s.  However, I didn’t think the overarching story involving the gusties and the radishes to be as robust as the first season’s story about a water shortage and refugees.  Still, it was good to see them try something new, rather than retread the same plot points.

Matthew Soberman: I thought it was another strong season, but I felt a less all-encompassing storyline actually hurt it. I think the drought/refugee crisis helped keep the message strong. That being said, season two is still very enjoyable, buoyant, and incredibly relevant. Individually, there are better episodes in season two, but overall, I think I prefer the first season.

Katilyn Miller: The confidence in season 2 is remarkable. The confidence of the performers in their puppeteering, character-work and especially their singing is what really makes this season special. Each episode is so jam-packed with music and story. Sometimes it works and sometimes it feels too full. After the first season brought all of the creatures of Fraggle Rock together, there’s a greater need to feature them in each episode and continue the story of their interdependence. This creates both amazing moments and also rushed stories. Overall, the season has more to love than criticize and I think I prefer season 2 for how much it was allowed to grow.

Beth Cook: I actually liked the season 2 connecting arc more than the water arc in season 1 because this one was more complex (like real life). And the more complex it is, the more you can illustrate interconnection. Invasive species, big agriculture, (mis)information-spreading, capitalism, hoarding resources, listening to experts, learning from history—it’s all connected! Plus everything Katilyn said.

Becca Petunia: I guess it’s my turn to be a Repeatee Bird and say what everyone else already said. This season was so much fun, and I already want to rewatch it. Yes, the overarching plot gets a little messy at times, and sometimes episodes try to do a little too much in a short runtime. However, each individual episode is just so infectiously fun that you don’t even really notice any of that while watching. Just a blast overall, an emotional ride, and one of the things that most gives me hope in the longevity of Henson’s legacy.

Ryan Roe: I’d say it’s very nearly as good as the first season! Once again, I laughed a lot, I dug the songs, and I felt for the characters. In fact, maybe the only thing that was missing compared to season one was the sense of astonishment that it was so good!

Which of the main characters stood out to you as having a particularly strong season?

Joe: I’ve always loved Mokey, and I feel like it took me most of last season to get used to her new personality.  Now that she knows who she is, it was great to see her flourish as a spacey artist and caregiver (and plant mom) without needing that reintroduction for both old and new fans.

Becca: I agree with Joe: Mokey is absolutely on fire this season, and Donna Kimball is such an MVP. But I feel like the best main character this season was Gobo. Johnny is on fire this season, especially since so many of the songs let him show off his Broadway chops. His rendition of Gobo’s verse in “Workin’?” That would’ve single-handedly given him the season.

Matthew: If we’ve entered a Golden Age of Boober, I’m here for it! I don’t know if he’s become more upbeat or the world’s become more dreary, but he’s never felt more relatable, especially in the season finale.

Katilyn: I thought I would be the only one who said Boober since this season didn’t feature Boober stories as much as season 1. But Boober shines so much brighter this season. And not just because of his baloobius. His one-liners come back full force in a way that I think season 1 was hesitant to do. His outlook on life and hobbies aren’t treated as needing to be improved. Instead, he uses these aspects of himself to, perhaps unexpectedly, help others. And he laughs.

Beth: I’m glad everyone got a chance to shine—literally, in the case of Wembley, Pogey, and Glitterini in “I’m Pogey”—and I found Mokey’s and Doc’s arcs especially lovely. But overall I feel like this was Gobo’s season. He was the main focus more often than the rest of the Fraggle Five and had some big ol’ lessons to learn. I’ve mentioned on Fraggle Talk: Classic how hard it is to get me to identify with De Facto Leader characters instead of Quirky Sidekick characters, but John Tartaglia’s Gobo is so endearing. He’s got less bravado and competitiveness than we’ve seen before, and it’s crystal clear this season how his major motivation is doing whatever’s best for his beloved community.

Ryan: My first instinct is to say Mokey. So I’ll say Mokey. Between her hilarious and touching relationship with Lanford (which had a whole arc), her spotlights in “Twisty-Turny Thon” and “This for That,” and her always-reliable presence as a supporting characters when other Fraggles play protagonist, she showed a lot of range.

The Fraggle world is bigger than just the main characters.  Who else made a splash for you?

