Jess Thomas reviews the third season of Netflix’s reboot of One Day At A Time.
Season two of One Day At A Time ended with an emotional finale, with family matriarch Lydia having a stroke. The question over whether or not she was going to survive, hung heavy over the upcoming third season.
Thee opening episode centred around a funeral, but fortunately it was not Lydia’s. This had the effect of moving story forward, and not letting the audience forget about what had already happened. There was a bitter sweet feeling of relief that it was just an unknown Auntie the Alvarez family was sending of, rather than Lydia, the cornerstone of their lives.
This first episode saw the introduction of many of their extended family, and was the first real showcase of a chaotic dynamic that has, up until this point, only been mentioned. Be it Lydia’s jealous relationship with her sister, or the way that the large Latinex family deals with it members’ sexuality, this opener does a lot to set up the season and give a wider context to the main characters’ lives.
This establishing of the bigger world around the Alvarez family continues throughout the season as more new characters are brought in. In episode four we meet Penelope’s brother, Tito, who hadn’t even been mentioned before. We are shown more of the gender dynamics within the family as we see the way that Lydia treats her two children, similar to the way that she treats Elena compared to Alex. Even though it is Penelope who lives with her and did all the work when she was sick, Lydia keeps making excuses for Tito. Much like how Lydia dotes on Alex far more than Elena; it isn’t to say that she doesn’t love Penelope and Elena, but she expects more from them.
Conversations on gender are a frequent occurrence this season; they cover various different contexts, from family dynamics to sexual harassment and generation gaps. But each of them is important and framed in the context of comedy, making it more easily palatable for the audience.
However, the episode on sexual harassment does bring out the one potential issue with season three; exposition. we saw it in Penelope being ‘preachy’ which, doesn’t fully talk to the nuance of the situation. Sexual harassment and assault aren’t easy topics to broach in a sensitive way, especially in a show that is a comedy. And it wouldn’t fit the show’s genre or feel, to have sexual violence shown on screen. So, the only way to then broach the topic is to have the characters talk about it.
This leads to an episode full of exposition and vocal storytelling. It does make the episode feel a little jarring and less dynamic than the rest of the season, but it is probably the best way to broach the subject without completely breaking from the image of the show. After all this is a sit-com and not Law & Order. I don’t have a big problem with this episode, as these subjects should be spoken about in all different genres of media.
On the whole, this season is a continuation of the same charming, emotional hilarity as the last two. It deals with both serious and comparatively trivial topics with care and sensitivity, framing emotion not as something to hide but something to relish and/or talk about. The sincere conversations and actions of the characters in this season are truly heartfelt, giving each character a chance to grow whilst understanding that they are going to make mistakes.
No character in this show is perfect, as much a Lydia may think that both she and Alex are. They are all flawed yet still good and lovable people who are living their lives as best they can. Above all, One Day At A Time resonates hope. Hope for representation on television, for people being able to grow and for the future in general. There are a lot of top notch American sitcoms currently on air, and, with season three, One Day At A Time continues to earn its place among the best of them.