When Ramy Youssef won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a TV Series — Musical or Comedy — in 2019 for his role as Ramy Hassan in 'Ramy', he joked that he knew that the audience had not watched the show.
Certainly, when the first season premiered, it earned rave reviews for its portrayal of American Muslims in a way that had not been explored before. Youssef also co-created the series with Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch. If the first season established Ramy as a name that deserved to be heard in every household, the second season does more so, albeit in a much more non-apologetic way. When you watch a series about a Muslim family in America with an acclimatized yet Islam-practicing son, you won't expect much of what you see in 'Ramy'.
In Season 2, Ramy and the eponymous show dives much more into the faith in a way that might help viewers understand what it is like for religious Muslims. With the addition of Academy Award-winning Mahershala Ali as Sheikh Ali, a Sufi leader who offers to guide the show’s troubled young hero, the show reaches new depths. When Ramy returns from his trip to visit his extended family in Egypt, he is even more confused than when he left. He worries that with his various addictions (notably porn, self-gratification and junk food), he's a disappointment to his family — and to himself. And so, Ramy turns to his faith, which is how he meets Sheikh Ali. However, his turn to faith comes at the same speed in which Ramy turns towards other distractions — without further thoughts of consequences. One of those actions results in Ramy converting a susceptible white ex-soldier with PTSD issues, who later reveals that prayer sounds are a trigger.
Ramy's puppy-dog devotion to his new teacher, who demands only honesty and truth — neither being Ramy's strong suit — only grows when the Sheikh greets the inevitable street protestors with kindness. In fact, much of Ramy's narrative this season is driven by this newfound attachment to the Sufi Center, the Sheikh, the Sheikh’s daughter Zainab (MaameYa Boafo), and the calmness they bring into his life.
Of course, the second season also delves into other characters such as Ramy's parents and sister. The most compelling episode is that featuring Ramy's uncle Naseem (Laith Nakli), whose portrayal as a homophobic and racist yet protective uncle saw many fans saying that they had someone similar in their lives. The penultimate episode of the season shows that there is more to Uncle Naseem than we see and, in fact, opens our eyes to give his rigid and outright sexist attitude some much-needed context that works hard to elicit sympathy.
What makes 'Ramy' work so well is the creators' self-awareness in making a character that may not always be so likable. And when portraying such a character from a community that is often subjected to inhuman treatment in the media, it takes a lot of care to come across as sensitive. Of course, with Youssef being one of the creators, it strengthens the calls for why representation is truly important.
Season 2 of 'Ramy' is available for streaming on Hulu on May 29.