Santa Clarita Diet's ending may have been sudden, but it was still pretty perfect. Recently, Netflix announced that it would be canceling Santa Clarita Diet, a blow for fans of the gory zombie comedy.
For three seasons, Santa Clarita Diet told the story of Californian realtors Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant), whose normal, family-centric life is turned upside down when Sheila becomes a zombie with a craving for living flesh. The show has been praised for its dark, off-the-wall brand of humor that goes beyond the usual laugh-at-the-murder-scenes black comedy. The show also explores relationships, morality, family, and so much more - as well as, obviously, a brand new zombie mythology.
It's easy to see why Santa Clarita Diet is one of Netflix's most underrated shows, but sadly, it's rare for Netflix to keep original shows running for a long time, as they become increasingly expensive with each new season. For Santa Clarita, that meant getting the axe without being able to wrap up every loose end. This may frustrate some fans, but there are actually fewer storylines to complete than it might seem. The ending of Santa Clarita Diet may not have been planned, but it works all the same.
Popovic Was Defeated And Sheila's Secret Is Safe
The big bad of Santa Clarita Diet season 3 (and of much of the series) has been the Knights of Serbia, a group whose sole purpose is to track down and destroy zombies. Over the course of the show, fans have learned a fair amount about the hows and whys of this particular zombie outbreak (and been put off eating clams for life), as well as about the Knights of Serbia and what they are doing. For a while, it seemed as though this would be a permanent threat to Sheila, as just getting rid of one Knight of Serbia wasn't enough - another would come along to replace them. To make things worse, season 3 saw the introduction of Popovic (Goran Visnjic), a zombie-obsessed Serbian who wanted to find and keep zombies to use their blood to delay human aging.
However, this was almost entirely wrapped up by what is now Santa Clarita Diet's series finale. Popovic, despite being a solid threat for much of the season, ended up being taken out by Joel and a crossbow. Season 4 could have seen his organization reappear, but with the cancellation, fans can simply assume that Sheila is safe from being used to make anti-aging creams. The Knights of Serbia are also dealt with, thanks to Joel's brilliant plan to become the local Knight himself. He passed his tests, got his gear, and now he's free to protect the zombies that he cares about, and potentially fulfill his oath and take out any others that might cause trouble. No matter what, Sheila's secret is safe.
In addition to the villains being dealt with, most of the other issues that Joel and Sheila have had have been resolved. Their business is going well, Anne is leaving them alone now, they've got their killing down pat (it's truly impressive that Californian realtors have become such accomplished serial killers in such a short time), and of course, Sheila has taken her serum so that she is no longer decaying, and is now functionally immortal.
Eric And Abby Finally Get Together
Sheila and Joel aside, the other two stars of Santa Clarita Diet have also had their storyline resolved. The Hammonds' daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson), and her friend Eric (Skyler Gisondo) also got a fairly neat wrap up by the end of season 3. For much of the season, they were attempting to dodge a persistent FBI agent who (correctly) suspected them of blowing up the fracking site. It was a nice parallel to see the kids trying to keep their own secret from the authorities while Sheila and Joel tried to keep theirs. The third season also showed more of Abby and Eric's life at school, as well as introducing a new friend for Abby (which she absolutely deserved). By the end of the season, though, the FBI are done, and neither Abby nor Eric ended up in jail - they are free to get on with their teenage lives (zombie-mom notwithstanding).
Another aspect of their story was also beautifully wrapped up, as well: their romance. The two have had a will-they-won't-they since the start of the show, with Eric always a bit more of the pursuer. However, the third season included a fair bit of pretending to date (for various reasons), as well as some definite sparks flying, and one of their final scenes seems to finally bring them totally together - as Abby snuggles into his arms in his bedroom. It's sweet, rather than sexual, and it seems to end their relationship on the perfect note.
Joel Joins Sheila As A Zombie
As well as dealing with the FBI and the Knight of Serbia and all the other madcap issues in the Hammonds' lives, the third season of Santa Clarita Diet brought up a more existential question for Joel and Sheila - how she is going to live her long zombie life without him. This is the season where the pair realize that Sheila's undead state doesn't just have her craving human flesh, but it makes her functionally immortal (assuming no Knights of Serbia get their hands on her), and they spend time going back and forth, discussing the possibility that Joel might allow her to bite him so that they can spend that eternity together.
In the final moments of the finale, Mr. Ball Legs actually crawls inside Joel's ear, and he drops to the floor, seemingly dead... which leads Sheila to bite him. Joel ends the show by popping back up, but it's not 100% clear if he is still entirely Joel, if he is undead Joel, or if there is something else going on courtesy of Mr. Ball Legs. This may seem like a major cliffhanger for the show to end on, but it actually works well for Joel to become a zombie too - especially as most of the season has been focusing on what Sheila's long term future looks like.
With these two both undead and able to keep each other company for a thousand years, safe from the Knights of Serbia (at least for a while, although they may have to create a zombie-protecting branch in Santa Clarita to explain why Joel never dies!), the show is actually beautifully wrapped up - and with the kind off offbeat-but-happy ending that fans have come to expect from the show.
The Loose Ends Suit Santa Clarita Diet
Of course, there is no denying that there are a few loose ends that it would have been nice to see brought to a more satisfying conclusion. Ramona's story, and especially the question of what her Mr. Ball Legs is capable of, feels distinctly unfinished. Anne's story and the Cult of Sheila is also left a bit up in the air. She agreed to give her savior some space, but the damage may have already been done - and while this isn't something that was left truly hanging, it could have been a story to come back to in later seasons. And the biggest question of all is what, exactly, is going on with Mr. Ball Legs climbing into Joel's brain - a question that would definitely have been nice to get an answer to.
However, these are minor points to be resolved, in the grand scheme of things - and leaving some questions unanswered suits the show far more than tying it all up in a neat bow. Santa Clarita Diet has always been dark and wacky, and doesn't feel the need to explain everything in minute detail. After all, the zombie lore may be fascinating, but the core of the show isn't about the undead, it's about the lives of the Hammond family - and those have been fairly neatly pulled together for the end. Continuing the show for more seasons would also run into the potential issue of pulling focus away from Joel and Sheila, and toward a more global zombie community.
By the end of the season, Ron (Jonathan Slavin) may have stopped actively turning people, but he's started his own little group of world-savers, and it's highly unlikely that he's the only other zombie out there. The Knights of Serbia wouldn't have survived as long as they have without a reasonably busy zombie population for them to kill! And while a move toward the larger zombie world is natural, it wouldn't necessarily be the best move for the series. Ending things now, while the focus is still on the family, but there are great hints about the world at large, is a much better choice.
We wish Santa Clarita Diet could have stuck around, but at least it ended on a high point.