Tuca & Bertie Got High and Heavy on the Fumes of Codependency

Tuca & Bertie Got High and Heavy on the Fumes of Codependency
Bertie and Tuca at a Planteau bar. (Image: Adult Swim)

In Tuca & Bertie’s second season, the feathered friends are back and still a pair of hot messes living their best lives in a world filled with other anthropomorphic animals and glistening tomato strippers who are probably tired of being asked whether they’re GMOs or organic. However, last night’s episode, “Planteau,” went even deeper.

Keeping with the show’s first season, which followed Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) and Bertie (Ali Wong) as they went through trials and tribulations that helped them better understand themselves, the new season kicked off last week with the pair doubling down on their commitments to emotional growth. While Tuca mustered up the courage to begin dating again as a relatively recent sober person, Bertie set out to find a therapist to help deal with her crippling bouts of anxiety.

Both Tuca’s longing for emotional intimacy and Bertie’s need to deal with her emotions with people other than Tuca are elements of their personalities that Tuca & Bertie’s explored previously. But “Bird Mechanics” and “Planteau,” Tuca & Bertie’s two most recent episodes, have been revisiting those ideas in order to emphasise how lifestyle changes and working on one’s mental health are processes that take time.

Though Tuca’s still prone to existential messiness, her sobriety is actually something she’s navigated with strength and uncanny wisdom when faced with obstacles like her belligerent, cruel aunt Tallulah (Jennifer Lewis). It’s relatively easy for Tuca to put herself back on the market as she ropes a bunch of unexpecting people onto her Sex Bus — a vehicle that becomes the setting of a dating show in which going out on a date with her is the ultimate prize. For Bertie, tracking down a therapist she properly vibes with proves to be a difficult task. Even after she eventually settles into a comfortable pattern with Dr. Joanne (Pamela Adlon), by the end of “The Bird Mechanics,” the second episode opens with it being quite clear that neither Tuca nor Bertie is in what one might consider a good spot.

Good as things still are between Bertie and her boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun), “Planteau” lays out how Bertie’s still taking steps to be a more social person somewhat more independent from him and Tuca.

When Speckle’s sister Dottie (Steven Universe’s Michaela Dietz) invites Bertie to join her bachelorette party in Planteau — a Vegas-like city full of plant people — she agrees out of a desire to keep breaking out of her shell and meeting new people. Though Tuca and Speckle are also present for the trip, the idea of hitting Planteau’s streets for a wild celebration is still enough to nearly send Bertie into conniptions. So, Bertie decides she’ll be sober buddies for the evening with Tuca as long as she agrees not to leave her alone and awkward.

Tuca & Bertie's take on Veggie Tales. (Gif: Adult Swim) Tuca & Bertie’s take on Veggie Tales. (Gif: Adult Swim)

One of the biggest anxieties Tuca dealt with in season one stemmed from her concern that without drinking, she might no longer be the charismatic kind of person that others naturally gravitate towards. Through the process of putting herself back out there and giving herself time to figure out how she wants to live her life now, though, she’s been able to move past much of that old self-doubt.

It’s something that’s made it significantly easier for her to identify what parts of her friendship with Bertie might not be healthy. Tuca & Bertie’s jokingly danced around the idea of its two leads being emotionally codependent to a fault, but the way that it comes to the fore in “Planteau” feels distinctly like a story shaped by how the past year has strained many people’s friendships.

When Tuca tells Bertie she doesn’t need to drink to have a good time, she genuinely means it, but it’s difficult for Bertie to internalize — or perhaps put much faith in — what Tuca tells her, and even more of a challenge for her to grapple with her own self-consciousness. The final moments of “The Bird Mechanics” reveal that while Tuca truly does care about Bertie, she also keenly feels how prioritising Bertie’s emotional needs before her own is causing her deep pain. It’s not that Tuca doesn’t want to be there for her friend, but that at this point in their lives, Bertie hasn’t taken the time to consider whether she’s reciprocating the kind of care and attention that her best friend has.

Bertie trying to convince Tuca not to be mad. (Image: Adult Swim) Bertie trying to convince Tuca not to be mad. (Image: Adult Swim)

Tuca & Bertie pieces this story together in a way that doesn’t reduce the friction between the two to a simple instance of one friend not realising that they’ve been somewhat selfish, but intensifies it. Bertie begins to sneak drinks while out in order to work up a buzz to get her on Tuca and the other drunk bachelorettes’ level of carefreeness, and when Tuca finds out, the betrayal brings the party to an abrupt halt.

What “Planteau” never explicitly spells out, but is woven into the subtext of the fight, is that even in her attempt at being supportive of Tuca’s sobriety, Bertie was ultimately still creating an imposition for her friend whose only desire was to have a good, non-intoxicated time with a bunch of fellow animals in a town full of talking fruits and vegetables. Though Tuca and Betie are able to patch things up after their falling out, “Planteau” makes clear that patches might not really be enough to maintain their friendship as the season progresses, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

As little doubt as there is that Tuca and Bertie will remain friends, Tuca & Bertie’s very purposefully seeding the possibility that what the two of them need most right now is time apart — not exactly because they’re not good for one another, but because there are times in people’s lives where change and recalibration are necessary. Emotional rough patches like the one Tuca and Bertie have wandered into typically only grow more treacherous unless the people lost in them legitimately hash out what’s on their minds.

That sort of forthrightness has been a hallmark of Tuca’s interactions with people for quite some time now, but by the final moment of “Planteau,” it’s clear that Bertie isn’t quite there just yet. The more time Bertie spends bottling up her insecurities, the more likely that they’re just going to bubble up again in even more intense, unexpected ways, and there’s no telling whether Tuca (and perhaps also Speckle) will be prepared for what happens next.