Everything You Need to Know to Watch ‘Transparent’ Season 2

Before you get your binge-watch on, brush up on what went down in the Emmy award-winning series' unforgettable first season.

If you haven’t given Transparent at a chance yet, let us be the ones to tell you: the hype is real. Created by Jill Soloway, the groundbreaking series that helped put transitioning into the cultural conversation is as poignant, moving, hilarious, and tragic as critics and fans alike have praised it. The Emmy-winning show (Jeffrey Tambor took home Best Leading Actor in a Comedy, while Soloway took home Best Directing in a Comedy) returns for its entire second season on Amazon today, so in case you’ve got no time to catch up on season one, we’re breaking it down for you. Finish this, then stop everything you’re doing and dive into season two. You’d be doing yourself a favor.

What’s it about?

The lives of a dysfunctional Jewish family in Los Angeles, The Pfeffermans, begin to unravel when their father comes out as trans.

Who’s who?

Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor): A retired college professor and father to Ali, Josh, and Sarah, Maura, after hiding in the closet for decades, decides to embrace his identity as a trans-woman.

Ali Pfefferman (Gaby Hoffmann): The youngest child of the Pfefferman family, Ali’s a sexually adventurous and unemployed basketcase who can’t seem to mature.

Josh Pfefferman (Jay Duplass): As the middle child and only son of the Pfeffermans, Josh, a successful music producer, takes love where he can get it, often resulting in messy relationships with the women in his life.

Sarah Pfefferman (Amy Landecker): The eldest Pfefferman, Sarah’s the mother of two kids and former wife of Len Novak (Rob Huebel), whom she decides to leave to be with her college love, Tammy Cashman (Melora Hardin).

Shelly Pfefferman (Judith Light): Maura’s former wife, Shelly remarried a man named Ed Paskowitz (Lawrence Pressman) after her divorce. While at first she was in denial, she’s known about Maura’s cross-dressing for years.

What’s their deal?

Maura Pfefferman: Finally committing to her life as Maura comes with complications. While Maura finds solace in her trans support group and best friends, fellow trans-women Davina (Alexandra Billings) and Marcy (Bradley Whitford), she still struggles to get her family’s unconditional love and acceptance. The main hesitation comes from Josh and Ali, who at first can’t wrap their minds around the news.

Ali Pfefferman: Ali exists in her own world throughout the season. Seemingly just to feel something, she puts herself in destructive situations. First up, she coaxes her trainer and his friend to have a drug-fueled threesome with her. Without a clue of what to do with her life, she takes it out on other people, not the least of which is her Moppa–her new name for Maura–and her longtime best friend, Syd (Carrie Brownstein), whom Ali rejects after she confesses her feelings for her.

Josh Pfefferman: Josh seems to be living the dream, until he knocks up the lead singer (played by A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol) of the band he’s producing. Her decision to get an abortion pushes him off the deep end, which causes him to lose his job at the record company. This sends him back into the arms of his former babysitter Rita (Brett Paesel), whom he carried on an illicit relationship with as a boy.

Sarah Pfefferman: For years, Sarah’s been content with her quiet suburban life in Los Feliz. It’s clear that her routine of getting the kids to school, participating in bake sales, going to yoga, and waiting for her husband to get home is a well-oiled machine. Once she runs into Tammy at her kids’ school, however, a whole new crop of possibilities awakens in her. While at first they carry on an affair–Tammy’s also married to Barb (Tig Notaro) and has kids, the eldest being Bianca (Kiersey Clemmons) from her previous marriage–the two leave their spouses for each other. Thus, Sarah must not only deal with how that affects her family, but also her individual identity.

Shelly Pfefferman: These days, Shelly lives a pretty solitary life oceanside in her Marina del Rey community. She’s married to Ed and spends her days taking care of him, as his health is deteriorating at a rapid pace. She keeps on a friendship with Maura, but constantly yearns to be closer to her kids, especially as she’s about to lose Ed.

Where’d they end up by the end of season one?

Maura Pfefferman: At season one’s end, Maura’s moved in with Davina in the Shangri-La apartments and living her life out loud. She comes out to the rest of the family at Ed’s funeral, when she shows up fashionably late, dressed to the nines in a long black dress.

Ali Pfefferman: At this point, who hasn’t Ali alienated? She pushes Syd away when she finds out she’d been casually sleeping with Josh. She pushes Josh away when she tries to sabotage his first real relationship. She pushes Maura away by rejecting her financial help after Maura lays into her about being a completely selfish human being. However, she comes crawling back at the end of the season, broken and with a look in her eye that says she wants to put the pieces back together.

Josh Pfefferman: By season’s end, Josh is the man he’s always wanted to be. Not only does he begin a steady relationship with the Pfefferman family Rabbi Raquel (Kathryn Hahn), he starts independently producing his own band, with Tammy’s daughter Bianca as one of its core members. Of course, life doesn’t let him off the hook. In the season finale, Rita resurfaces with a grown teenager named Colton (Alex MacNicoll), who turns out to be Josh’s son.

Sarah Pfefferman: Despite agreeing to marry Tammy, it’s clear that Sarah’s still unsure of everything in her life. In the season finale, she fools around with Len and has serious doubts about her future as a Cashman.

Shelly Pfefferman: With Ed’s funeral capping off the season, Shelly’s now all about reconnecting with her kids, and reconnecting with Maura.

What can we expect from season two?

Maura Pfefferman: With the Shangri-La apartments under new management, Maura’s forced to move in with Shelly. Now, she must balance being social in the LGBT community, with being Shelly’s only confidante. The lines get blurred between the former couple.

Ali Pfefferman: With a renewed sense of purpose in life, Ali, with the help of Maura, is making all the right moves to get into graduate school for gender studies. Not only that, but she repairs her relationship with Syd. Ali being Ali, expect something or someone–namely a female professor Soloway admitted to modeling after poet Eileen Myles–to magnetically pull her away from a storybook ending.

Josh Pfefferman: Josh kicks off season two in full-on dad mode. He’s spending more time with Colton, while making his home cozy for his and Raquel’s unborn baby. However, his mission to please everyone around him ends up taking a toll on his psyche.

Sarah Pfefferman: Although the premiere kicks off with her wedding to Tammy, Sarah’s marriage ends as soon as it begins. Thus, she’s spending the better part of season two a drunken mess who complicates everyone’s life, especially those of her ex-husband Len and Tammy.

Shelly Pfefferman: No story feels quite as tragic as Shelly’s this time around. Her physical intimacy with Maura skews her perception of their relationship, which in turn ends up leaving her lonelier than ever.

Tara Aquino is an entertainment writer based out of L.A. She likes people, places, and things.