Friends From College Season 2 Ending & Relationships Explained
Netflix’s coming-of-middle-age series Friends From College season 2 is out now, and it somehow manages to top the first season when it comes to relationship drama, as well as its ending. But considering the major draw of Friends From College season 1 was the car accident appeal of toxic friendships exploding, it’s no surprise that Friends From College season 2 kept playing that same game.
That said, Nicholas Stoller and Francescal Delbanco play a little differently this time around. In Friends From College season 2, Max, Ethan, Lisa, Sam, Marianne, and Nick have nothing to hide, so the distasteful subterfuge that ruled over most of Friends From College season 1 is replaced by flawed, but forgivable people trying to muddle their way through the aftermath of everything being out in the open. In the process, the romantic musical chairs is played at an even faster rate, and in the span of eight episodes, covering six weeks, each major character experiences at least one relationship milestone, and several experience several numerous actual relationships before finally settling on a single partner by the finale.
It’s a dizzying progression at times, so here’s a breakdown of every romantic couple that forms in Friends From College season 2 as well as where everyone ends up when the music finally stops.
- This Page: Lisa, Charlie, Nick, and Merrill
- Page 2: Sam, Ethan, Max, Felix, and More
- Page 3: Sam, Jon, Ethan, Lisa, and More
LISA AND CHARLIE
At the top of Friends From College season 2, a year’s passed since Sam’s 40th birthday party, Lisa’s learned of Ethan and Sam’s decades-long affair and cut everyone off – including Ethan – as a result. She resurfaces at Max and Felix’s engagement party with a new boyfriend, named Charlie, and proceeds to aggressively inform everyone of how she’s moved on. The performance feels unconvincing as she’s clearly still furious at everyone, but her relationship with Charlie, a fellow lawyer, lasts long enough that it’s not just a fling. That doesn’t mean it isn’t doomed, though.
In her fury to escape the heartbreak at learning that her entire marriage was predicated on a huge betrayal, Lisa throws herself head first into her relationship with Charlie, attempting to engage with his interests (see: “soccer” and “failing”) and even suggesting that they try to have baby. He agrees at first, but is then shocked to learn she doesn’t also want to get married as well. It’s also impossible for him to totally ignore how connected she still is to her former marriage and friends. The two break-up when he realizes they’re in the relationship for different reasons and Charlie remains comically bitter and naïvely blind to the fact that it was a rebound relationship the entire time.
NICK AND MERRILL
Trust fund kid Nick starts out as optimistic as ever, if still a carrying a torch for Lisa after their tryst in the Caymans. But when they reconnect, he’s observant enough to see she’s still spinning out, so he sets his sights on an old friend from his days as a blue blood. Sarah Chalke plays Merrill Morgan, a nouveau WASP who’s re-emerged as an influencer after her high-profile marriage to a rockstar imploded. She’s completely odious to everyone else, but she’s attractive to Nick because not only is she cute, but they also share some history both romantically and culturally. She’s rebellious enough to start a relationship with Nick, but she hasn’t strayed nearly as far from the culture that raised them as he has.
At first, he seems to fit into her life seamlessly, by bonding easily with her son and accompanying her on a family weekend during which they giggle at the amount of Merrills, Morgans, and Nicks in attendance. Unfortunately, despite how good she is for him, Nick can’t extricate himself from his former lifestyle or friends. He winds up inviting a despairing Lisa to Merrill’s family gathering, shows up drugged to one of her dinner parties, and despite how surprisingly understanding she is of all of it, he ends things the minute Lisa looks like she might consider him as a prospect. It’s a shame, too – Sarah Chalke turns in a hat trick of a performance that somehow makes a superficially detestable woman into a sympathetic and emotionally mature character of the entire season.
Page 2 of 3: Sam, Ethan, Max, Felix, and More
SAM AND ETHAN
One of the biggest hurdles Friends From College set out to jump was to see if Sam and Ethan could actually give their relationship a try in the face of the destruction their affair wrought. It was always going to be a hard sell considering how difficult it was to have sympathy for either of them even after they’d faced up to their misdeeds. But Friends From College gives them time to suffer some significant consequences and various humiliations, as well as moments of genuine self-reflection before permitting either character to consider an actual relationship with the other.
Watching them attempt a legitimate relationship is at times awkward and unpalatable – when they start calling each other “babe” during their first couple get togethers, everyone reacts with hilarious revulsion. But Friends From College makes their decision to try motivated by the real feelings between them as opposed to a mutual failure to break away from a toxic pattern. They become a much more sympathetic couple once the audience finally gets a glimpse of how genuinely happy these two could make each other (for however long it would last). They’re still deeply flawed characters, but that doesn’t make them wrong for each other, and when they don’t end up together, it’s sad.
MAX AND FELIX
After a rocky season that saw Felix get a firsthand look at how vulnerable Max is to his college friends, the couple has clearly benefited from a year off from the “friend group.” They open Friends From College season 2 literally in sync with each other (mostly) as they practice a dance number for their wedding and discuss how Max’s friends won't do anything to ruin their upcoming engagement party. (If only he’d seen the bigger picture.) The engagement party isn’t the disaster that it promises to be, but the flip side of that coin is that it sparks the idea that these people can be friends with each other without it somehow manifesting in chaos. Everyone’s too emotionally intertwined to maintain proper boundaries, but that also makes it impossible for them to stay away from each other.