Katilyn: Marjory is pitch perfect this season. Her advice isn’t vague or contradictorily unhelpful. She is supportive and empowering. And she gets to do some powerful singing.

Matthew: Pogey, Pogey, POGEY! How can a character say so much while saying so little? They took us on an emotional rollercoaster this year, ending with some fantastic comedy.

Becca: Gonna echo Pogey, and of course, also Glitterini. Giving the show two canonically queer characters was so powerful to me, as ToughPigs resident Loud Trans Person. It’s good to know that these two would have my back.

Beth: For as “meh” as I felt about the Mezzo episode, I’m pretty sure I want to be Mezzo. Tiny fairy Fraggle with rosy-maple-moth wings and her own glittery pop-rock band (and maybe some accommodations needed for accessibility)? Extremely Beth Core.

Ryan: Jamdolin continues to brighten up the Rock every time he shows up. I still question whether a Fraggle Rock show really needs celebrity voiceovers, but Daveed Diggs is a fantastic argument in favor of the practice. I really liked his appearance in the Mezzo episode, in which Jamdolin, a special musical guest, got everyone hyped up for another special musical guest!

Joe: I am obsessed with the Lost Fraggles.  The characters we know and love have multi-colored doppelgangers living underground??  Heck yeah, gimme more of that.

The Gorg family had more to do in season 2.  Any highlights or lowlights from their world?

Matthew: Finally, Ma gets her moment in the spotlight! It may not be the most original story, but with a husband that thinks he’s the center of the universe and a son who doesn’t know enough to disagree with him, she finally showed that she’s the brains of the family, and it’s glorious.

Katilyn: When Ma met Marjory I screamed, “Yes!” Ma needed some support and Marjory was able to give her a friendly ear and some advice. But other than that small moment, the Gorgs did not get to grow (pun intended) this season as much as they needed to. Character progress occurred, but it didn’t feel earned.

Beth: Echoing all the love for Ma. It’s gotta be hard to write an arc for Pa that keeps him essentially short-sighted and selfish but still capable of learning and growing, but I applaud the writers for trying, even if it felt rushed in places.Junior had less of a character arc this season, but he had tons to do plot-wise, so I’m glad we still got to see him often.

Ryan: Yep, it has to be Ma’s arc. Would the writers of the original series ever have considered a storyline like this for their more docile, old-school version of the character? I don’t think so, but I was really happy to see them doing new things with her — and yet, she still feels like Ma Gorg.

Becca: Yeah, I love Ma getting her spot in the sun (and much less annoyingly than her original spotlight episode “Mirror, Mirror”). And Junior was probably my third choice of MVP this season: his conflict between hanging out with his friends and following his father’s orders felt really genuine and was played extremely well.

But Pa. Pa, Pa, Pa. He really brought down the whole season. Just about every single action he took felt rushed and unjustified, and the whole season my spouse and I were rooting for Ma to divorce him. He’s forgiven much too easily, even on a show about overcoming differences.

Joe: If this season had reset all three Gorgs to being Fraggle-haters, I think the shtick would’ve gotten real old, real fast.  Giving Junior the added anxiety of trying to keep his friendship with the Fraggles a secret from his idiot dad was a clever way to have our radish cake and eat it too.

Favorite episode?

Joe: “The Great Radish Ball.”  I am floored that Fraggle Rock attempted a time-loop episode, which is one of my favorite sci-fi subgenres.

Matthew: I agree, I’m a sucker for a time-travel episode, especially with how it tackles that ever-aching desire to just not deal with an uncertain future.

Ryan: Mine is also “The Great Radish Ball.” Not only did this all-ages show do a time loop episode, they also managed to come up with a time loop mechanism that I’ve never really seen before. The Fraggles aren’t waking up to the same day over and over again, or dying (yikes!) and getting reset. They’re deliberately controlling when and why they go back to the beginning of the loop. What a cool idea!

Katilyn: I’m going to give it to “This for That” because it gave me everything I want in a Fraggle episode: catchy songs, a self-contained storyline, a charming new character who sets off the events, and a really good message.

Beth: Of course I loved getting to do a deep dive on “Lost and Found Fraggles,” gobbling up lore like strawberries, but “I’m Pogey” stands alone as so special and so necessary.

