How Santa Clarita Diet Season 3 Set Joel And Sheila's Story Up For Possible Season 4

joel and sheila bringing in trashbags santa clarita diet
(Image credit: netflix press)

Major spoilers below for the entirety of Santa Clarita Diet Season 3, which was released on Netflix on Friday. Be sure to watch before reading on.

It's hard out there for a undead woman trying to be a good wife and mother and real-a-tor. But If there's anyone capable of making it all work, it's Drew Barrymore's Sheila Hammond, as assisted by Timothy Olyphant's snack-loving husband Joel and Liv Hewson's pragmatically rebellious daughter Abby. The entire family made it to the end of the recently released Season 3, although not without some huge changes.

Here, we'll go over how the story wrapped up, and what the creator is saying about the show's Season 4 chances. But first, a lightning round of refreshers...

Season 3: Before The Finale

Anne the Apostle: After accepting Sheila as a minion of God at the end of Season 2, neighbor and sheriff's deputy Anne (Natalie Morales) pledged herself to do Sheila's bidding, even when it was against the law. She also founded a group of followers, against previously made requests, so Sheila unsuccessfully tried to "fire" her. Anne did agree to give Sheila her space, however, so that she could start believing in herself. (And also because Natalie Morales could only sign on for three episodes.)

Tommy the Knight of Serbia: Zachary Knighton's clam-destroying Paul vacated his regional Knights of Serbia role, passing the torch to his brother Tommy, played by Ethan Suplee. (In this already incredible cast, Suplee landed some of the season's funniest lines, including one about a discounted parrot.) Being ex-military, Tommy was a formidable enemy for the Hammonds, at least until Sheila reversed his misconceptions about the undead. After that, Tommy set out to conquer his true goal: working at a bird store.

Abby and Eric the Chaste Guilty Parties: While wearing their guilt like the biggest of clown shoes, Abby and Eric spent the season trying to convince Shalita Grant's FBI agent (among others) that they hadn't blown up that fracking site, while also sometimes pretending they were dating and/or breaking up. In order to keep Eric safe, though, Abby tried keeping him at arm's length as her world got more dangerous. Things got awkward!

gary's rotted face santa clarita diet

Gary the Ghoul: Nobody remembered to give Gary the serum to stop him from decomposing and deteriorating, so he looked like a leper Toxic Avenger all season. (Nathan Fillion wasn't available, so his former Firefly co-star stepped in as a replacement.) Gary got to find joy in un-life again by working for Sheila and Joel's new real-a-ty company via phone and Amazon's Alexa.

Poplovic the Popsicle: Timeless' Goran Visnjic kicked off the season as the evil Serbian Poplovic, a Serbian creepster seeking the undead for his own nefarious means: to use their blood to slow down aging in humans. (Not THAT evil a plan, but he was a total dick about it.) He employed the hyper-dimbulbs Janko (Stephen Full) and Radul (Dominic Burgess) to find the undead in Santa Clarita, but the henchmen inevitably chose to revolt against their rude boss by having one of the undead bite them.

Ron the Undead: Jonathan Slavin's Ron returned to cause the most trouble yet by showing up at the Hammonds' house and forcing the rot-faced Gary to bite him. He then went about living an extroverted life, yelling at the top of his lungs about how undead he was while also turning a fair share of people into zombies. (Including his former Better Off Ted co-star Malcolm Barrett.) Each time Sheila and Joel thought they had him, something else would go wrong.

Joel the Replacement Knight: Joel aimed to take over Tommy's position as the Santa Clarita chapter's Knights of Serbia representative, with the hopes of keeping Sheila safe. It meant having to make Abby his heir apparent, which he wasn't comfortable with until he grasped Abby's full capability. He was knighted, as it were, in the penultimate episode by Reno 911 vet Kerri Kenney-Silver.

Sheila the Immortal: At one point, the Hammonds finally grasped the concept that being undead meant Sheila might live forever, which led to some marital miscommunication. As she became a more thoughtful person – which included giving Linda Lavin's dying Jean immortality via bite – Sheila was hurt by Joel not immediately jumping on board to join her in eternal life. Of course, he was only thinking with his stressed-out human brain, and it took some time for him to come around.

abby and eric

The Finale

Hammonds > Serbians: Janko and Radul thought they'd be able to just show up at the Hammonds' home and intimidate Abby and Eric while waiting for Joel and Sheila to return. Little did they know that Abby, and only Abby, is a blade-wielding beast. She shanked Radul in the eye and then stabbed Janko in the ear. To be fair, Eric totally distracted Janko with the all-powerful line, "My mom says I'm a delicious boy." Show 'em how it's done, delicious boy!

