Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2 created by Victor Fresco (Netflix, Garfield Grove Products, KatCo, Kapital Entertainment)
Starring Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Richard T. Jones, Natalie Morales, Ramona Young, and Nathan Fillion.
When considering the decades of data sources from the annals of scripted television, it almost feels like the most difficult relationship to depict is a functioning marriage.
For the most part, it seems as if the spousal relationship fits within one of two buckets. In one bucket, the relationship appears antagonistic. Indicative of the sitcom stereotype, husband and wife snipe at each other. The stasis of the genre requires the marriage to last the entire series, but the humor builds from differences between each in the partnership. One side targets their ire on the laziness of the other. In retort, the other voices complaints and the nagging triggers the laugh track.
In the other bucket, true selves operate in the shadows, the marriage seemingly fine on the surface but a handful of exposed secrets might lead to family destruction. Often a framing device in dramatic television, the audience feels the tension knowing full well one of the levers to pull before the end of the series is the exposure of the marriage sham.
Unfortunately, many shows don’t even aim for something more uplifting. Truthfully, it’s difficult to represent a healthy marriage. For one, it runs the risk of boring. But it shouldn’t be. A healthy marriage includes its fair share of tension. When two people commit to life together, conflict inevitably follows. What makes a healthy marriage interesting is the hard work required to navigate conflict, find resolution, and push toward common goals.
Here, Santa Clarita Diet represents one of the few current examples of a well-depicted marriage.
The natural chemistry between Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and Sheila (Drew Barrymore) mixed with the show’s framing device illustrates the difficulty of keeping a marriage functioning but also why it’s so worth it.
Continuing on the themes of Season 1, Season 2 propels the narrative forward. As the Hammond family begins to understand what it needs to do for Sheila to survive, it balances wacky hijinks with careful investigative work to understand why and how Sheila became undead.
While the Hammonds discover a local Nazi group, effectively becoming Sheila’s lobster tank at a restaurant, the sloppiness of the murders raises the suspicion of Anne Garcia (Natalie Morales) the cop that just moved in next door.
Living and Dying through Marriage
Hilarious in tone and impressive in its narrative arc, Santa Clarita Diet lives and dies through the Hammond marriage. Joel and Sheila spend most episodes plotting how to navigate the unknown of Sheila’s condition while simultaneously trying their best to parent Abby (Liv Hewson) and build in to each other.
Through this chemistry and devoted focus, the audience sees how Joel and Sheila care for each other, would do anything to benefit the other, and work toward a best possible shared life, even when they need to navigate conflict, and being undead with the desire for human flesh creates massive conflict.
So, the Hammonds are hilarious, and the characters are well realized. But I’ll keep watching Santa Clarita Diet as long as Netflix chooses to release it on the strength of the marriage at the core of the show.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5