To wit, Ethan and Max are still working on his young adult fantasy series about centaurs, and their dynamic is the same: Max craves Ethan’s approval, and Ethan takes advantage of that devotion to ensure endless emotional support, pass Max’s literary ideas off as his own and secure six months free storage for his and Lisa’s belongings. As the wedding draws near, Felix decides he’s the only puppet master allowed in Max’s life, so he meets with Ethan and demands the writer enter into a partnership with Max that gives the agent writing credit. Ethan winds up embracing the idea because his heart hasn’t been in Boy Horse since the beginning. In his glee at the opportunity to pursue an artist passion, Max quits his job only to discover he hasn’t the first clue what he’s doing.
Things only get worse after Ethan leaves the project entirely and Max is left with no job and a franchise he has no idea how to complete. When Felix proudly reveals he’s the one who pushed Ethan into that direction, Max is furious – not that Felix manipulate him, but that he did it in the wrong direction. It’s not a fatal blow to their relationship, but it does make it very clear that despite Max being the only member of his friend group to have a stable relationship, he’s just as dysfunctional and immature as his peers.
NICK AND LISA
As a couple, Nick and Lisa seemed a bit perfunctory in Friends From College season 1, and their romance far less rooted than Max and Felix’s or even Sam and Ethan's. But after Lisa escapes from the tornado that is Ethan and Charlie, and finally moves on, Nick is a supportive enough friend without pushing her for anything else, that the two discover they have a real connection. They decide to give it a go themselves. And, like Sam and Ethan, it looks good on paper. Lisa seems to have genuinely moved on from her catastrophic divorce and Nick’s been waiting for his shot too long not to jump at the chance to be with her.
Unfortunately, she learns she’s pregnant almost immediately after, and eventually their fledgling relationship falls apart before it can even get off the ground. There might have been hope for them had Nick had the forbearance he exhibited all season and left her some room to deal with the news. Instead, he berates her and bemoans the fact that he could still be with Merrill, if Lisa hadn’t come back into his life. It’s not a good moment for the character, but everyone has their breaking point, even someone like Nick.
Page 3 of 3: Sam, Jon, Ethan, Lisa, and More
SAM AND JON
After finding out about their significant others' affair off-screen, Jon and Lisa deal with the betrayal in different ways. Where Lisa ran away and got enough distance to effect a mask of aloofness, Jon stayed in his marriage. He and Sam are still together at the top of Friends From College season 2, but a year of therapy has done them no good, and Jon's completely incapable of keeping his rage at bay. He makes some choice and very public comments at Max and Felix’s engagement party causing a contrite, but frustrated Sam to walk away. He asks for a divorce that night, but that’s far from the end.
After Sam agrees to the divorce, Jon clones her phone contacts and leaves every single one a detailed voicemail about their marriage ending and why. After they finally separate, he starts dating their daughter’s schoolteacher and flaunts the relationship in front of Sam at a parent-teacher conference. While his actions serve to make Sam more sympathetic, Greg Germann skillfully imbues Jon with sympathy of his own. As petty as he gets, we can’t help but understand his heartbreak and anger - Jon loves his family, and his wife carelessly torpedoed it.
But it’s eventually that love for his family that sees him attempt to win Sam back at the end of Friends From College season 2, as much as we wish he wouldn’t. Especially considering that Sam only returns to their marriage in the finale after Ethan leaves her. If there’s a Friends From College season 3, it’ll be interesting to see how long their relationship lasts with such a shoddy foundation.
ETHAN AND LISA
One of the most moving and effective episodes of Friends From College season 2 is “ Storage Unit.” Forced to finally clean out their joint belongings from Max and Felix's building, Ethan and Lisa take a trip down memory lane that’s both sweet and heartbreaking. Cobie Smulders is devastating as she finally opens up about how excruciating it is to relive every happy memory in their marriage with the knowledge of Sam and Ethan’s never-ending affair. For his part, Ethan is as contrite as he possibly can be, but insists that he did love Lisa in spite of his actions, and their marriage was still worthwhile. In the end, it seems they might at least be on a path to an amicable separation, but then Lisa gets one of Jon’s revenge voicemails and all their progress is erased.
It’s the finality of that last blow that allows Lisa to explore, with credibility, her new relationships. She and Charlie breakup shortly thereafter, but not without genuine effort on her part to make it work. That paves the way for her to reconnect with Nick in what becomes a charming budding romance between the two… only for her to realize she’s pregnant just as they decide to give it a shot. Spoiler alert: it’s not Nick’s baby, and it sure isn’t Charlie’s. In a moment you definitely saw coming in “Storage Unit,” Ethan and Lisa’s tryst resulted in the pregnancy they were so desperate for in Friends From College season 1. The two end the season reunited at their first ultrasound, but it feels doubtful a pregnancy will do anything but complicate matters between the two.
MARIANNE AND TAG
Marianne continued to be the most aspirational member of the friend group this season mostly for her epic drags of her friends and killer wardrobe. She maintained her position on the fringes of the action for most of Friends From College season 2, aside from humbly attempting to repair her friendship with Lisa. But her long-distance Australian lover Tag did return to provide some much-needed humor. He and his adrenaline junkie friends are in town to base jump and promote their daredevil YouTube channel. Marianne acts as their getaway driver after they complete illegal jumps off of buildings in Manhattan.
Unfortunately, despite many previous attempts and some killer GoPro content, Tag’s chute fails to open during a jump and he plunges to his death, which is live-streamed to everyone’s horror. As is fitting, Marianne’s feelings about the tragedy are largely overshadowed by all the drama that occurs when everyone meets up at Tag’s funeral and proceeds to either mock him or ignore the service. She ends Friends From College season 2 single, but still better off than almost everyone she knows - and therein lies one of the foundations of Friends From College.