First of all if you are interested in reading my review of season 1, please click here. I highly recommend watching the seasons in order (and both are currently available on netflix as well as other digital means).
Andie MacDowell is back as Judge Olivia Lockhart, who finds herself in the middle of her small seaside town’s drama, relationships and excitement. Now happily back together with Jack, Olivia becomes the stable force who holds him together when his troubled son Eric returns. As Olivia reaches new milestones in her relationship with Jack, she remains a reliable best friend to Grace and a supportive mom to Justine, proving this judge continues to capture the spirit of the small town in her big heart.
If you are one who follows my blog (but especially if you follow me on social media), you are going to be well aware of my absolute adoration for the Hallmark original series Cedar Cove. It is based on Debbie Macomber’s book series, and although the series is filmed in Vancouver, B.C., this series takes place in a small Puget Sound town (based on Port Orchard, Washington).
Over the past year, I have come to know and love the actors and actresses of this amazing show, and having the opportunity to review the second season of this show (which meant “binge watching”) was a great honor and privilege. My meager words will not begin to do justice to this magnificent show, but I shall strive to do my best. Please note this will be an extensive review as I will be covering the majority of the actors and actresses who appeared in this season.
As the “judge with heart,” Andie MacDowell returns as the indomitable Judge Olivia Lockhart. From the beginning of the show, I have simply adored the character of Olivia. Andie plays her so perfectly that it is difficult oftentimes to distinguish her person from the character she portrays. During this season, the drama Olivia has to endure is even more heightened than season one. And yet Andie still portrays Olivia as the calm, cool, and collected judge who can face any problem that comes her way (and she has a few doozies during this season). Rarely does she ever raise her voice–that is something that I have noticed about the character of Olivia for quite some time, and I must admit I admire that. Andie plays her so impeccably that you have to lean in to hear the important words of wisdom she delivers (unless you really get her mad–and trust me, you do not ever want to get Judge Lockhart mad!). Again, she is always able to solve everyone’s problems but her own–that is where Olivia has learned to rely on others for help.
Since season two was when I first began to connect with the actors and actresses of this fine show, let me take a moment and “brag” about this incredible woman. Andie was the first person connected with the cast to whom I tweeted, and she was the first who responded. As time has gone on, I have come to truly respect and love this woman not only for her talent but for the amazing way she connects with her fans. On the evening that I noticed she had followed me back on twitter, things changed for me. No longer was she just an actress that I liked seeing on television and occasionally in other movies. I was now on a quest to support, inspire, and do all I could to make sure that the world knew of this amazing actress and wonderful woman. While Olivia Lockhart introduced me to the unbelievable talent and marvel that is Andie MacDowell, I am thoroughly enjoying my journey of getting to know her and her movies. Indeed Hallmark could have not done any better in casting this role.
The multi-talented Dylan Neal reprises his role as Jack Griffith, newspaper editor, recovering alcoholic, and Olivia’s boyfriend. I enjoyed his portrayal of Jack in season one, and all I can say is that season two demonstrated to me the fantastic range of Dylan’s acting. The obstacles were few and far between in season one, but Jack has many issues during season two. There is one episode that truly touched my heart–when he finally told his story at Alcoholics Anonymous. It so resonated with me that it brought tears to my eyes. I know that many people didn’t like where Jack’s story ended, but I felt the show dealt with that realistically. Setbacks come to all of us, and it success or not depends on how one deals with those setbacks. We have to wait till season three to discover whether he succeeds and overcomes or not.
I am always overwhelmed and blown away at the chemistry these two have on-screen. Andie and Dylan make the perfect on-screen couple, and I never doubt the love that exists between these characters. Everything from the way they talk, the way they interact, and even the way they display affection always seems effortless and genuine. Because of this, I think everyone is invariably rooting for this couple, and it’s painful to see any concerns between them. It is rare to see such a fantastic connection between two actors, and I am excessively glad to see these two returning for more in season three.