Becca: Sorry to be a parody of myself, but it’s obviously “I’m Pogey.” It’s a beautiful and powerful message conveyed in a really, really important way. I hope we see the show explore gender more in the future.

These episodes continued the tradition of featuring celebrity voices.  Which stood out to you the most?

Beth: They were all incredible, but Adam Lambert as Glitterini takes the radish cake in my opinion.

Matthew: Two Canadian television icons, Fraggle Rock and Catherine O’Hara, finally came together in a poutine of goodness. I love how she replicated Gobo’s accent!

Joe: I had never heard of the Kpop group aespa before, but I’m impressed with how they updated the Fraggle classic “Get Goin’” and made it sound like a genuine pop hit.

Ryan: Considering Adam Lambert isn’t known primarily as an actor, he really was good as The Great Glitterini. He brought the character to life with all the joy and love that was called for. And glitter!

Katilyn: Brett Goldstein because it was absolutely necessary that someone with a British accent teach Fraggles about capitalism. I’m told he’s done other noteworthy things in his career, but to me he is Pryce Fraggle.

Becca: Ali J. Eisner is a celebrity in my mind. Does that count?

This season also continued the tradition of reviving classic Fraggle Rock songs.  Which one was your favorite?

Matthew: Like Joe said before, aespa’s take on “Get Goin’” breathes new life into the song and gives it a great energy, but I’ve always loved “Workin’” and I’m so happy that it came back this season.

Katilyn: The music this season was stellar. Every time I watch the episodes or listen to the soundtrack my favorites change. So at this very moment, I will say “Free and High” but know that tomorrow I’ll say something else.

Becca: Geez, how can I choose? “Free and High” is a fairly obvious choice, but basically every return song was done so perfectly. I think today I’ll say “It Makes You Cry.” But yeah, like Katilyn, I’m sure tomorrow I’ll say “Lost and Found.” And the next day I’ll say “I Knew I Was Good.” As a whole, I think the whole season’s soundtrack was much stronger than Season One’s.

Ryan: I really liked “Do the Sashay,” as performed by Ariana deBose as Mezzo. I actually didn’t remember it from the classic series, although it has that unmistakable Balsam & Lee quality. This new version actually brings it to a new level as Mezzo gets hundreds of Fraggles to join her in the celebration.

Beth: Very little can equal the rush I felt watching the very first scene of the season with everyone popping out of bed to absolutely crush “The Rock Goes On” in the perfect melding of meaningful and fun.

Joe: Hearing Daveed Diggs cover “Fun Is Here to Stay” was such a joy. Full Fraggle Rock cover album by the cast of Hamilton when???

Speaking of music, the season also featured a bunch of original songs!  Which did you like best?

Matthew: Not only do we get a time-loop story, but we get a time-loop musical number to boot in “Over and Over.” I love the manic energy! And not only do we get a time-loop story, but we get a time-loop musical number to boot in “Over and Over.” I love the manic energy! And not only do we get a time-loop story, but we get a time-loop musical number…

Katilyn: I’m narrowing this one down by how frequently it pops into my head. So “Radishes vs. Strawberries” takes the win. It helps that I’ve been introducing my kid to Queen recently, so the rock opera style fits right in.

Ryan: “Are You Ready?” by Jamdolin, as he plays hype man for Mezzo. It’s like “Yes, Jamdolin, we’re ready, but also don’t stop singing because this song is so good!”

Joe: Yes to “Are You Ready?” I was not ready, and I don’t think I ever truly will be.

Becca: If we lived in a just world, I would have already seen a drag cabaret number set to “Be a Queen.” I guess I’ll just have to keep listening to it on loop in the meantime.

Beth: I definitely added “Be a Queen” to my “You Got This” playlist. Becca, there was a TikTok a while back that proposed a “Draggle Rock” drag show–How do we make that happen?

What was the biggest lesson you learned from this season?

Joe: I happened to be watching “The Great Radish Ball” while avoiding other work, and it’s an episode about how avoiding stress and other responsibilities is not such a great thing.  Okay Fraggle Rock, I hear you.  Back to the grind.

Matthew: I think perhaps the biggest and darkest revelation is that Uncle Traveling Matt kind of erased the history of the Lost Fraggles, making him look like a colonizer. Hopefully it was only because he himself didn’t know, and he’ll accept the updated history with dignity and grace.

