This is it, familia. One Day at A Time returned with a season three that cemented it as one of the best sitcoms on TV, and the best family-oriented one by a large margin.
And it’s not just because this show is hella funny, though it is. It’s not just because it handles serious subjects in a way more established shows could only dream of doing it, though this season alone we got the rape culture talk, the drugs/addiction one, and an episode that tackles mental health in such a real and raw way that I’m still shook.
It’s because of all of that, and because abuelita, Dr. B, Penelope, Schneider, Elena and Alex have, at this point, become our family. We celebrate their triumphs, we get anxious when they’re anxious, and we get down when they’re down. We care.
Because, as this show has taught us, family, the latino way, isn’t just about blood. Family is about the people who are there for you, through thick and thin. And this is our extended familia that we’re here to celebrate today.
So, let’s talk about an outstanding season 3, about the moments that touched our heart, and about what we want to see next:
When compared against itself, season 3 of One Day At A Time was just consistently good. When compared against all other shows in the history of TV, One Day At A Time was exceptional in a way few shows ever manage: it was funny, heartfelt, it provided all characters with growth opportunities (while deepening some relationships and allowing others a chance at the spotlight), and it dealt with real issues with frankness and intelligence.
But mostly, it made us feel all the things: the good ones, and the bad ones, and it did so without at any point sacrificing characterization for plot or making us scratch our heads. Consistency is a beautiful thing, and this show always, always remembers, not just what it’s trying to be, but the path it took to get where they are right now.
The Alex/Elena bond: If season two was missing one thing, it was a little bit more bonding between these two, and yet season three gave me exactly what I wanted, the deepening relationships between the Alvarez’s siblings, as they both realized that, as different as they are, they are still each other’s first and best friend, and the only ones who can understand what dealing with mami and abuelita means.
The Schneider/Penelope bond: I never thought I’d love their friendship so much, and yet here I am, staring at this relationship that if the writers decided was going to turn romantic I’d be over the moon, and if they decided it was always just going to be platonic but family like I’d also love, because I just generally want more of the two of them, together, and I’ll take that any way the writers want to give it to me, that’s how much I trust them.
Syd/Elena: It’s so rare to have a young LGBTQ+ couple on TV, one that is going through the first steps of being in a relationship and discovering what that means, together, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see these two in the hands of capable and smart writers that have helped them through all of that without the two of them ever feeling like a stereotype.
Schnider’s relapse: I didn’t want it to happen, of course I didn’t, because I love Schneider and I want the best for him, but as someone who grew up with an alcoholic, I’m glad the show decided to treat addiction as what it is, a disease of ups and downs, and I’m also glad the show treated his relapse and subsequent spiral with the care it did, and that it showed that, no matter what happens, he is an Alvarez, and his familia is there for him.
The support group: Another thing I really wanted more of in season two that the show gave me in spades this season, and boy, did I appreciate it. I adore Penelope’s relationship with her family, but it was good to see her out, with friends, to have the consistency of her dealing with her issues, and just to send the message that mental health problems aren’t taboo, and if someone like Penelope can get help, why can’t we?
Penelope’s anxiety: Last season the show focused on the depression, this season it was on the anxiety, and they did so in such a realistic way that I felt seen, and understood and that’s what TV is all about. Hopefully there are people out there who’d never felt seen in this way before and who will now reach out for the help they so desperately need.
Abuelita’s bouquet list: From the name, to the idea, to what it meant, it made absolute sense for me to have abuelita fixate on this, and it also made absolute sense for her to go about it in the way she did, and though another show might have made this feel morbid, One Day At A Time pulled it off in a way that was fun, but not disrespectful.
Dr. B: Doctor B has never been one of my favorites, and his relationship with abuelita is always played up for laughs, so it was hard to connect with him, but this season allowed us to do so by letting him interact not just with Penelope and abuelita, but with Elena and Schneider, two characters who are all heart and who consistently bring that out in others.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
I almost refuse to acknowledge this section exists, because this season was perfection. But then again, so were season 1 and season 2. This show is just perfection, and if possible, this season was even more balanced than the one before, with the return of the therapy group, a big storyline for Schneider and more Elena and Syd. So allow me to be that person and say that, for me, everything worked. I’ve got no complaints. In fact, all I’ve got is a standing ovation:
3×02 “Outside”: If only for the rape culture conversation, and how this show manages to showcase all sides of an issue and yet still make a point, this episode is one of the best of the season. But there’s also the fact that, as always, the Alvarez’s face everything as a family, Schneider learns a lesson and oh, we get to see the Alex and Elena finally understanding each other better, a thread that will get stronger as season goes on.
3×09 “Anxiety”: The power of this episode comes from its realness. From the clever use of color to depict Penelope’s anxiety attacks, and how the world gets muted when you’re in the middle of one, to the on point moments with the therapy group, to Penelope and Schneider being the softest, bestest friends in the history of friends, to Penelope finally talking to Alex and Elena as she recognizes herself in Elena, this episode hit all the right notes – especially the ones other shows don’t even dare approach.
3×12 “Drinking and Driving”: Addiction is a tricky thing, and as much as it hurt me to see Schneider the way we did, the fact that the show went there, and the fact that once he slipped, they treated it as a family thing, and everyone rallied around him, was beautiful to see. We already knew Schneider was part of the family, and the Alvarez’s prove it when it counts the most, not by waving away the things he does wrong, but on the contrary, by providing both tough love and a little sopa de pollo for the soul.
LEAST FAVORITE EPISODES
I certainly had favorite episodes, but it wasn’t because I felt there were any real weak links, instead it was because some things managed to touch me more, emotionally speaking. So, once again, this section is moot. It does not exist. One Day At A Time is just that good.
SEASON FINALE IMPRESSION
It’s hard to achieve that balance of ending a season in a way that feels like it could be the end of the series, but in a way that leaves you aching for more, and yet, for a third year in a row, One Day At A Time managed to do just that – and they even threw a tiny cliffhanger our way, with abuelita and Dr. B in Cuba?!!
The last episode, however, was mostly about happiness and about how that doesn’t always look the way the world expects it to look, how happiness takes different shapes for different people, at different moments. For Elena, and for Schneider, at this point, it might be forgiveness. For abuelita, it might be crossing an item of her bucket list she never thought she could cross.
And for Penelope? Well, that’s being an NP – at least for now. Because, even though this wouldn’t be a bad end, it’s not an ending, no. It’s a new beginning.
Who’s up for season 4? I know I am.
When you’re watching a show that’s centered around a family, it’s hard to say exactly what’s next except, well, more. More of their dynamics, more of Alex and Elena growing up, and doing good things and bad things and learning. More of Penelope as an NP, more of abuelita trying to figure out what it means to be Cuban-American in this day an age.
Because that’s just what we want. More. More of the family we fell in love with. We always want more. We’ll always want more.
This is it. This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.
This is it .Straight ahead and rest assured, you can’t be sure at all.
So while you’re here enjoy the view. Keep on doing what you do
So hold on tight we’ll muddle through…One day at a time.
What did you think of Season 3 of One Day At A Time?
One Day at A Time season 3 is streaming on Netflix right now.