On a side note, it is a load of fun to interact with Dylan via social media. As I reported in my season one review, I shall never forget the time he stayed and tweeted with a group of fans for nearly an hour after the show was over (I can imagine that he is tired of my recounting that story, but oh well, it’s my review after all). He took it upon himself to judge the reactions of the fans towards the end of season two, and his interactions are always genuine, uplifting, and often quite humorous. My affinity for him as an actor and a person has risen over the past year, and there’s a standing joke between us regarding the fact that I said he was my third favorite actor (don’t ever underestimate how sharp this guy is–even if he doesn’t respond he sees what is said on twitter). It is these kinds of interactions that honestly endear him more to me, and I find that I desire to support him even more (but I’m sorry Dylan, you still will never go any higher than third place).
The Beldons return in season two, and they are even more lovable than season one. Bob (played by Bruce Boxleitner) and Peggy (played by Barbara Niven) have become a notably dear couple to me due to the storylines in season two and my continued interactions with the actors themselves. Together, they are absolutely ideal on-screen. In this day and age, it’s heart-warming to see a couple that can stay together in spite of the difficulties the life hurls at them. They are the couple that consistently give us hope for lifetime love. There is a strikingly sweet ease between the two of them, and I look forward to their soon return in season three.
It is season two where we learn more about Bob’s past struggles, and we truly witness the way he cares for Peggy. The interactions between Bob and Jack are some of the best scenes of season two. Bruce is indeed a seasoned actor who fits the role of Bob so well I think it’s hard to separate the two. I have adored his character from the beginning but as I have gotten to know somewhat who he is (it always helps to be the friend of one of his good friends), I have been even more impressed with him. Putting it simply, Bruce is the “real deal,” and watching him as Bob Beldon is sheer delight.
As for Barbara Niven’s character, Peggy, I have thoroughly fallen in love with her and the character she portrays. From the inception of the show, her character regularly stood out to me. But season two was Peggy’s opportunity to shine. Barbara kept telling us there would be a superb story coming her way, and when it did, I was absolutely captivated. Peggy became my heroine.
(If you haven’t seen season two, you may not wish to read this.) When Peggy executed the “slap heard round the world,” I was so enraptured and ecstatic. As one who has experienced emotional and sexual abuse from two men in my life, Peggy’s story resonated with me. I never had the opportunity to slap them or even to officially tell them off. While they are no longer in my life, when Peggy said that man no longer had any power over her, I cheered! I cannot recall how many times I watched that scene, but it never got old. Barbara is a true champion for womankind, and she is as sweet as her character Peggy is (probably more so). I also appreciate the fact that she supports other people in the business (I owe her my undying gratitude for her special support of my favorite actor). This woman is unbelievable in innumerable ways, and I am honored to be able to interact with her and support her work. She is certainly right towards the top of my list as far as actresses go. Her versatility and the ease with which she acts is magical.
I was extremely pleased to see Teryl Rothery returning as Grace Sherman. From the very first time she appeared on the screen in season one, I identified with her probably because Grace and I are a lot alike. I could see myself in the woman who planned her life out in great detail, and then her life was thrown into an upheaval due to an unplanned divorce. Very few actresses could play this role with such grace (pun intended)–sweet, kind, and capably organized. But don’t cross that gal–she can turn into a spitfire when she gets riled up. Thankfully, Grace has Olivia to consult for advice (and vice versa) and to aid in straightening out her personal life. For me, I can never get enough of the unconquerable Grace but only as performed by Teryl. She is also generously sweet to her fans and appreciates our support on twitter and facebook. She frequently posts pictures and gives information about her life outside her work.
And, of course, what is Grace without her cowboy Cliff Harting (as played by the incomparable Sebastian Spence whom I will talk about in a minute)? These two together always make magic on the screen. There is no doubt when you watch Sebastian and Teryl on the screen together that they possess a rare chemistry that is not typically seen in the movie and television world. Of course, they are great friends, and they have worked together in the past, but these two have a chemistry that has spanned the years. As I reported in my review of season one, they first worked together on Sebastian’s show First Wave, and their easy chemistry continues today. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Cliff and Grace belong together more so than any of the other unmarried couples in the show (and that is my opinion, but I am not alone in this way of thinking).
