Santa Clarita Diets Second Season is Much More of a Sitcom
Stay on target When the first season of The Santa Clarita Diet premiered on Netflix last year, I didn’t know what to expect. What we got was a hilarious, gory, and often just plain wrong comedy about cannibalistic zombification. I loved it, and have been anxiously awaiting season two ever since. This year, I had a much better idea of what this show was going to be. It delivered on all those expectations. There was still plenty of gore clashing with the sparkling facade of suburban life. There was still the dark sense of humor, the dirty jokes and the exasperated kids just trying to make sense of it all. There’s still the sense that the delicate lie the Hammonds have built is all going to come crashing down at any minute. It’s still very much that show.It all still works. Season two of Santa Clarita Diet is still just as funny and horrific and shocking as the first. Even when you think you’ve become desensitized to the gore and filthy sex jokes, the show finds a way to up the ante just a little bit. The second season had me cackling on the couch the whole way through. The writing is fantastic, and the actors are having so much fun with the material. Drew Barrymore and Liv Hewson were always amazing on this show. Barrymore nails the mix of sweet, caring suburban mom and sadistic eater of flesh. Hewson continues to project that perfect aloof disaffection that masks genuine care and worry beneath the surface. Timothy Olyphant is much more comfortable with the material this time around. He knows how to play each line for maximum comedic value, and you feel like you have a better handle on who Joel is. He’s still nervous, he still looks like he’s about to snap at any moment, it just feels more natural now. Like that’s just who he is. Even if there never was a zombifying infection, he’d still be this guy about something.Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson (Photo by Saeed Adyani/Netflix)The last season ended on a cliffhanger. The family, plus Eric, figure out that Sheila is deteriorating. That she’s growing more feral and bloodthirsty as her body starts to decay. She’s chained up in the basement while the family, and Eric, desperately search for bile from a Serbian person. Eric got arrested, and the whole situation seemed hopeless. The second season picks up right there, and the show takes just the right amount of time-solving the problem. It’s easy to imagine a version of Santa Clarita Diet where this was the entire overarching plot for the whole season. Where we got ten episodes of everyone running around, looking for bile while trying to figure out how they’re going to keep Sheila fed. I’m glad it didn’t do that. Of the many plots that filled this five-hour season, none of them overstayed their welcome. The show decided to keep things light and fun, which is what makes this series so enjoyable to watch.Abby and Eric get their hands on some vomit from a Serbian dude in episode one. Soon after that, Eric works up a serum that puts the series in a perfect sitcom status quo. Sheila is still undead, but she won’t get any worse. For the stories they’re trying to tell, it’s the right move. It lets the series continue to focus on raunchy gore and sex jokes. And family. Always family. That’s kind of how this season goes in general. A problem is introduced, the characters spend an episode or two mining all the comedy and tension they can out of the premise, then it get’s solved. On to the next thing. It keeps the season moving at a fun clip, with only a couple larger overarching stories that mostly happen in the background.Timothy Olyphant, Ramona Young, Drew Barrymore (Photo via Netflix)Not everything about this structure is perfect. It often makes the stakes feel too low. If one episode leaves you on a cliffhanger, you can be relatively certain it’ll be resolved within the first few minutes of the next one. Rarely is there a problem you don’t know exactly how they’re going to get out of. Even then, the solutions still come too easy. One of the big storylines of this season is the family figuring out how Sheila got infected. For most of the season, that’s a lot of Joel and Eric bumbling from lead to lead, getting in over their heads in various ways. It makes for some fantastic episodes, like when Joel accidentally pulls the skin off an infected army colonel’s hand, realizes he’s way too far gone and fights him off with a knife-hammer. I also like that the infection point turned out to be red Serbian clams that an Italian restaurant served one night. And finding out that they’re about to be distributed all over the country is a good, exciting and scary premise.Then, it ends too conveniently. Joel and Sheila break into the clam farmer’s barn, and after an amusing comedy of errors, they get caught. One second later, the story is put to rest with a rocket launcher. A pair of hunters with knowledge of the virus/curse, who we’d seen only briefly in earlier episodes, show up and incinerate all the