Victor Fresco’s zom-com returns to Netflix for a third helping, with plenty of new story and comedy to feast on.
This review of Santa Clarita Diet Season 3 contains spoilers for Season 2 and brief spoilers for Season 3.
Just when we thought the zombie genre was becoming as tired as vampire and ghost stories, Santa Clarita Diet crawled onto the scene in 2017 and told a fresh, unique and surreal story about a realtor-turned-zombie who, along with her husband, attempted to keep her secret hidden, resulting in a good few murders. Santa Clarita Diet Season 3 is easily the wittiest and weirdest the show has been over its three-year run so far, breathing new life into the withering husk of the zombie genre, mainly thanks to the over-exaggerated and hilarious performances of the four leads (and recurring cast) as well as the witty dialogue from the writers and surprisingly deep mythology for a zombie show set in a suburban city devised by the creator and showrunner, Victor Fresco.
While the end of last season did answer one of the show’s most pressing questions – that being the cause of Sheila’s zombie transformation thanks to bad clams (of all things) — this season sets us up with a whole new host of questions and mysteries to sink our teeth in to. Namely, one of the threats, “The Knights of Serbia”, who were briefly teased last season and were the ones who were responsible for the destruction of the clam farm, whom Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) are attempting to evade at all costs. The Hammonds are also dealing with their own mortality – or in Sheila’s case immortality, as she learns that if she continues doing what she’s doing and doesn’t end up destroying her brain, she could outlive her entire family and more, becoming a grandmother to countless generations of future Hammonds.
That’s not all though, as they have even more stakes up against them than last time. Anne (Natalie Morales), who promised to keep the fact that Sheila is a zombie secret (or as she believes, Sheila is a gift from God who was sent to kill Nazis), in fact didn’t, telling her church group who really, really want to meet Sheila themselves, and will take it upon themselves to appear at their doorstep whenever they feel obliged.
This is the wacky Santa Clarita Diet plot we’ve come to love over its three-season run (thus far), and it does it very well as ever, with enough violence to go around. This season really peaked with cool-headed Abby (Liv Hewson) and nervous wreck Eric (Skyler Gisondo) facing the ramifications of their actions from the end of Season 2 as well, with them targeted by the FBI for committing eco-terrorism on the fracking site. Both actors portray their roles so well, with them both having a few laugh out loud moments right from the get-go (such as Eric standing up to fake a break up with her in the school corridor, while their peers watch him in awe – one student cheering Eric on out of background in the focus especially caught my eye, really adding to the scene), they’re probably the best things to come out of this new season (and I liked a LOT of things this season).
And that’s basically as best as this season can be described – it develops the insane (and well thought out) mythology of the zombies in the show further, which is something I don’t think anyone expected out of a comedic show like this, especially given we don’t get backstories for zombies in serious zombie media, and giving us more of the snarky sarcasm and wit we’ve come to expect from the Hammonds (and Eric). We also get more time with recurring characters such as the ever charming-yet-unlikable husband-wife realtor team Chris (Joel McHale) and Christa (Maggie Lawson), with one subplot of the series also putting her head on the chopping block when she is accused of being a zombie. I find it amazing that this show I once put on in the background for a bit of fun is also one of the funniest and most well-written shows in the Netflix Originals line-up.
Of course, this season does have its pitfalls, such as some things happening very, very quickly and not giving some parts of the plot time to breathe, but that’s to be expected in a season of ten half-hour episodes; you can’t fit everything in and the plot at least moves along instead of meandering along slowly like a real zombie. The Serbian story arc also takes up more time this year, meaning we get less time with gory and gruesome murders, which is what the show was considered so controversial for when it first aired. It is understandable as to why they would take this route, no-one wants the same thing given to them again and again, but that story does feel a little too slow at one point or another. Furthermore, as some of the show’s recurring and guest cast have gotten roles on other shows, their roles are sadly reduced, meaning we see none of Nathan Fillion as Gary the Talking Head, presumably because he picked up The Rookie in the meantime and couldn’t film both (that’s not to say Gary doesn’t appear, it’s very well done with what they had, and keep your eye out for another Firefly alum stepping into those shoes, or more specifically, head). We also get what feels like surprisingly less of Anne, which could have been intentional however Morales is busy filming the show Abby’s, where she takes the lead, and the show at least focuses on her a lot in the early episodes, so it doesn’t feel like she was dropped from the show entirely just as she became a bit more of an important character.
With all that said and done, this serving of Santa Clarita Diet is everything I wanted and a little more, and though I’m reluctantly expecting Netflix to swing its mighty sword of cancellation and cut the head off after this season (the tagline ‘Til Death? for this season got me feeling like this could be the last we see of the show), I would love it if this wasn’t the end and would gladly watch more of this show in a heartbeat. The show might not be for the faint-hearted given the heavy (but comical) violence, but for a show with a grim premise, it has a lot of heart (ripped out of chests, but emotional heart too).
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