Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) have a wonderful life with their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) in Santa Clarita. Their work as realtors gives them the freedom to work from home, and allows them to enjoy a few of the luxuries of life. Heading out to work together, Sheila and Joel have their lives turned upside down when Sheila dies and comes back to life as a flesh eating zombie. Determined to maintain the life they’ve built, Sheila and Joel do their best to keep things normal, even though Sheila now needs human flesh to survive. While Sheila tries to find a way to stay fed, Joel begins searching for the reason this has happened, and how they may be able to cure Sheila. To make things worse, they happen to live in between two police officers, and as the bodies start to pile up, the suspicion grows as well.
Continuing the tradition of delivering outstanding original programming, the latest Netflix series, Santa Clarita Diet, brings plenty of laughs and some truly gruesome moments. While the series spends more time with the humour and the way in which Sheila, Joel, and Abby try to deal with this development in their lives, when it hits a gory moment, it goes all out. Horror fans will definitely find the effects work top notch, although some may wish it showed up a little more often.
It’s not the horror that’s the real focus of Santa Clarita Diet though, and there’s nothing wrong with that. More comedy than horror, the series really works best when you’re watching Barrymore and Olyphant try to get their lives straightened out, figure out how Sheila is going to eat, or try to deal with their increasingly difficult daughter. Hewson is also a standout as daughter Abby, whose story provides a typically separate journey from her parents. When she stumbles upon her parents hiding the body from Sheila’s latest meal, she is forced to deal with the fact that her life has also radically changed, making the typical teenage problems pale in comparison. It also takes the excitement out of what she used to love, as the thrill of taking part in such outrageous actions is making teen life a little boring.
Where things get interesting is when the show begins dealing with Sheila’s behaviour. As a zombie, she is ruled by her id. She is barely able to control what she says or does, which actually seems to lead her to a more fulfilling life. The brief glimpse we get of Sheila and Joel before she becomes a zombie is a life of happy repetition, but not complete satisfaction. With her every urge fulfilled, Sheila seems happier as a zombie, and the effects start to rub off on Joel and Abby. Their conversations carry more meaning and their family seems to get stronger, despite the fact that most of their time is spent killing people.
Of course things couldn’t possibly go right for very long, and as Santa Clarita Diet hits the middle mark of its 10 episode season, the challenge of hiding Sheila’s new found taste for flesh becomes very hard. It’s not that there’s a villain to stand in their way, although their Sheriff neighbour (Ricardo Chavira) comes as close as you can to finding a bad guy in the series, it’s the difficulty in maintaining the family life they’ve struggled to keep that poses the greatest risk to their lives. The problem isn’t that Sheila is a zombie, it’s that it’s bringing out the elements of their relationships that haven’t been addressed before.
When the season finally comes to an end, you’ll be dying to see what happens next. Each episode brings plenty of great laughs, and it’s easy to fall in love with the characters presented. You want to see them find a way through all of this, but answers are hard to come by, at least for now. We’ll have to wait to see what’s next for Sheila, Joel, and Abby, and while the wait will be challenging, this will be one show you won’t mind revisiting again to quench your thirst for more.