Never mind that it took two years to get a second season of Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair's exceptional HBO show High Maintenance: It was worth the wait.

This open-hearted, dreamy picaresque follows a weed dealer ("The Guy," played by Sinclair) around New York City as he makes deliveries. Each episode dips into a couple of his clients' stories — lovingly showcasing their homes, their annoying habits, their neuroses and dilemmas and embarrassing private needs — then biking gently on to the next thing. No show has ever loved humanity more, despite showing it at its least lovable. And the vehicle for the radical amnesty the show offers in a world dripping with judgment is The Guy, whose benign, vaguely magical presence soothes in every scene.

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New York City never seems safer or more dream-like than when he's exploring and enjoying it:

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Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance

Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance

Functionally, The Guy basically does for the audience what weed does for his customers: He eases our jangled nerves. He's the show's principle of play. "Yeah, I'll be over there soon," he tells a friend. "I'm watching this guy and I have to introduce myself to him, he's lassoing."

"It's hard work, but it's honest work.” | Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance

While this hasn't changed in the new season, something feels different. For one thing, the season begins with The Guy, that calm paragon, dreaming that a hairdresser tore part of his beard off. He wakes up screaming.

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The dream turns out to be sort of prophetic. "Oh shit, something bad happened," his girlfriend says when they wake up. It's never explicitly spelled out, but there are hints as to what the dreadful event was:

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Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance

The show about absurd New York has reshaped itself in response to "The Event" at a level you feel, however subconsciously. I know this to be a show with a pretty, um, relaxing premise, but I still found myself watching it in a defensive crouch. It felt at several turns like things were about to go very wrong in ways that ranged from awkward to violent.

In "Fagin," a white woman over-analyzes the black doll a friend bought for her mixed-race daughter. (And invites some "women of color" to her activist meeting despite not knowing them.) In "Globo," a Hispanic man exhausted from working two jobs tending to well-to-do New Yorkers freaking out about some unnamed disaster (yes, it's Trump's election) waits at an abandoned subway stop. A white man is seen walking up behind him.

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Everything about this suggests it will end badly. Or take this pair of amiable out-of-towners: They've come to New York City to visit their daughter, get ridiculously high, and walk down this creepy hallway. It's basically shot as horror:

Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance

To be blunt: You spend a lot of this season cringing and waiting for bad things to happen that ... never come. (I mean, it's true that the hallway is shot to trick you into expecting something bad, it's just that the bad thing turns out to be an eccentric cat lady who doesn't like Airbnb, and the out-of-towners handle her just fine:)

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And here's how "Globo" ends (confession: The relief and beauty of this ending made everyone I watched it with tear up).

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That the show ultimately defuses the situations it sets up in no way changes the fact it has aggressively ratcheted up our yearning for The Guy's salvific presence by shooting its usual mundane slices of life in ways that ramp up viewer anxiety.

Take the recent "Namaste," in which a couple relocates from a co-op after they win a slot in the affordable housing lottery for a tiny space in an extremely fancy building. As subsidized residents, they're not allowed to use amenities like the roof garden. Here's how forebodingly her incursion into that forbidden garden is shot:

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Here she is opening the medicine cabinet in the bathroom of one of the wealthy residents. I think by this point we were chewing our nails, because every convention teaches us that setups like these end very badly indeed:

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They even get caught smoking!

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But nope. Nothing happens. The neighbors don't find out about the snooping, and the guard catches them in the sauna, but he doesn't really care that much. The anxiety that's been mounting over the course of the episode doesn't have anywhere to go.

That's sort of the point. That's why you need The Guy. High Maintenance is all about people overreacting to their anxiety in ways that are hilarious and terrifying:

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And all anyone wants is a respite from that: They just want to relax, breathe, take a minute away from the hustle.

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Or check their phones.

Screenshot/HBO/High Maintenance