Meanwhile, Poplovic showed up at Joel and Sheila's Hammond Realty launch party, mistakenly believing Joel to be the undead one in the family. Sheila's rescue attempt fails when she's speared through the chest by Poplovic, and not even Joel's one freed leg can help them. Enter the rest of Team Hammond – Tommy, Ron, and Jean – who broke the married couple out of captivity. The quick final showdown between Sheila and Poplovic was punctuated by Joel shooting the villain through the head with his crossbow. (Not Tommy's crossbow. Joel's crossbow.)

Abby + Eric = Love Stuff: While the teen besties had their share of FBI agent-related problems in Season 3, Abby and Eric also had more than a few meaningful conversations about what each means to the other. Admittedly, Eric didn't do much learning or changing, and remained as doe-eyed for Abby as ever.

Abby, however, seemingly found a path to compartmentalizing her life so that Eric can stay separate and safe from her wild and dangerous side, which should please his mom. As well, she found a new friend in Sydney Park's Winter, meaning she won't need to spend every waking moment with Eric, so she won't get sick of him quite as easily. So it was the sweetest of sweet moments when Abby walked into Eric's room and wordlessly snuggled up in bed with him.

Joel + Mr. Ball Legs + Bite = Undead Joel: As uncomfortable as Joel has been about certain aspects of Sheila's post-human existence, he had finally tossed them all aside in the final minutes of the episode so that he could make his grand declaration: he wanted to grow not-old forever with Sheila. But something super weird happened whenever Mr. Ball Legs joined the conversation. He...climbed up inside Joel's head and seemingly killed him.

The moment definitely shocked Sheila as well, and after it became obvious he wasn't going to wake up on his own, Sheila gave him a quick bite on the neck. After a few agonizing seconds, Joel's eyes popped open and he smiled, saying, "Hello." To which Sheila suggestively raised her eyebrows and smiled. Looks like Abby is the only Hammond left who can still eat pastries. But what does it mean that Sheila's ball is inside Joel's body?

The Cult of Sheila Lives!: After Joel's death and rebirth, the finale cut to the credits for a brief moment before revealing Tommy, Ron and Jean decked out in new uniforms, which Ron was pumped about. Though they didn't have any specific mission noted, Tommy declared that they're going "to save the world." For Sheila!

Who created those uniforms, and would that person then be tipped off to the existence of the undead? And could this mean the trio would actually be a force to be reckoned with in Season 4? I would watch an entire spinoff just with the spritely Jean running around and cursing people out.

Could Season 4 Happen?

Creator Victor Fresco wanted to end things in Season 3 in a way where the story wouldn't be hampered in case cancellation news was on the way. As acclaimed as Santa Clarita Diet might be, Netflix hasn't been very up front about how the horror comedy has done overall. Plus, few of the streaming service's original comedies have lasted longer than three seasons, so even Gary would be able to see that line in the sand, if you tilted him a little.

Here's what Victor Fresco told THR about the show's chances:

We're aware that the show gets more expensive every year; we're aware of what seems like templates of [Netflix's] studio stuff now. It looks like mostly three-season stuff. We know they like the show. I like to say the humans there seem to love the show; I don't know how the algorithm feels about us, and the algorithm makes a lot of decisions, ultimately. So I just don't know.

Netflix also doesn't have a strong reputation for alerting its shows' creative teams about cancellation decisions, so Victor Fresco is almost in the same boat that fans are. In his mind, Santa Clarita Diet has around four of five seasons worth of story to tell, and there's a plan for where to take things next.

I could see a scenario where the fourth year is the last year. I sort of imagined it going five years — that seemed about right to me. . . . I think we're introducing a huge new storyline for season four if we come back, and our challenge would be to come up with another one for season five, but I have no doubt based on these characters and this life that that would be something we could do.

Here's hoping Netflix decides to give the Hammonds another season to turn the entire world into zombies, or perhaps something less anti-clam-actic. While waiting to hear updates, you can watch all three seasons streaming now on Netflix. And there are tons of other good shows hitting the midseason TV schedule, so be sure to keep checking.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.