The first season of HBO’s “How to With John Wilson” was one of the best surprises of 2020. Seeing New York City through the eyes of filmmaker John Wilson, who hosts the show through a deadpan narration that’s just about impossible to describe, proved insightful, strange and completely singular unto itself. The same holds true for the second season, which wrapped Dec. 31 with a finale that brought together the best of the series for an episode that has Wilson trying to learn “How to Be Spontaneous.”

For Wilson, striking a smart balance between the spontaneity of filming in a constantly changing New York City against the inherent obligations of producing a television show is key. “I try to draft very rough scripts of what might happen in an episode, and then we give it to production and put a plan in action to shoot it — and every single script is rewritten from the ground up by the time we’re done in the edit,” says Wilson. “So much of the rewriting has to happen in the edit, because we’re now writing to these shots that we never could have predicted that we would have, and they’re always so much better than the stuff that we roughly conceived.” (For fans of season 1, that kind of unpredictable twist would include something like Wilson’s extended interview with a foreskin restoration enthusiast who, Wilson tells Variety, still texts him updates from time to time.)

“How to With John Wilson” does have a writers’ room, which expanded in Season 2 to include Conner O’Malley (“Late Night With Seth Meyers”) and Susan Orlean. But the ability to change course mid-filming is crucial to the show’s unique rhythm, whether Wilson himself is filming or his crew is headed out to the New York City streets with a “scavenger list” of shot requests. For the wine episode, Wilson asked for as many shots of “legs” as possible to accompany explanation of the wine term. For another, they went in search of buildings with facades resembling faces to punctuate a joke about Wilson going through the stages of grief about his landlady moving to Vegas. (She’s doing well, for all those wondering: “She has a peaceful little life … but I told her that if she wants to come back at any point, the basement is always open.”) Eventually, though, the episodes really do come together most in the edit. “I feel bad for the editors sometimes,” says Wilson. “It’s not always part of the job description with an editor that they would be asked to almost write … sometimes I’m really at a loss for words and they just kind of have to fill the edit sometimes.”

Even when his own show stumps him, though, Wilson doesn’t see it ending any time soon. He has ideas for Season 3 (not that he’ll divulge them), and as he and co-producers Nathan Fielder and Clark Reinking told HBO upon first pitching the show, “New York is constantly re-replenishing itself with imagery.” Since “How To” packs episodes with candid interviews and shots of people in public not realizing they’re being observed, New York City is the perfect playground. “As a home base for the show, I don’t think you could do any better in terms of like variety,” says Wilson. “It’s the perfect city by default in a lot of ways. It never disappoints me.”

As anyone familiar with the first season knew going into the second, an episode of “How To” that seemingly promises to explore something like “How to Cover Your Furniture” or “How to Make Risotto” will inevitably take several turns before its sneakily emotional conclusion. In Season 2, episodes like “How to Remember Your Dreams” and “How to Throw Out Your Batteries” take similar detours. At one point, Wilson ends up crashing an energy drink CEO’s house in Florida, where he gets a surprising tour of the facilities once the CEO finds out he’s with HBO. “Running through the scenario in my head, I was like, ‘What do I think is going to happen? He’s going to open his door and show me around his house?’” Wilson says of approaching the house with no real plan, let alone an invitation. “I was joking about how it would never happen … and then everything I was joking about happening actually did happen.”

Still, no Season 2 episode ends up quite as surprising as “How to Appreciate Wine,” which aired Dec. 3. In this episode, Wilson reveals a surprising connection from his collegiate a cappella days to Keith Raniere’s NXIVM multi-level marketing cult, which forced him to apologize for … well, calling it a cult. “I don’t know how anyone involved is going to receive it, in context,” Wilson laughed, the week before the episode was due to air. “I just hope the dean of my college sees it so she’ll know that I was right.”

The first two seasons of “How to With John Wilson” are currently available to stream on HBO Max. Variety’s “Doc Dreams” is presented by National Geographic.