Of course, the entire “twittersphere” knows how I feel about this man, and I honestly have this show to thank for introducing me to the spectacular Sebastian Spence. I couldn’t be happier that he reprised his role of Cliff Harting in season two. From his entrance in season one, I was smitten with his character, and that continues to this day. When it comes to Cliff, there is no doubt in my mind that Sebastian derives great pleasure out of this role. Oh, I know his preference has often been the science fiction genre, but there is a profound connection between him and this role, and that is supremely evident whenever he is on the screen. While he always gives his all to every role and completely immerses himself in the character, there is something so mesmerizing about every detail concerning Cliff. It’s almost as if he were born to play this role, and all too often, I have to remind myself he is acting. Sebastian is playing Cliff, and they are not the same person (however my theory is that he brings a lot of himself to this role and he and Cliff share many similarities in personality and behavior). No matter how small his role in the particular episode, his acting is of the same caliber that he always gives–sheer brilliance in the extreme. Again, he is one you sometimes have to lean in to hear (Cliff is typically soft-spoken and rarely raises his voice nor gets angry), but trust me–you want to hear every word he speaks. Moreover, upon rewatching season two, Cliff actually brought me to tears, and crying over television shows is something I don’t do often. Although Sebastian has become one of my dearest friends, the reviewer in me can still step back and objectively judge Sebastian’s performance, and there is no doubt that he is the only actor who could play the role of Cliff so convincingly (and dare I say perfectly).
For anyone who is not aware of Sebastian and his twitter interactions, I will admit that you are missing out. While he is an immeasurably busy person and not as technologically savvy as some, his online interactions more than make up for that. He has a knack of making every one of his fans feel as though he is talking to him/her specifically. He is quite perceptive and pays attention to details you may not think he would, and he tries to respond to everyone when he can. While his current schedule does not permit him to do what I’ve mentioned here, there is no doubt that he believes in genuine communication and not merely surface pleasantries. Whenever he sends out a status update or posts a picture, it never fails to make all of his fans smile. Although he has had his share of online horror stories (I know about those firsthand as they happened to me as well–it’s actually one way he and I bonded), he is always resilient and cares more deeply than some may realize.
Brennan Elliot thankfully reprises his role of Warren Saget in season two, and thankfully I no longer hate his character. Warren is one of those versatile actors who can be so plausible in the role of Cedar Cove’s “villain” that I had to convince my mom that Brennan is not like Warren. In season two, Warren comes back to Cedar Cove after having all charges dropped against him. And it is clear that he is up to his old tricks. As Brennan developed this character this season, I continued to remind myself of what he said about how he plays this “bad guy.” If Brennan had chosen to play Warren with the mindset that he was the bad guy, I don’t think Warren would be a likable character. Instead, Brennan plays Warren with the mindset that he’s a good businessman who is just misunderstood (that’s putting it in a nutshell). Because Brennan doesn’t see Warren as a bad guy, I think that the audience connects with this character. Of course, his character still evokes strong emotions on either side, and I’m not saying I always trusted Warren during this season (oh far from it). But because Brennan is such a professional, he pulls off the charming, debonair, and diabolical Warren. He has some phenomenal scenes with Jack (Dylan Neal) and Eric (Tom Stevens), and he is partially responsible for the cliffhanger ending of season two. Additionally, Warren does provide a bit of comic relief (even though Warren claims to have no sense of humor, there is no doubt Brennan has a fantastic one), and his sense of comedic timing is always impeccable as it is more the sarcastic form of comedy (which is exactly my kind of humor). I greatly anticipate Warren’s return in season three!
