‘One Day at a Time’ Season 3 Review: Tender Yet Fearless

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for One Day at a Time‘s third season.

After more than a year of its second season’s release, One Day at a Time returns with a season that’s more heartwarming and relevant than ever.  How does one even begin to discuss the Netflix Original’s newest season? There is quite a lot to unpack for the sitcom’s third season, but not to worry, this review will help you take everything one day at a time.

To kick off the third season, we immediately get to see the much talked about guest appearances of Stephanie Beatriz (Pilar) and Melissa Fumero (Estrellita) in the first episode entitled “The Funeral.”  Aside from these guest appearances, season 3 of One Day at a Time welcomes a significant number of newcomers, such as India de Beaufort (Avery), Alex Quijano (Mateo), and Danny Pino (Tito), and cameos that include Gloria Estefan (Mirtha), Alan Ruck (Lawrence Schneider), Glen Scarpelli (Chad), and even co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett (Nicole). Ed Quinn (Max) and James Martinez (Victor) are among the returning cast members.  With the help of these cast members, we witness numerous new & revived character arcs for our main cast.

Loyal to its premise since the first season, the third season of the series tackles a variety of social issues yet again in the thirteen 30-minute episodes it is given.  “The Funeral” already touches on the struggles and realizations that come with being the gay member of the family, while the second episode, “Outside,” sparks a brutally honest and ultimately necessary conversation on consent, sexual harassment, and the #MeToo movement.  Drug consumption and addiction are also delved into, more specifically in “Nip It in the Bud” and “Drinking and Driving.” We get another taste of “the talk” via Elena and Penelope in “The First Time,” and a properly executed discussion on the bouts of anxiety and how the mental illness doesn’t choose a cookie cutter victim.  While the show is formally a lighthearted sitcom, it doesn’t shy away from sparking original and earnest conversations on the things that truly matter.

Look, I know how being gay goes, right? When you first start to figure it out, it’s like, “oh no, I might be gay.” And then it’s like, “oh, I’m gay.”  And then it’s like gay, gay, gay! Rainbow underwear! But eventually, you realize that you’re just a person, and it’s really empowering not to have to be defined by who you want to make out with.

– Pilar, “The Funeral”, 2019

However, One Day at a Time doesn’t lose its sitcom-y charm, whether we’re focusing on its classic multi-camera setup, on-cue laughter and jokes that never miss a beat.  Even when episodes are at their most emotional, there isn’t an episode that doesn’t have at least one moment that’ll make you laugh until you are out of breath.

The show still sticks to one of its core beliefs: family is everything.  Throughout the third season, the main cast’s family dynamic is strengthened and challenged all at the same time.  With the kids growing up and the adults facing problems of their own, the One Day at a Time family form a strong support system for each member even when they themselves are at their most vulnerable.  At the season’s finale, “Ghosts,” the Alvarezes are reunited with Victor for a very special moment in his life. This episode and the previous one, “Drinking and Driving” exhibit Victor’s significant character development, finally making him a character worth loving and rooting for.  Season 3’s final episode emphasizes the fact that no one is perfect or exempt from making stupid mistakes, but it doesn’t fail to tell us that no one is beyond redemption as well. “Ghosts” is a gold mine for second chances, apologies, reparations and most importantly, realizations. The 30-minute emotional rollercoaster will surely have you glued to your screen, shedding at least a few tears.

All in all, One Day at a Time’s season 3 is yet another tumultuous journey led by the Alvarez family.  With the short episode runtime and meager amount of episodes, the series is easily digestible, though if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to pause for a bit, for whatever reason–may it be to write a quote down word-for-word, bask in the genius of a single anecdote or take a moment to compose yourself after sobbing uncontrollably.

If you haven’t watched One Day at a Time before reading this review, then you’re doing it wrong. If you still aren’t convinced to start watching the series on Netflix, then we’re both in the wrong. People constantly demand relevant shows with good representation all while being genuinely worthwhile when One Day at a Time’s right there. Maybe you’re thinking I’m biased since I haven’t pointed out any problems present in the series. However, believe it or not, it has one flaw: I, and every other viewer, must wait another year for the next season, which translates to waiting another year until we can find out what the hell Lydia and Leslie are doing in Cuba.


Image via Netflix.

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