Santa Clarita — a quiet suburban archetype of a town located roughly 35 minutes north of Los Angeles. Its quaint desert California landscape is home to Six Flags, horse country and canyons upon canyons. It is the third-largest city in the greater Los Angeles area and apparently the birth site of the future zombie apocalypse. Or so “Santa Clarita Diet” would have us believe.
On Feb. 3, 2017, Netflix was graced with the wonderful, whimsical rollercoaster that is “Santa Clarita Diet.” With 10 episodes roughly 30 minutes each, the show may not be the longest or lengthiest of all of Netflix’s recent productions, but it most definitely is the only one of its kind.
“Santa Clarita Diet” follows the misadventures of Joel and Sheila Hammond, real-estate agents living in Santa Clarita with their daughter, Abby. Life seems cyclical and drab until one day, Sheila, played by perfectly perfect Drew Barrymore, comes down with something not altogether human in origin.
Within the first episode, Sheila proceeds to essentially vomit up her entire organ system, and yes, this scene is one of the most graphic in the show’s repertoire. The visuals do jolt against the highly comedic tone of the show, but with zombies, grotesque imagery is most often expected and ultimately appropriate.
The blood, however, can be enough to make some a touch queasy. This same episode also includes a ravenous Barrymore jumping Nathan Fillion and eating him alive (his decapitated head later speaks in the series, infected by the virus). If you can get past that, “Santa Clarita Diet” is one to continuously provide laughs.
Everything in the Hammond household seems utterly normal — normal to a fault. Discussions of toast and dinner plans take center stage in the course of the first episode before Sheila develops a taste for human flesh. With help from the boy next door, Eric, who has a painfully obvious crush on Abby, Sheila is diagnosed as being a fully fledged zombie.
Life, or rather the afterlife, continues onward.
Joel’s persona of quintessential, supportive husband is then quickly put to the test. His love for his wife is utterly pushed as he must help her murder people in order to survive, a task they justify by swearing to only kill those who deserve to be killed. Yet Joel, played by Timothy Olyphant, does seem extremely troubled by his and his wife’s new living circumstances.
Olyphant’s dry and matter-of-fact delivery, paired with moments of anxious and high-strung husbandry, allows for audiences to laugh-cry through the gruesome reality of the show. Olyphant appears to have found home a far cry away from the dramatic and serious tones of his most well-known role of Raylan Givens in “Justified.” Comedy suits the actor and would seem to be a natural fit.
Season 1 ends with the couple thinking they may have found a cure. Apparently. But if the Hammonds had found a cure, there would not be any proceeding seasons, would there?
Season 2 begins with an attempt to get back to some semblance of normalcy before “zombie mom” became a thing. One question remains at the heart of the show: How did this happen to Sheila, and can she be cured? Also, Season 1 ended with Joel checking himself into a mental hospital, so audiences see at the beginning of Season 2 a husband trying to come to terms with his new reality, a reality he has finally embraced.
Eric and Abby are still trying to come up with a cure for Sheila, but at the start of the season, aside from the previous season’s discovery of the Serbian origin of the virus, no progress has been made.
It might be important to note that Sheila did not ask for this curse, and at the beginning of Season 2, she can be found chained up in the basement, where she was at the close of Season 1. Somehow, though, she manages to get unchained in order to go rescue Abby from an attempted internet-arranged meeting with a man claiming to have an ingredient to cure zombism.
Somehow, at the end of all the shenanigans, Eric is able to create a serum to halt Sheila’s further deterioration. Yes, the stakes were high (and still are) as Sheila’s cravings were only getting worse.
This is only the first episode of the second season. The rest of the season is just as jam-packed and introduces a variety of new obstacles and challenges. Ordinary real-estate rivals, more zombies and nosy cops take the screen in attempts to thwart the Hammonds in their normal, everyday, human-looking life, and their frightening flesh-eating reality.
Season 2 also portrays Sheila having blackouts and bender killings — not quite the safe-looking housewife she appears to be. But the season does provide at least one critical answer: why Sheila turned into a zombie in the first place, and what created the resurgence of this old-world Serbian legend.
After some detective work, Eric discovers that a specific restaurant had sold Ruby’s clams the night Sheila got sick, and the crustaceans seem to be the source of all the zombie troubles plaguing the show. Apparently, Ruby has been growing a particular strain of red clams from — you guessed it — Serbia.
At the end of Season 2, now finally understanding the origin of the zombie virus, Sheila is about to be discovered for her flesh-eating tendencies and the murders that have been providing her food. Yet somehow fate and coincidence save Sheila and Joel once again, just in time for Season 3.
So, what can fans expect in the new season? According to the trailer, the big question at the heart of the show is: Will Joel join Sheila in undead immortal matrimony?
Sheila and Joel, despite the horrific comedic tendencies of “Santa Clarita Diet,” have remained steadfast and loyal to each other and are the heart of the series. So what will happen when that bond is put to the test in a manner beyond that of simply supporting the human-eating tendencies of your beloved?
On March 29, we will all be able to find out if the couple will make it through this next hurdle.