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Review: 'Santa Clarita Diet' Season 3 Offers More Murder, Marriage Drama, And Mad Fun

By Kristy Puchko | Streaming | March 29, 2019 |

By Kristy Puchko | Streaming | March 29, 2019 |


Your favorite family-mombie is back with Santa Clarita Diet season 3. And there’ll be a whole new mess of murder and mania for the Hammond clan to contend with!

Season two ended with Abby (Liv Hewson) and Eric (Skyler Gisondo) blowing up a fracking site while her parents, Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) got caught with a re-animated corpse head by their nosy cop neighbor Anne (Natalie Morales). Season three picks up hot on the heels of all this, with the teens trying to dodge an FBI agent assigned to the eco-terrorism case, and the grown-ups trying to wrangle Anne, who has gone from threat to overzealous ally. See, Anne believes Sheila is a miracle and a tool of God intended to smite the evil. Good! But she thinks Sheila should tell the world. BAD!

And that’s just the first course.

Santa Clarita Diet show creator Victor Fresco gleefully expands the world of the show, expanding on the Knights of Serbia thread started last season, introducing a cult, new zombies running amok, and a scowling stranger with thugs and mysterious motives. Fresco will also gift audiences the return of the adorably apathetic Ramona (Blocker’ Ramona Young) and more appearances from the cast of his Better Off Ted. Like The Good Place, this high-concept comedy series doesn’t play it safe, changing the terrain with such exhilarating frequency that it’s impossible to get bored. And thanks to Netflix’s all-at-once release style, you don’t have to wait week after week for a new installment. You can binge the entire third season in an evening. I did.

Fresco and his team keep things fresh and fun by expanding the world of Sheila and Joel to include new threats and friends, like a cantankerous old shut-in who depends on Meals on Wheels. Even when you know where the series is going, there’s excitement because Fresco’s feeding you that delectable anticipation. The jokes are still a mix of the ludicrous and observational, whipping from outlandish sight gags like Sheila wearing a deep-sea diving helmet for protection from zombie-hunters to the Hammonds bickering over the proper place for a particular peeler. But the beating heart of this series continues to be the marriage of Sheila and Joel.

Through all its weirdness and wackiness, Santa Clarita Diet is at its core about being married, its challenges, its joys, and the growth it demands. When Shiela became a zombie, her life changed radically, as her self-doubt was replaced for the need to eat human flesh. And that meant Joel’s life changed too. Over the course of two seasons, we’ve seen him try to be supportive even when he doesn’t understand what his wife’s going through. And in season three, a new wrinkle presents itself. In the midst of their never-ending quest for secrecy and survival, Shiela realizes she is basically immortal—as long as no one murders her brain. Which makes her rethink their wedding vows and the whole “til death do us part thing.” A big part of season three becomes Sheila asking Joel to upgrade the commitment of their marriage. She wants to bite him so they can be together forever-ish. It’s not a decision Joel takes lightly, and the longer he thinks about it the more rejected Sheila feels.

As Sheila, Barrymore is once more a force of nature whether she’s leaping into attack mode or quipping it up with Olyphant. Their chemistry is explosive, and the writing on the series makes their bond feel as authentically intimate as it is hilarious and enthralling. But amid top-notch mugging and physical comedy, Olyphant brings a nuanced undertone of terror to Joel as it really sinks in what his life is now and where it might be headed. It feels like the real threat to the Hammonds might be calling from inside the house!

As a married woman, I’m often bored or outraged by how married couples are portrayed on TV. Our role is usually either to be boring side-characters or duplicitous cheaters. As if there’s no other interesting story to tell about married life? Well, Fresco found one. By adding in zombies, he was able to create a story about marriage that feels alive—absurd yet authentic. Santa Clarita Diet is outright outrageous and freaky fun. But more than the gore and jokes, it’s about love, a love that has had to evolve over decades, through parenthood, shared traumas and even undeath. Whether the Hammonds are battling their realtor rivals, suspicious investigators, or dedicated zombie slayers, they are together. And their joy in this is positively contagious, entertaining, and downright addictive.

Santa Clarita Diet hits Netflix March 29.

Kristy Puchko is the film editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Netflix