“Your boyfriend must be the most exciting person in the world…”
The last season of Man Seeking Woman contained a powerful scene where the show mixed the idea of an ill-advised late night text with that of a police-mediated hostage situation. The moment of ultra-slick writing made me think of how this show never seems to run out of tropes and archetypes to perfectly pair up with dating woes. This season features a cold open that involves a bunch of children playing baseball and their ball gets away from them. The show proceeds to marry the classic idea of the old haunted neighborhood house with that of being in a boring relationship that’s fallen into a rut. It’s pulled off sublimely in one of many perfect pieces of writing from this year. It was with this scene that I realized that Man Seeking Woman is never going to run out of archetypes and rom-com areas to juxtapose against them.
The biggest change in Man Seeking Woman season 3 is that the hapless Josh has found himself in a serious relationship. The very capable Katie Findlay joins the cast as the eponymous “Woman” in the “Man Seeking Woman” equation (this plot point is all over the season’s promos and is far from any sort of spoiler).
The series acclimates to its new perspective and story trajectory shockingly well. I certainly don’t think this show was out of dating stories to tell, but the fresh angle suits it like a whip in the hand of a gentleman adventurer. That’s not to say that the show hasn’t told longer-term relationship stories—the end of last season was especially full of them. This however feels like the show, much like Josh himself, is growing up. Literally, not figuratively, of course. This is still a show where you’re going to get things like Maurice Sendak-esque monsters bitching in therapy sessions.
Man Seeking Woman continues to prove that it’s still the absolute best at telling real, emotional, evolving stories that happen to juxtapose some of the most insane, unbelievable images you’ll see on the medium. The production department of the series has never been a slouch, but this season sees them once again hitting the scene strong with countless characters and elements that are one-of-a-kind.
This season gets to tackle a little more challenging ground as stories about Josh dating are inherently more simplistic and juvenile, whereas relationship episodes depict a rounder version of Josh who has to navigate through new obstacles. A third season is the perfect time to experiment with such paradigm shifts before the show’s structure can feel stale and repetitive. Had the show attempted it last year, or even next season, a radically different atmosphere might have sunk this direction.
This season also excels at tapping into some really beautifully honest territory. They explore some of the more emotionally charged, vulnerable moments that relationships put you through and it’s material that the show is very adept at conveying. It’s challenging to balance actual pain and pathos when you’re a show that so often trades in satirical, exaggerated versions of these emotions, but Man Seeking Woman makes it work.
It naturally brings a level of richness to the stories that weren’t necessarily being captured when Josh was a clueless ladies man. There’s a lot more resonance in a story where Josh and Lucy have to both make compromises when moving in together than there is in one where Josh is trying to track down his runaway penis.
Curiously, the show’s point of view seems to be shifting towards Lucy’s (Katie Findlay) perspective as opposed to Josh’s. Lucy is given more of the absurd, outlandish scenes in the season while Josh becomes the straight man. At the same time, there seems to be very little Mike. Eric Andre’s character is relegated to a Liz-sized role this season with Lucy being given the task of doing most of the heavy lifting (or at least in the episodes that I saw).
This year feels more like a buddy comedy between Josh and Lucy, which could be jarring, but Lucy more than rises to the occasion. Not only is it endearing subject matter, but Katie Findlay is a goddamn dynamo who sells the emotional material, pratfalls through the broader absurdity, all while being as powerful and painfully cute as possible. It’s flawless casting. I thought that Rosa Salazar did an incredible job last season as Josh (and Mike’s) love interest, Rosa, that I was originally skeptical of any new character that was coming in to ostensibly replace her. After Hurricane Lucy I’m comfortably saying, “Rosa Who?” as I anxiously wait to see what adventure Lucy’s being pulled through next.
In spite of all of this, that’s not to say that I couldn’t have used more of Mike and Liz, but the lack of focus on them might have had just as much to do with the actors’ availability rather than a methodical move to scale them back. They’re still very much important voices in this show, and a crucial part of Josh’s life. Me wanting more of them isn’t a sign of tiring of Lucy and the storylines that she brings with herself, but rather a testament to the strength of the rest of the show’s cast. There are even moments where Josh himself feels like a guest-star in his own show as priority shifts to fleshing out Lucy more.
There are brief moments where this feels like some female-centric Man Seeking Woman spinoff, but the show also knows when to back off on Lucy and give Josh his necessary time in the sun. While I did definitely find myself missing Josh occasionally this season, this is not so much a bad thing as it is something new to associate with the show this year. The series had gotten beyond comfortable with Josh dominating episodes and the new shared perspective helps the show distance itself from its earlier tendencies.
Even though it’s only a mere ten episodes, I’m also impressed at just how much this season manages to fit into its stories. This new relationship filter could certainly move at a more lethargic pace and take its time with this new playground, but the series’ tendency to keep leaping ahead like two new lovers who are eloping gives all the episodes a strong energy.
There’s a powerful force pulling these episodes along that makes it feel like you took a second hit of that bong. I hope that this show has no plans of ending any time soon, but this season sees it jumping through Big Event relationship topics ferociously like it’s trying to prove something. It’s arguably Man Seeking Woman’s most powerful season to date, and one that bodes incredibly well for the clever show’s future.
Bearing any unforeseen mummy outbreak or nuclear apocalypse, of course.
This review is based on episodes one, four, six, and seven of Man Seeking Woman season 3. Man Seeking Woman season 3 premieres on FXX on January 4th at 10:30 p.m.