Crossing the Stream: Part 32 - "Santa Clarita Diet" Sn 1, Ep 3

I hereby demand that someone take a few more pounds off my butt. I don't know why, but I've hit a serious plateau and can't get below my most recent milestone. And it's not for a lack of trying.

The weekend was one endless walk. Like a Richard Bachman novel, that's how much walking. I walked my kids to two different parks, around the mall, and all through our neighborhood. I'm not even done; today we played baseball in the yard. Kids are great exercise, but I've also been eating like I used to before starting this endeavor. I even broke down and drank my very favorite ice cold vanilla coke. I used to practically brush my teeth with that stuff, now one was more than enough. So, there's that.

I also ran out of my metabolic pills that I've been taking. I'm not sure what percentage of these things is pure placebo, what percentage is amphetamines, and what percentage is dubious natural remedy sold in gas stations. But you know what? I lost weight, and any athlete will tell you, never screw with a winning streak.

I am increasing my distance and pace on the exercise bike, so maybe I'm also building muscle mass and that's keeping my weight right where it is. That would be a good reason for the lack of progress, at very least. But in the meantime, Drew Barrymore's high-protein diet sure looks more complicated than mine.

"Santa Clarita Diet" Season 1, Episode 3 - "We Can Kill People"

Now that the mechanics of why have been thoroughly addressed, this third episode centers on Joel and Sheila looking for the perfect candidate to be murdered and eaten. Ideally, per Joel, the victim would be a young, single, Hitler-type. Somehow the show easily finds the humor in what is, at heart, a case of insane rationalization: we can kill people, as long as they deserve it. We can do it over and over, as long as we do things correctly and choose the right people to do it to. Much like having a friend or spouse with a drug addiction, moral imperatives start to go out the window one by one when insatiable need is concerned. It's ghoulish, obviously, but it's also absurd. "Why is it so hard to find someone to kill?" Joel whinges, "every time I go for coffee, there's some dipshit yelling at the barista." And sure enough, we've traveled all the way from "If we kill Hitler-esque people, we're heroes!" to "Some asshole on the street picked the wrong time to yell at us" in less than a day for the Hammonds. This, along with Joel's suddenly clear head at the scene of a murder, points emphatically at a slippery slope.

And now it's time for more Abby and Eric's Excellent Adventures: Abby's quick-talking friend Sarah gets dumped by her shitty drug dealer boyfriend, and so the three seek revenge. It's a perfectly serviceable thing for them to be doing while they aren't dealing with the zombie mother issue, but it arrives (with Sarah) out of thin air and dissipates just as quickly, signifying very little. You know, I heartily compared this show to Showtime's dark comedy "Weeds," and the comparison really holds up when the teenage offspring of our lead characters have equally clumsy, apathetic B-plots.

That's not to say the saga of Cole, the shitty drug dealer boyfriend, wasn't incredibly amusing once he gets into Joel and Sheila's orbit. The unbelievably creepy greeting in plastic ponchos, the heart-to-heart over a joint by the pool, and the amount of empathy flowing though a hug between Joel and his would-be victim is exactly the post-post-modern situation comedy that this show lands so well. Gary was easily dispatched, because it was plain to see what a terrible person he was. But he was also an accident, and planning someone's bloody demise is different. The amount of conscious rationalization that is needed for it is a different beast.

Joel's quest to support his wife butting up against his anxiety about killing someone is a really effective ongoing tension. We learn a lot in one baked conversation with the former prom king, quarterback, and guitarist who begrudgingly became the boring realtor and dad. While Sheila's death and reawakening is helping her to grow and assert herself, it's yet another weight on her husband's psyche, another problem for him to fret over. Olyphant lets the character slip into the self-pity of a private mid-life crisis that, while not as flashy and potentially destructive as his wife's "new truth," is still an intense experience for a guy who has to smoke pot throughout his day just to deal.

I'm glad that Sheila's impulsive new nature isn't being excised completely due to being inconvenient to the plot. Her sudden dive onto the back of Porsche Guy lines up perfectly with her animal instinct to pursue her own happiness, but it also serves the narrative purpose of resolving the couple's first foray into deliberate murder. And, conveniently, the guy is the closest thing in affluent Southern California to a single, Hitler-type: an asshole in a fancy car.

Random Notes:

-A recurring joke blueprint on "Santa Clarita Diet": someone freaks out on a member of the Hammond family, who stares back and stammers out a bewildered, quippy variation of "Why are you yelling at me?"

-The use of empty house listings as murder sites is a fun lift from the "fumigation tent" idea from "Breaking Bad," even if it also reminds me how insufferably tidy and easy such methods felt on, say, "Dexter." But at least this show is a comedy that can be given some leeway on the matter.

-I want to buy a spray called "Fuck You, Ants!"

-Drew Barrymore has perfected what commercial actors refer to as the "bite and smile," complete with a little eye-roll up and to the side to indicate that not only is it tasty and satisfying, but that there might be something devious about her level of enjoyment.

Rating: B


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