clams. Problem solved, never brought up again. I realize we’ll probably see much more of them in season three (hopefully next year), but for now it feels cheap. Like they couldn’t figure out an ending to this story that didn’t involve a zombie apocalypse, so they just blew it up.Maggie Lawson, Joel McHale, Timothy Olyphant (Photo by Saeed Adyani/Netflix)Season two of The Santa Clarita Diet feels much more like a traditional sitcom in that way, albeit a very gory sitcom. Conflicts are relatively simple, provide fodder for great jokes, and are resolved in half an hour to an hour. The characters no longer have to figure out their new situation. Now, it’s all about squaring it with their normal lives. One thing this season does really well is build out the world it takes place in. We learn a lot about both the supernatural lore behind the zombie curse and the idyllic suburb of Santa Clarita. Sheila and Joel are revealed to have some rivals in the neighborhood real estate business. Joel McHale and Maggie Lawson play Chris and Christa, a couple that appears to have things way more together than Joel and Sheila ever did.Despite they’re professional and friendly demeanor, they get downright nasty when potential clients are out of earshot. Christa has the most brutal line of the entire season. (It involves blowjobs and pregnancy, you’ll know it when you hear it.) It’s so wild it even makes Sheila say “Woah.” And she recently tore apart a human being in her kitchen. This couple, along with Joel and Sheila’s sexist boss, gives them something to struggle against that isn’t zombie curse-related. It gives them down-to-earth objectives, and puts very real obstacles in their path, which makes us care more about them as characters, and makes it even funnier when Sheila’s cravings get in the way.Skyler Gisondo, Liv Hewson (Photo by Saeed Adyani/Netflix)Their daughter Abby continues to be the highlight of the show, and her character gets some great development here. She continues to adjust to her mom’s new life about as well as you’d hope a kid too. She hilariously covers for her mom when she finds a dead Nazi in the freezer while the company’s over. (“The lack of frozen strawberries is appalling!”) But she also starts to take on more of a heroic role, and that’s really fun to watch. She becomes more proactive over the course of the season, wanting to help people when no one else will. That gets her into trouble at one point, when she hits a guy at school in the face with a lunch tray for humiliating his ex-girlfriend. In the end though, her parents are proud of her for standing up to a bully when no one else would. That only makes her more dedicated to help her town and the environment. It’s a cool direction to take her character in, even if it does lead to some light bio-terrorism.I also like that the show is taking its time with her relationship with Eric. The more traditional sitcom structure of this season’s stories meant we didn’t spend much time with many of them. Some could have really benefited from a couple more episodes. But the relationship subplot is slow and natural. Eric and Abby are best friends. They care about each other, and there is definitely love there. That’s as much as the show gets around to admitting this season. They rag on each other, they support each other in other relationships and bail each other out when things get bad. They’re protective of each other without being obsessive. You don’t see teenage relationships this well-written on TV much. When they do kiss at the very end, when they think they’ll never see each other again, it’s a great moment. It’s triumphant and a little sad all at once. And then they go blow something up.Nathan Fillion (Photo via Netflix)The second season of Santa Clarita Diet wasn’t perfect. Despite fleshing out the world in some intelligent ways, the more sitcom-like structure made some of the moment-to-moment story beats feel smaller. Like the initial sense of shock and discovery that drove the first season had lessened, and the show couldn’t always make up for it in a satisfying way.As the season went on though, it quickly found its footing. That led to a perfect, joyous finale. Unlike season one, it didn’t leave us on as much of a cliffhanger. The major conflict of the season was resolved, but it opened up a bigger problem for next season to explore. As a result, the conclusion feels much more satisfying. I desperately want another season. I need to know where the show goes from here, with Eric’s stepmom now worshiping Sheila as a Christ-like figure. And the fact that they can’t kill Nathan Fillion’s Gary, which I like. Bringing him back as an indignant, Padres-loving severed head was brilliant. The Santa Clarita diet continues to be a pleasant surprise and hilarious weekend binge. Honestly, the worst thing about it is that we have to wait another year for more. What to Stream on Netflix This WeekendZach Galifianakis Hits the Road in ‘Between Two Ferns: The Movie’ Trailer Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.