Timothy Rush | Staff Writer
Returning with gore and laughs to usher in April, the third season of Santa Clarita Diet delivers on many of its expectations.
In this horror-comedy, the audience follows the events following Sheila Hammond’s (Drew Barrymore) transformation into an undead being with a hunger for human flesh. She must learn to cope and accept her new situation, as her husband, Joel (Timothy Olyphant), stands beside her to protect her from forces seeking to destroy her and hold on to what semblance of normalcy he has left. They must also contend with their eco-terrorist daughter Abby (Liv Hawson) who wants to embrace her new crazy world to make a difference, with the support of her accomplice Eric (Skyler Gisondo). All four must contend with an ancient order dedicated to the destruction of the undead, as well as the rising tide of undead (of an intelligent variety) in their own town of Santa Clarita.
Continuing what has transpired in the past two seasons, the third season inherited a host of subplots that it had to contend with. While it does do it’s best, in the beginning, to adequately address each one, the season begins very slowly with them. Among them: a cult, an ancient order of knights, eco-terrorism, a realtor rivalry, a new enemy from Serbia, Sheila and Joel’s marriage, Joel’s prejudice against the undead and Eric and Abby’s relationship (or lack thereof). Some of them are hits, some are misses, but there had to have been a degree of awareness as many of these subplots are finally tied together or tied up by the season’s midpoint.
The characters are very strong all-around, though. Almost all characters bring on the laughs and drama when need be. Some characters, such as Anne Garcia (Natalie Morales), do come off as a bit flat, unfortunately. Several of the characters are based on a trope taken to an extreme, but many of them still come across as people, however. Joel, for instance, is the everyman who wants a normal life with a normal marriage and normal child. Anne is the strongly religious deputy that sees God’s influence in everything. The difference between them is that most of the characters are like Joel. His personality and layers are fleshed out, so that while the trope is still there, there is a character underneath with a strong amount of development and personality. Anne can be summed up in the simple phrase “lesbian religious deputy,” because that’s all she is. She exists more as a device for the show to present these themes and get laughs as opposed to doing anything with them.
As a horror-comedy, the real question is quite simple: Does it deliver on the horror and the comedy? The answer is yes, it does. There is plenty of comedy in this show that’ll keep you laughing to the very end. On the horror element, the show has not ever really been about the horror, but more about the gore itself. This is not a show for people who faint at the sight of blood, because there is plenty of it. People get their throats ripped out by angry/hungry zombies on-screen and their arms torn off, and that’s just some of the tamer scenes from Santa Clarita.
Much of the show’s humor comes from an exaggeration of relatively common ideas that many people have heard and believe. Anne is so religious she believes Sheila being undead and eating people is divinely ordained, Joel is such an everyman that disposing a body is just on the list of things to do, Abby wants to do something meaningful with her life so she commits acts of eco-terrorism, and Eric just wants to be with a girl he likes that he tags along on all of this. Ever heard of the phrase “punch a Nazi?” Sheila goes a bit beyond that and targets and eats Nazis. In that way, the show is probably more of a satire of modern-day society with zombies thrown in.
But the show does deal with some very serious subjects that I think many will relate to. For instance, what does immortality mean for things that all of us hold dear? What is love when the person you love is going to die while you can only sit by and watch? How does it feel that, as a parent, you have to learn to let go and entrust your child with their own future? What’s more important, doing what’s best for others or letting others make that choice for themselves? These are but a few of the dilemmas that the show’s cast, and the audience, must contend with throughout the season. And it does these in a way that doesn’t necessarily give you a firm and universal answer, but rather just shows you the result of the events that led to the characters arriving at their own conclusions. And that maybe there isn’t one true answer, and while that may be scary or concerning, it’s still okay.
A strong point for this season is the events of Abby, with this season acting as a coming-of-age story for her in the wake of her actions of previous seasons. She must learn to deal with serious consequences and how to cope with them, and what she must do for her future. That she must learn to be herself and fight for what she wants and accept what happens. And that her actions will have consequences on people she cares about, like her parents and Eric. In turn, Sheila, Abby’s mom, must learn how she’s going to handle such a strong-willed, independent, and seemingly troubled daughter. This whole subplot is a roller coaster that can bring audiences to tears, laughs and moments of heartfelt love that very few shows can do.
All-in-all, season 3 of Santa Clarita Diet is a great continuation of the seasons before it. It does its best with its weak points, but its strong points easily redeem them. While it begins a bit slow and with no discernible purpose, it molds itself into a strong and cohesive season that’ll leave a lasting impression on any who watch it.