Over the course of its second season, Santa Clarita Diet managed to introduce a number of new wrinkles to its hazy zombie mythology, like the ball spider, as well as the mysterious Order of the Red Ball and their apparent modern-day equivalent. It also traced the zombie outbreak to some bad clams — some very bad clams with red shells hailing from a lake in Serbia. Much to its credit, though, the series didn’t dive headlong into the origins of the zombie virus and the bizarre subculture built up around it. Instead, the season turned up the heat on Sheila and Joel Hammond (Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant), threatening to out the former’s condition and see her held responsible for the lives she’s taken in order to survive.
Teasing a greater understanding of where this particular story’s zombies come from, only to place it on the back burner in favor of serving the show’s undead family dynamic and interest in self-actualization is a huge risk. But it’s one that pays off in the season 2 finale ‘Halibut!’ when the final moments take a wild swing that moves the series forward by outing Shiela (and Gary) as members of the undead, only to have their condition (as well as Abby and Eric’s… uh, civil disobedience?) be interpreted by Anne as a sign from God.
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The move is a legitimate surprise, as Santa Clarita Diet season 2 was engaged in a number of funny exchanges about moral relativism and the murky gray area in which its characters stood for 10 episodes. But it’s even more of a surprise considering how it opens the series up to explore the consequences of Sheila’s condition through a drastically different lens, one that ostensibly frees the series from the concern of the truth being discovered and positions it to enter uncharted territory should the show be renewed for season 3.
Here’s a breakdown of ‘Halibut!’ and how it turns the zombie sitcom on its ear.
Anne Opens The Door To The Series’ Future
This might be the most important moment in Santa Clarita Diet since Sheila first barfed up a little red ball in the series premiere. Since then, the show has slowly built up Natalie Morales’ Anne as the person most likely to bring the Hammonds down. She isn’t just a good cop who’s skilled with a paintbrush; Anne’s perhaps the one truly uncorrupted character on the show. As such, the decision to convince her that Sheila’s affliction is a gift from God, not a curse from the depths of a Serbian lake with extremely lax oversight when it comes to seafood exports, repositions the character as the family’s greatest ally — so long as they can maintain the ruse that Sheila’s bloodlust is something more than pure animal instinct.
But that also makes Anne’s misunderstanding the key to the series moving forward without retreading its steps. It potentially gives Sheila and Joel a way out of their moral conundrum, too. Even if they don’t think Sheila was put here to do the Lord’s bidding, there’s no reason not to adopt that line of thinking, especially after Sheila, in the midst of a zombie blackout, made like Laurence Olivier in The Boys From Brazil and went went full Nazi hunter. So, maybe there is something instinctually good about Sheila now that she’s snacking on people and living her best life.
Ultimately, though, the climax to ‘Halibut!’ delivered the unexpected, turning an endgame scenario into a new start for the series, provided Netflix moves forward with season 3, of course.