In the second episode of the new season of comedy series Ramy protesters gather outside a mosque brandishing angry placards and chanting, "No sharia in New Jersey".
Unsure how to handle the situation, Ramy, played by show creator and writer Ramy Youssef, turns to his new spiritual counselor, Sheikh Ali, portrayed by two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, for guidance.
"Right now they're just so consumed by their fear, I know it may seem odd to pray for these people, but trying to help those who can't help themselves is sometimes the only path for our own heart," Sheikh Ali tells him. "Help others, and God will help you with your struggles."
Later in the episode, Ramy befriends a young Iraq war veteran and agrees to help him convert to Islam. But during his first prayer session, the veteran is hit by a violent wave of PTSD and assaults one of the protesters.
Following his stunning Golden Globe win earlier this year, which Youssef says now "feels like years ago," one might expect the comedian to play it safe with his show's 10-episode second season, but that's not his how he rolls.
"We wanted to look at something that is obviously real in this country. I didn't want to make those characters like cartoonish bigots or anything like that. I just kind of wanted to paint the picture of what a lot of people have experienced shades of in America," Youssef says. "I'm never afraid to get political or anything."
As the sheikh explains, forgiving the racists might help Ramy forgive himself.
Ramy lists his many sins to the sheikh in the first episode of Season 2 and vows to be a better Muslim: "Ramy talks about wanting to be a good person and a believing person, and so much of what we wanted to do in Season 2 was put him in a pressure cooker, put him in a situation where we actually get to see what he's about, not just talking about these things in the abstract".
Ali's addition to the series was unexpected, and came about after a two-hour phone call between the two. Rather than trying to fit Ali into an existing storyline, Youssef and his writers decided on "blowing up the whole season" to have Ali play Ramy's sheikh, the vital moral compass at the heart of the new set of episodes.
A comedy about two people (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) who love each other but have fallen into a fatal power duel, The Lovebirds would like to be a love story that's also a cheeky crime story, where the laughs crackle with anxiety and the more recklessly out there the situation becomes, the more it draws the two characters together. Yet we have to be able to believe what we're watching. And The Lovebirds quickly descends into the kind of synthetically plotted, harmless-at-its-core caper that may remind you of a ramshackle Hollywood action comedy like Date Night.
Little Fires Everywhere
Executive produced and starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, this drama series is based on Celeste Ng's 2017 bestseller about the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. The story explores the weight of secrets, the nature of identity and the ferocious pull of motherhood.