Drew Barrymore’s Santa Clarita Diet Is Really About a Husband’s Fear of His Wife

And, more importantly, it’s about how her husband can’t really deal with the sudden shift in the status quo. Joel, meanwhile, is incarcerated for his pursuit of her cure. While Sheila finds power in her situation, Joel works to squash it. “I don’t feel dead or undead,” she tells her family and the neighbor boy who diagnoses her. A real-estate agent, wife, and mother, she’s long adhered to the whole suburban-mom thing: green smoothies for breakfast, a closet full of monochromatic business attire, SAT prep on weekends. This is the story of a family grappling with their matriarch’s newly discovered agency. “I feel the opposite: totally alive.”
Santa Clarita Diet wisely shrouds Sheila’s transformation in mystery. “It’s just not where I saw my life going.”
When Joel let’s the drug dealer go, an angry Sheila belittles his life trajectory, citing Joel’s pot smoking and gullibility as culprits for his poor judgment. Sheila Hammond, freshly zombified, seems like a brand-new woman. Though it goes unsaid, this conversation seems to spark something in Joel, who later embarks on the solo mission of finding a cure for his wife’s ailment. A horror-struck Sheila, expecting something “romantic” like a single gunshot to the head, points out the anger in Joel’s response. I wake up one day … and so am I,” he says despondently. “Where is that coming from?” she asks. Later, Sheila kills Gary in her garden and eats his stomach. She hasn’t just touched on something: She’s fully pinched a nerve. Drew Barrymore is Sheila, whose sunny, natural charm makes for a surprisingly compelling suburban “Mombie.” Timothy Olyphant plays her husband, Joel, and though he at first seems a little out of place, his manic, nervous outbursts eventually snap into focus. Something about a Serbian curse and earlier-reported cases lend a mythology to her condition, but don’t hamper its implications. “That’s how they kill the undead in movies,” he responds, trying to move on. They got married, he putzed around for a while—learned guitar, tried improv—but got serious with the arrival of their daughter. “I’d bash your brains in with a baseball bat,” he admits, as if he’s thought about it. Sexual jealousy, also a recurring theme, highlights Joel’s discomfort with Sheila’s newfound agency. In the pilot, a co-worker Gary (Nathan Fillion) attempts to both put the moves on Sheila and steal one of her clients. This article originally appeared in Vulture. Joel confronts him in a bar, but backs out before a fight breaks loose. Tensions between the couple climax when, in the season finale, Sheila asks Joel how he’d kill her if it ever came to that. She “dies,” then immediately wakes up. “My wife is a realtor. Her revived thirst for life is a threat to his apathy. The women behave badly—have affairs with hot oncologists, set off smoke bombs, make threats to rude teachers—while the men embroil themselves in unnecessary crime and chaos, and wind up dead. Sheila’s zombification is a confrontation for him. At what appears to be a psych ward, he babbles to his doctor about the ways Sheila’s transformation has pushed him to try new things. Joel and Sheila were high-school sweethearts, prom king and queen. Though Sheila ends the season in literal chains—she asks Abby to lock her in the basement in case her primal side takes over—she’s finally free of the rigor of a life that expected her to pipe down and take what comes. “It’s just hard to see you connecting with someone when you and I haven’t exactly been burning up the bed sheets,” Joel says, blaming her for both making a friend and shelving their sex life. But then she comes down with something. We see Joel for the insecure, at times downright-pathetic guy he’s become: the type who smokes weed in parking lots and dresses in cargo shorts. “When I look back at my life just three weeks ago, I think maybe I was the dead one,” he says with a laugh, before a look of dreadful realization takes hold of his face. She vomits buckets of green goo and coughs up what looks like a small organ. Joel, openly uncomfortable with her new cohort, demands to see Sheila’s texts. And more than just showing the dichotomy between suburban men and women, Diet works to subvert the idea that wives should be pretty, quiet things while the husbands win bread. The shift in the expected power play casts a shadow on their marriage, as evidenced later in the season when Sheila befriends a man she bit and transformed. Santa Clarita Diet continually returns to the idea of how suspiciously men regard positive female transformation. She’s renewed, rejuvenated, and hungry for the delicacies she’s long deprived herself of—not the human flesh she now needs to survive, but spontaneous sex, nights out, morning jogs, a Range Rover. She goes on with her life, reveling in her newfound popularity, outspokenness, and strengthened relationship with her daughter. See also: Santa Clarita Diet Tells the Same Joke, Over and Over Again After Joel befriends a drug dealer he meant to kill for Sheila’s supper, he opens up about how he got to where he is. But Sheila’s onto something—there is anger in their relationship, as well as resentment.