“I take thee to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part.”
How many of us would keep those sacred wedding vows in the event that your spouse suddenly turned into a flesh-eating zombie? I’d venture not many, probably myself included. Those vows are put to the ultimate test of love and self-sacrifice on one of Netflix’s newest comedies called Santa Clarita Diet, starring Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Richard T. Jones and Ricardo Chavira.
Sheila Hammond (Barrymore) and her husband Joel (Olyphant) are just your average husband-and-wife realtor team based in sunny Santa Clarita, California. That is until Sheila literally pukes her guts out and sorta dies while at a house the couple’s showing. However, Sheila doesn’t turn into your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating zombie overnight. The changes in her personality, physique and appetite are very gradual, and that’s part of the fun of this wickedly funny show.
At first, Sheila’s able to stomach raw hamburger meat out of the fridge. However, as time passes, she realizes that she craves human flesh and it has to be fresh (they find out this the hard way after a visit to a local morgue and a cringe-worthy bribing of a morgue attendant for a body part off one of the corpses for her to eat as a rather expensive take-out meal). Embarking upon a life of crime to kill people so your wife doesn’t have to go to bed hungry is a tall order for any man, especially when you have a teenaged daughter (Hewson) and nosy, rivaling neighbors who both also happen to be cops (Jones and Chavira). Joel manages to make the love of other men appear far weaker in comparison, as he consistently goes out on a limb to love, honor, cherish and protect his spouse no matter the moral costs.
There are many twists and turns along the 10-episode story arch, as it builds to a bizarre crescendo that segues nicely into what I hope will be a second season. While I’ll admit it was a little slow for me at first, I became a bona fide fan the minute I saw Barrymore make her first zombie kill at the end of episode one (and you couldn’t ask for a better victim). It was gory and glorious, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would affect her day-to-day living (or rather lack thereof). And it was also surprising to see “America’s Sweetheart” Barrymore in that kind of a role in the first place. To be honest, I don’t know if I’d enjoy this show half as much as I did with anyone else but Barrymore and Olyphant in the lead roles. They make a wonderfully absurd, beautiful pair. The teens also help the story move along at a nice pace (Hewson and Gisondo, who’s the kid from all of those annoying Snow Buddies movies all grown up).
Apparently becoming one of the undead is just what the doctor ordered for Sheila to come out of her shell and become more assertive. I loved seeing Sheila’s bolder, devil-may-care attitude emerge throughout the episodes. Wouldn’t we all love to go out and buy a brand-new car on a whim or be able to have a flirtatious girls’ night out or stand up to that bully of a principal who’s been picking on our kid? Becoming a zombie gives her more energy and power (arguably because she doesn’t have to waste time worrying about dying or sleeping anymore). It also improves relations with her husband (an increased libido does that trick) and daughter Abby (they have more time to bond) and she finally becomes the successful realtor she was perhaps always destined to be. Being a zombie almost doesn’t sound half bad – except for the constant fear of discovery and having to make all of those gory kills. Not to mention the gruesome fear of decomposition.
Midlife crises have never been more fiendishly fun. While it’s probably not for everyone, Santa Clarita Diet does feature many great cameos along the way. However, don’t get too attached to any of them because few make it past a single episode. Blink and you’ll miss the likes of Nathan Fillion, Andy Richter, Patton Oswalt, Portia de Rossi, Thomas Lennon and Deobia Oparei from Game of Thrones.
I haven’t heard anything about Santa Clarita Diet having been renewed yet, but I can’t wait to see what a second season would have in store. And hopefully they’ll get Portia de Rossi to return because so much more can be done with her character, and researching what made Sheila turn into a zombie in the first place. Will Sheila ever be cured? Will anyone else be turned? My appetite for zombie mischief and mayhem has only been piqued.