Superstore, Season Three


Remember when I said Superstore “is most interesting when it’s most political?” I stand by that assessment, but in that regard season three was certainly a let-down.

There are some decisions the logic of which I understand – and maybe even agree with – but which I can’t help but think hurt the show somewhat.

To have Amy be something of a mess after her divorce, and struggle with rebuilding her life, was a strong dramatic. But good lord it made for a dull stretch of episodes.

Chiefly because the showrunners returned to the same plot beats with which to tell that story over and over again. I actually lost count of the number of episodes that unfolded in the same, painfully predictable manner – Amy is made to feel bad about some aspect of her life by her co-workers, Amy attempts to prove said co-workers wrong…and in the process comes to the realisation that her life is even worse than she thought.

It became extremely tedious to watch, because no matter what Amy was struggling with, the basic structure of the episode was always exactly the same. And, as a side note, things escalated to the point where it really did feel like workplace bullying – I genuinely found myself wondering why she even spoke to Matteo by about half way through the season, he was so consistently nasty to her. (Side note, the scene where he gave her “gay truth” about how repulsive she must be as a woman due to a failure to remove pubic hair made me want to throw something against the wall. Ladies, if there’s one life lesson that’s served me well, it’s that any asshole who DARES complain about the scenery when invited on a tour of your nether regions deserves to be thrown into the sea immediately).

The second problem – which again, I understand the reasoning – was marooning Jonah with Kelly for half the season. They were – purposefully – grating to watch, and I don’t think there was ever a point when Kelly felt like a real option for him.

That said, the relationship was revelatory in that it made it clear just how PASSIVE Jonah had been all the way through the show. He falls into the relationship with Kelly because she’s there and because she pays attention to him…and because he was never willing to put himself out there with Amy.

Jonah is a people-pleaser, which makes me kind of curious about his family background – but also meant I had limited sympathy for him in the final stretch of episodes. When he and Amy have their big fight and he says “I waited around for you for two years” I found that an incredibly telling statement.

Because that’s exactly what he did. He waited. And waited some more. And then some more. He never, not once, came out and said what, if anything, he actually wanted. Which was understandable in the earlier seasons – Amy was married, after all – but started to strain credibility in season three. He had a quite long stretch of episodes where he could have said SOMETHING to Amy, and yet he didn’t (I can’t help but suspect that he just doesn’t have middle-gears, and so for Jonah, it’s either keep his distance or stick his tongue down her throat, but it would be nice to KNOW that).

It’s noticeable that both Amy and Kelly are the aggressors in their relationships with him – Jonah never puts himself out there. Which is why I was nearly cheering him on when he WENT THERE with Amy in the final episode, because at long last Jonah was actually being declarative about what he wanted. The constant waffling with Kelly got VERY tiresome to watch.

But talking about the final episode brings us to the central dramatic problem of the season.

Which is the pregnancy.

And I think the problem here is that Superstore ducked a political question when it really shouldn’t have.

Because, as it stands, Amy choosing to continue the pregnancy seems rather out of character. She decided that she didn’t want any more children with Adam long before the divorce, her financial position appears to be at best precarious, and she has extremely hard-won personal experience of how de-stabilising an unplanned pregnancy can be.

So why does she go through with it?

Does she think abortion is wrong? Does she find the idea of aborting Emma’s sibling abhorrent? Does she want to be a mother again because that’s a comforting and familiar role (and we know Amy likes what’s familiar)? Is it that she’s lonely and beaten down by how her supposed friends have been treating her, and wants something that’s hers?

We have no idea, because the show never tells us.

To be clear, I’m not saying that Amy SHOULD have an abortion – I’m pro-choice after all, and that means supporting women whatever their circumstances – I’m saying that the show not filling us in on that point leaves a giant question mark that undermines the whole story.

And I can’t help but think of it as a failure to grapple with the political problem – they don’t want Amy to have an abortion (because women on TV never have abortions), but they also don’t have her explain why, because her explanation might be offensive to the (probably pretty large) proportion of their audience who HAVE had abortions.

So, you end up with a story that has a kind of hole in it, which becomes incredibly distracting.

The comparison to Veep is instructive here, because while Veep spent comparatively little time on Dan and Amy’s relationship in season 6, they did enough work to fill us in on Amy’s psychological state, that her decision to go ahead with the pregnancy (a decision I think we can safely say she would NOT have made earlier on the show) really isn’t all that surprising – the audience can work it out almost immediately. (Dan’s emotional condition is a different matter – the show purposefully kept us locked out of that to preserve the ‘gotcha’ in the final episode – though there is enough information to join some very suggestive dots. I expect all of this to be elaborated on in season 7).

In other words, Amy Brookheimer’s pregnancy makes sense for her emotionally, if not necessarily practically. Amy Sosa’s pregnancy doesn’t appear to make sense on either level, making it a rather baffling decision.

That said, I’d be curious to see what they’ll do with it next season.

I should also say, this show emphasises how different European and American conceptions of secularism are – there’s no European country I know of where anyone would be in the least bit bothered by a shop putting up a Christmas Crib…but Glenn condemning Amy and Jonah for ADULTERY (in front of their co-workers)…well, I feel like the scene was intended to be read as inappropriate but ultimately harmless, which is not how I understood it.