In Third and Final Season of ‘Shrill,’ Aidy Bryant Holds Little Back
As progressive as we’ve become, this still remains a society of brutal manners, even when it comes to nice people. Hulu’s “Shrill” is one of those shows precisely about how we live now, interact with each other and see ourselves. Some of it is heartwarming, other parts cut as deep as a machete. This is the last batch of episodes where we will see Aidy Bryant as Annie Easton, who in many ways has been fighting for us all these last three seasons. For her, the issue of body positivity isn’t just some passing fad, but something she demands actually be practiced. She’s facing down the hypocrites who talk in woke language, but still hide the same old prejudices.
The final season begins with workplaces crises as The Thorn, the publication where Annie writes, is forced to cut down staff due to budget issues. For now Annie is safe. To the annoyance of editor Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell), Annie’s pieces on body issues have made her a major attraction for readers. She is also going back into the freedom of being single after finally dumping Ryan (Luke Jones), the quite useless partner from the last two seasons. But dating anew for Annie comes with some new landmines. Her first few candidates turn out to be duds, especially the guy who tries to have sex without wiping the barbecue sauce off his fingers. Roommate and friend Fran (Lolly Adefope) is having what seems like an easier time adjusting into a serious relationship with partner Emily (Emily Fightmaster). Dating woes are not the only headaches Annie has to endure. A poorly thought-out article might just get her cancelled as well.
Based on the memoir of the same name by Lindy West, “Shrill” maintained an allure that sprung from how true to Millennial life it always felt. You could put on the backburner the “plots,” what really pulled one in was the blunt honesty of how people in their ‘30s are getting by nowadays. You cringe and laugh at the same time. And while Annie is not always the perfect hero, she has grown as a person. In the first season she was so insecure about her weight and looks, she easily stayed with a loaf like Ryan, who just saw Annie as an opportunity for constant sex. Now she musters up a bit more courage, as when a doctor automatically recommends during a check-up that Annie get a gastric bypass. Later in the parking lot Annie will shout through her car window at the doctor. Alas, the doctor is wearing headphones, but at least Annie is willing to shout. During a date with another loser, Annie doesn’t give in to pathetic sex, and puts the guy in his place.
But what has always made Annie the most endearing is precisely that she is so flawed. She has the absolute right to be comfortable with her figure and find a partner who treats her as an equal, with respect, but everyone has a stubborn streak, or moments of cluelessness. For Annie it happens when she covers a separatist colony in the outskirts of town and becomes a cancel culture target, mostly because her piece seems to make light of white supremacy. Even Fran, who is Black and queer, calls her out. Annie eventually apologizes, and issues a mea culpa to Fran, calling herself a “dumb white witch.” During this season she also turns down a potential date at a party for being fat, which leads to a rather blistering, stark dialogue about how we pair people automatically. Annie also nearly spoils a first date with a perfectly good guy, Will (Cameron Britton), because at first he comes across as a nervous, nerdy type who is prone to accidentally bumping into someone else’s plate.
Everyone in this show bites, including Annie’s co-workers who feel envy at her not being laid off or at the success of her writing. John Cameron Mitchell is a particular, acidic delight this season as he endlessly boasts that his memoirs have been picked up by a major publisher, while snarling at Annie. Yet as the season nears its end don’t expect complete, quick resolutions for these characters. “Shrill” is not offering any answers or plastic happy endings. It’s more of an observer. The ambiguity of its final episode, where some friends move away and Annie might actually be settling down (somewhat), might be owed to how hastily Hulu apparently decided to end the show. But at the same time it speaks to something very truthful. Not everything is so assured for the Millennials, even as they still seek love and good jobs, like every generation before. Instead we keep going, making mistakes along the way, some quite humiliating, others with valuable lessons. Whether one is selfish or giving, “Shrill” speaks to how there’s a bit of both in everyone.
“Shrill” season 3 begins streaming May 7 on Hulu.