Santa Clarita Diet Season 1 Recap: The Undead Revival of Drew Barrymore(‘s Career)
By: Jessica Bedewi
When it comes to potential marital crises, none of your petty problems will ever compare to those of Sheila and Joel Hammond, the main characters of the Netflix original series Santa Clarita Diet.
The horror-comedy show that aired its premiere season in early 2017 definitely has a unique take on the world of the undead. In fact, it makes me think that creator Victor Fresco was watching The Walking Dead and suddenly felt annoyed that no one had a sense of humor about the apocalyptic end of the world. Which, honestly? Fair point.
The comedic take on a zombie lifestyle combines the newly undead Sheila Hammond and her flesh-eating proclivities with the “suburban mom who does yoga 3 times a week and drinks kale smoothies” lifestyle of Santa Clarita. Sheila Hammond is played by Drew Barrymore, who honestly could have been dead leading up to the premiere of the show considering I personally can’t name a single thing she’s been in since He’s Just Not That Into You in 2009. Therefore, playing an undead character on a TV show feels like a nice bit of irony that I think we can all appreciate.
Season 2 premieres on March 23, but if you just can’t find the time to watch a full 10 episodes before then, we’ll help you out. Buckle up ladies and gents as we take you on a ride through season 1 of Santa Clarita Diet.
The show begins by giving a quick look at the painfully vanilla lifestyle of Sheila and Joel Hammond and their teenage daughter Abby. Sheila and Joel were high school sweethearts who now work as residential realtors. They seem fairly happy, despite the fact that Sheila seems like the most boring person on earth. As in, I’m pretty sure she’s the type of mom who would offer orange slices as a fun sleepover snack and fall asleep at 8 while watching House Hunters.
Anyway, their very boring lifestyle does a total 180 when Sheila majorly screws up showing a house to potential buyers by yakking everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I do mean everywhere. I think of myself as a pretty strong stomached person, and I still had to turn away from the torrent of green vomit that poured out of Sheila’s mouth, which is apparently the signal of her undead transformation. Along with the entire contents of all of her internal organs, Sheila also yaks up a red ball. We don’t know why that’s important yet, but they keep making a big deal out of it so I guess it will be at some point.
After “Vomit Fest 2018”, Sheila and Joel’s entire lifestyle starts a slow descent downhill. Sheila starts eating raw meat, becomes incredibly impusilve, and suddenly has a heightened sex drive. The entire family is unsure what to do, so naturally they turn to the nerdy teenage boy next door, Eric. Eric gently informs the family that Sheila is now a zombie and there’s probably no going back, and he reads comic books so obviously everyone just takes his word for it. Also, this would be a nice time to point out that everyone is shockingly mellow about this undead transformation. Sure, Abby and Joel are a little rattled, but Eric sounds like he’s informing a younger sibling that their goldfish just died. There’s a flesh eating zombie in his room he’s just like “Oh, yeah, you should probably feed her and stuff or you might have to bash her brains in.” So Eric is definitely a serial killer in training.
Among all this worry about eating raw meat, Sheila is also dealing with the annoying advances of the new realtor on the block, Gary. As men do, Gary has decided that Sheila is going to be his newest conquest, whether she wants him or not. Despite the fact that Sheila refuses to be unloyal to her husband, Gary comes onto her very aggressively and eventually goes so far as to threaten her with repercussions if she doesn’t sleep with him. So what does Sheila do in response? SHE EATS HIM. Again, another highly gruesome scene, but the fact that she was so done with his shit that she just decided to end his life is something I (and probably serial killer Eric) can relate to on a spiritual level.
After burying Gary’s body in the desert, Sheila discovers that tasting human flesh now means she can only eat a yummy slice of fresh human, giving a whole new meaning to looking like a snack. After trying and failing at various avenues that would avoid killing humans, Sheila and Joel decide to kill humans to keep Sheila alive, which brings up a very interesting question of morality that I’m not a boring enough person to explore.
Despite how mellow they’ve been about this whole “undead lifestyle” thing, they still want to cling to their humanity, so they try to target people that are bad for society. They initially choose a drug dealer that sells to kids, but then Joel gets stoned with him and killing a drug dealer when they’re your drug dealer apparently crosses a line in Joel’s internal moral compass. He should write a book.
As Sheila is complaining about how hungry she is, Joel gets distracted and hits a guy in a sporty Camaro. The guy gets angry and Sheila rips his neck out because he was a douche so he deserved it. At least, that’s how they try to frame it, but Joel HIT his CAMARO. If I could afford a Camaro, I’d be pissed too. However, I can’t afford a Camaro so I’m surprisingly okay with this turn of events. It’s just the 1% giving back, you know?
Sheila and Joel store Camaro guy in a freezer and Sheila casually blends him into smoothies and tells all her suburban mom friends about her new high-protein diet. Meanwhile, the next door neighbor, Dan—who happens to be a cop—finds Gary’s finger in the Hammond’s backyard and starts blackmailing Joel into killing criminals for him. There are so many things wrong with this storyline, but now Sheila has an actual menu of criminals to sift through for dinner so apparently it’s fine. That is, until Joel gets fed up with Dan’s controlling and totally not psychopathic behavior and kills him.
So now that basically everyone is dead, Joel goes back to his original search for a cure for his wife. He eventually finds Dr. Cora Wolf, who has studied Sheila’s virus in rats and now thinks she might be able to cure Sheila. It’s at this point that Sheila starts to degenerate, losing parts of her body and her ability to control her urges. In the process of trying to collect everything they need for a cure the police arrive, arresting Joel and placing him in a psychiatric facility because of his inability to keep his mouth shut any longer about his undead wife. Because if you can’t tell the police the truth who can you tell, right?
The series ends with Joel in a psychiatric facility, Sheila chained in the basement to stop herself from exploring her increasingly feral urges, and the responsibility of saving the day left to Abby and Eric. Not promising.
Basically, all of Santa Clarita Diet season 1 has only taught me that I definitely shouldn’t move to Santa Clarita because I will absolutely be murdered.
Can’t wait to see what they have in store for season 2!