One other thing I am compelled to say here is that Brennan is almost like a social media guru in the way he posts to twitter. I have been completely overwhelmed at just how responsive he is on twitter. In fact, there have been times he has favorited and/or retweeted something I posted almost before I posted it myself (which seems impossible I know, but that is how it seems on this end). He is consistently appreciative of his fans and is reciprocal. He is the one who “won me over” as far as Warren goes, and I am certainly a lifelong fan who will continue to support him long after Cedar Cove is but a memory. And one additional note, he is quite humble which just makes him even more alluring.
Also returning to her role of Justine Lockhart is the sweet Sarah Smyth. Season two was almost a mini soap opera for her character. Seth goes away, and in walks Luke. Suddenly, she has to make some life-altering decisions, and it seems that she is struggling with some of those choices. I will admit that there were times I really wanted to beat some sense into Justine, but Sarah continually played her with style and naivety. I wasn’t oftentimes a fan of her character’s choices, but Sarah was always a sweet and capable actress. As well as a true professional. She has grown into the role of Justine, and I look forward to her return in season 3. As far as social media goes, you can rely on her for wonderful and amazing pictures, and she almost always will acknowledge her fans even if she is unable to respond. I anticipate the maturation of her character in the upcoming season!
With Corey Sevier returning as Seth Gunderson, I was pretty certain that a wedding would happen between these lovebirds. After all, they seemed like the perfect couple. And as I rewatched season two, I was reminded why I adored this character. Corey is an amazing actor who doesn’t always get to display the full range of his skills in this television series. As I watched with a more critical eye, I was able to see how he truly commands attention whenever he is on the screen. And unfortunately, the cliffhanger ending leaves all of us wondering if Seth will be back in season three. The chemistry between Sarah and Corey is certainly good and strong, but I noticed a definite change this season. While I’m not certain if it was intentional, Seth appears to be a bit more controlling in season two. For that reason, I think I can understand better why Justine draws back from him. But no matter what you may think of his character, there is no doubt that he brings a rugged and masterful element to the role of Seth that not every actor could do so well.
Jesse Hutch is one of the new faces in season two, and he plays ex-navy SEAL Luke Bailey. I didn’t recognize him at first, but then I realized I had seen him in a couple other Hallmark films (How to Fall in Love and Let It Snow.). And I have to admit I didn’t like this character at first. I didn’t appreciate how Justine falls for him and doesn’t tell Seth. I was concerned that Luke was putting undue pressure on Justine. But then I realized that the fault didn’t lay with Luke but with Justine. And as I discussed it with a friend later, Luke is the one who sincerely gives Justine the freedom to be herself. Seth doesn’t do that. So upon rewatching season two, I discovered that I liked Luke better than I had the first time.
I will admit that the interactions Jesse and I have had on twitter have also helped me to look at his character in a kinder way. If you have not checked out Jesse on twitter and instagram, oh my goodness, you do not know what you are missing. I have come to see him as an immensely entertaining person who is an absolute “hoot” online but quite the versatile actor on the screen. Jesse is one of those actors that you just can’t help but like. He commands your attention but in an easy but not an authoritative way. And in so doing, he captures your heart. Therefore, Jesse has become another favorite actor of mine, and I can hardly wait for him to return to season three. And as an afterthought, the chemistry between Jesse and Sarah is absolutely sweet. I hope these characters are together for a long time.
Cindy Busby joins the cast as Rebecca Jennings, another new character that figures into much of the drama of season two. Now I didn’t know Cindy from Heartland as so many others did, so I was fully open to whatever and whomever she was going to be in this series. And within a few minutes on the screen, I already disliked her character with a passion. In fact, as much as I had hated Warren, I think I may have hated Rebecca more. And Cindy plays this character in such a way that I can’t see anything sweet or nice about her. However, there is a change that occurs, and there is no doubt that Cindy is up for that challenge as well. In fact, the way that she so immerses herself in this role is truly fantastic and captivating. I am so looking forward to seeing more from her character in season three as she helped to build towards the cliffhanger in the finale. And as far as social media goes, I have come to know and love this actress through my interactions with her. I think she must be a genuinely pleasant person who seems to often play “not nice” roles.
