NOTE: This review contains some mild spoilers for Part Two of “The Ranch.” That said, the review is written to accommodate those who have not yet watched the series, and as such, will avoid discussion of major plot developments.
When Part One released back in April, The Ranch was a passable, but tonally confused and inconsistent sitcom that felt like an underwhelming addition to Netflix’s growing library of original comedy shows. Granted, it was still far better than stinkers like Fuller House, but it was very clear that The Ranch had lots of room to improve, which would hopefully happen when the second half of its extended first season, Part Two, finally released later in October. Now that Part Two is finally here… It’s still best to come into this show with reduced expectations. Part Two definitely doesn’t represent a miraculous turnaround for The Ranch, but on the bright side, it is at least a small improvement over Part One, even if this show still needs to be funnier and more consistent to truly stand out amid better Netflix comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None and BoJack Horseman.
Part One ended with Colt’s former flame, Abby getting cold feet about marrying her fiance, Kenny, and confessing this to Colt. Part Two picks up immediately after this confession, as Colt tries to do right by Abby, alongside his young girlfriend, Heather, but as you can imagine, this gets complicated quickly, and soon blows up in his face. On the whole though, it does lead to Abby and Colt pursuing their own covert romance over the course of these new ten episodes of The Ranch, though considering how much this show is going by the well-worn book of classic sitcom convention even in Part Two, that should be anticipated by pretty much everyone in advance.
Yes, The Ranch gets marginally funnier in Part Two, though it’s still sticking too closely to canned sitcom humour, telegraphing many of its jokes in advance, and that’s still hurting the series, especially with that ever-annoying laugh track still rearing its ugly head. The best improvement in Part Two of The Ranch however does come from the show better picking a direction, and shedding a lot of the constant drama that was throughout Part One. There’s still a few jarring moments of over-seriousness that feel out-of-place between scenes that are a lot more silly and light-hearted, though fortunately, the cast and performances on this show are great as ever, and definitely not the problem.
Another welcome change that the show makes is eliminating the Bennett family’s constant line-walking when it comes to potentially losing the ranch. With the family now financially secure for the next while, the storytelling wisely shifts to the family dynamic over anything else, and that’s probably where it should be. It’s difficult to structure a sitcom within a rural family location that’s constantly being threatened with a very realistic and very depressing destruction, so it’s a good call that The Ranch moved away from that in Part Two. This is part of the reason why Part Two is effectively funnier; The Bennett family no longer feels like they’re going to be homeless and jobless at any minute. Not only does this shift the show to welcome new conflicts in Part Two, but it does lighten things up, and that is a good thing in a show that sometimes suffers from being strangely over-serious.
For Beau and Maggie however, the situation remains quite serious, as Maggie starts the season MIA, and Beau is faced with the possibility of having to accept what he can’t change. Beau being a stubborn, unflinching grouch is put even more into focus in Part Two, and taking away Maggie, if just for a little while, does allow several interesting new dimensions to be explored with Beau’s hyper-conservative character. If perseverance was a theme in Part One, then change is a big theme in Part Two, as the Bennett family faces several big life changes that they react to in a variety of ways. Naturally, not every storyline is interesting, and the humour is still very uneven overall, but The Ranch is starting to get a better sense of itself in Part Two, so if you do like this show, then you’ll find that Part Two is even more enjoyable, and that’s a good thing.
Those coming for the That 70’s Show reunion will also be tickled by the addition of Wilmer Valderrama, a third That 70’s Show veteran, coming into the series as an all-new recurring character towards the final few episodes of Part Two, playing into a huge new story twist with Rooster that occurs in the second half of this new episode batch. Colt certainly has his own challenges with juggling Abby and Heather, but Rooster is also given an expanded character in Part Two, now getting the chance to be more than what he is, and that causes surprising effects with the rest of the family. The entire cast of this show remains great, but Danny Masterson feels like the particular star of Part Two, with his character becoming the most challenged and interesting, despite beginning this series as the most shiftless and apathetic personality.
If you didn’t take to The Ranch in Part One, then Part Two isn’t going to change your mind, since it’s only a small hop in quality, not the necessary leap that this sitcom needs to better stand out. Even small improvements should be observed and commended though, and slowly, The Ranch is approaching a better quality standard. The series has been renewed for a second ‘season’, which technically consists of two ‘parts’ that might as well exist as seasons three and four, but regardless of this sitcom’s bizarre release method, at least it remains quite watchable in Part Two. Netflix has plenty of better sitcoms, but it also has plenty of worse sitcoms too, leaving The Ranch firmly acceptable, if not all that noteworthy, even now. The proper second season of The Ranch will hopefully improve things further, especially since Part Two ends on another big cliffhanger that teases another major shake-up for the series, but for now, there isn’t much else to say. The Ranch gets the job done in Part Two, but it’s still got a ways to go before it can be another true jewel in Netflix’s sitcom crown.
- Cast is still great as ever, particularly with Valderrama's new addition
- Slightly improved humour and a lighter tone
- Shift to family drama improves storytelling
- Humour is still weak to middling much of the time
- Still occasionally over-serious
- Still doesn't effectively stand out among other Netflix sitcoms