Katilyn: There is no limit to the ways that we can help. Even when we might feel like our knowledge is too niche or unwanted, our experiences and interests can still be useful, helpful, and necessary. So welcome knowledge into your life in all forms!

Beth: Gobo: Well, I haven’t talked to Junior since he threw away the clappy-hands I gave him. Now it’s making me feel really bad and sad and a little mad and… just not very rad. Y’know?

Red: Seems to me like you should just talk to him about it.

Gobo: Well, yeah, but I’m scared.

Beth: [grumbles and opens “notes for next therapy session” on my phone]

Becca: I learned the wrong lesson, because now I say “Fraggle up” all the time to motivate myself and my spouse. Oh well. Heaven knows I still cry more than enough.

Ryan: All the “hope” stuff in the season finale was good to hear. Which is not to say we can never let ourselves mope or say “nope.” But we should always come back around to hope. It’s a good thing to remember.

There’s always room for improvement.  Should Back to the Rock get a third season, what would you like to see them update?

Joe: There are so many great characters in Fraggle Rock, and we barely got a glimpse at most of them.  The World’s Oldest Fraggle, Large Marvin, Icy Joe, and my main man Coop.  I’d love to see the cast expand with storylines about some of them, if only to make Fraggle Rock feel like it’s more than just five Fraggles.

Matthew: I feel like the Doozers kind of got the short end of the story stick this time around, especially after such a strong showing in season one. I’d like to see more balance between the different worlds. Heck, in the original series, Doozers were the focus of some episodes, with the Fraggle Five acting as the supporting characters. Fraggle Rock is more than just Fraggles.

Katilyn: I said this after season 1 and I’m saying it again: The Gorgs need more attention. After that bomb from Ma at the end of “Hope and Socks,” we know they’re not going anywhere. So Pa needs a true reckoning that can help viewers learn how to handle these types of people in their own lives.

Beth: What else can we learn from the book of ancient Gorgs now that they know to actually read it closely? When will Doc learn about the furry creatures beyond the hole in the wall? Do the Lost Fraggles come up to visit the Gorgs’ garden and gather radishes for the first time in generations? What adorable shenanigans do Pogey and Little Raggo get up to when they hang out?

Becca: Like I said in Katilyn and my piece about Gorg Boxing Day, I want to see the show get even more explicit about LGBTQ+ topics. “The Glow” was a good first step, and “I’m Pogey” took those ideas even further, but there’s so much more they could still cover with clarity and nuance. 

Or, I guess, letting Doc and/or Sprocket meet the Fraggles. That too.

Ryan: I agree. Back to the Rock has already accelerated the timeline of Fraggle/Gorg diplomacy and Fraggle/Doozer cooperation. Let’s see what happens when Doc encounters the Fraggles before the end of the series!

Okay, just one more thing: Any last thoughts?

Becca: This season officially brought Aretha back to the Fraggle universe and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Matthew: The presence of Mokey’s outfit from the original series in “I’m Pogey” suggests that all realms of the Fraggle Rock universe are themselves caught in an unending time loop, as all changes to the character dynamic are forgotten and relationships reset. The only one to escape is the original Doc, who found a break in the temporal boundary in Arizona. In this essay I shall–

Beth: There are so many new foods introduced in this season, and the Fraggle Foodie simply does not have that kinda time. I will definitely try to make at least one or two that sound like they might be tasty, but I refuse to make “lukewarm cheesewater.” I gotta draw the line somewhere.

Katilyn: I need to point out that the socks Ma Gorg is knitting at the end of “Hope and Socks” are inaccurate. While it is possible to knit socks using only two straight needles, those types of socks are knitted flat, then taken off the needles and sewn together. The lack of seams in the socks mark them as having been knit in the round. Therefore Ma needed either double pointed needles or circular needles. Someday I will see accurate knitting depicted in media. But this is not that day.

Joe: If we don’t get a third season of Back to the Rock, I’m gonna throw an actual fit. You hear me, Apple TV? A FIT.

Click here to get glittery on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Beth Cook, Joe Hennes, Katilyn Miller, Becca Petunia, Ryan Roe, and Matthew Soberman

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