Tom Stevens and Hayley Sales return to this cast as well as Eric Griffith and Shelly respectively. Unfortunately, Hayley’s role was much smaller than I would have liked it to be as she has talent both in singing and acting. For me, it took awhile to get used to Eric. In fact, I used to remark to my mom that I wasn’t sure Tom Stevens was a great actor. However, she defended him and said it was his character I probably didn’t like. And as usual, my mom was right. As I watched Tom play Eric, Jack’s wayward son who is attempting to become more responsible, I realized that he plays him exactly the way he should. Eric is fully naive and far too trusting. He is also irresponsible and always looking for the easy way out. Shelly stands out as being too good for him and consistently thinking of their child first and what’s good for her. The interactions with Warren were some of my favorite in the season, and he is a major player in the cliffhanger. Hayley’s best interactions are with Dylan as her character confronts his character concerning his drinking. I truly do hope to see more of these two wonderful young people in the future.
One more character worth mentioning is that of Alex played by Rebecca Marshall. She is Cliff’s hired hand, and although she is only in a handful of episodes, her part heightens the cliffhanger to heart-palpitating heights. From the beginning, I didn’t like Alex, but that is because she is a threat to Cliff and Grace’s relationship (at least from Grace’s perspective). And although I never doubted Cliff’s devotion to Grace, I was uncertain about Alex. I mean look at this picture!
Could her shorts be any shorter? Actually, when I watched season two initially, I remember making a comment to Sebastian about just such a thing, and his response was one that implied Cliff was devoted to Grace no matter what the appearances were. Rebecca plays her part so believably that I sometimes forgot she was playing a role and Alex was not who she was. I was even worried when I discovered she was returning to season three, but I’m not worried about her character’s interference. (I previewed the premiere after all.)
And who on earth could forget “Moon” played by the great Timothy Webber? I wish more people would pay attention to Moon in Cedar Cove as he is probably the sharpest one there (sometimes even more so than Olivia). In season two, he is a very special part of Peggy’s story, and he tries to steer Eric in the right direction. Timothy plays this character with such ease that I forget that he is acting (that is the typical thing for me with most of the actors/actresses in this series). No one could play Moon in such an ideal way as he.
As to the characters I have overlooked, it is unintentional. I tried to pick out the characters that advance the story and add to the drama of the season. Elyse Lavesque is wonderful as Grace’s daughter Mary Ellen, and I look forward to her return in season three. Julia Benson plays a mean Jeri Drake (Jack’s ex-wife), but again I believe she may have more of a role in season three.
Just a couple additional notes before I conclude this detailed review. There is really nothing to warn viewers about in this show. While there is some very minimal profanity (and I mean I can’t even recall it but occasionally a word that might offend people flies) and some implied sex (no bedroom scenes), I truly cannot complain about the content. I suppose it could offend more sensitive viewers, but I don’t see any real problems. Additionally, some people say season two was like a soap opera and also veered from the books. While it is true that I didn’t always like the myriad of season two storylines, I always found my favorites and stuck with them. And when I watched with an open mind, sometimes I discovered why the writers took on a certain issue. After all, when they dealt with the cyber bully issue, I was dealing with my own at the time, and this was perfect and timely, not to mention well-done. I have never read the books, but I could upset a few #hearties by blasting that show for not sticking to the books either. I would say that watching with an open mind and dismissing preconceived notions is definitely adivsed.
I also would like to thank the Cedar Cove cast and crew as they are the absolute finest in the world–the cream of the crop. Some wonder why I remain so fiercely devoted to a show (especially when the first year it was not my favorite show). It is my interactions with the cast (and even the crew on occasion) that keeps me coming back for more. I have never seen a cast who is so devoted to their fans and promoting each other. That’s what keeps me coming back for more.
If you are interested in learning more, please check out the following links and don’t forget to tune in on July 18 for the season premiere on the Hallmark Channel!