Shrill felt like it was a groundbreaking show when its first season launched in March 2019, with the Fat Babe Pool Party in particular, causing a stir on social media. The talk surrounding season two was much more muted and there hasn’t been much hype about season three either, which is a shame, because Shrill is still a show that covers so many aspects of modern life in a way that feels refreshingly real. Aidy Bryant’s Annie, at the centre of the show, is one of the most relatable characters I’ve seen in years – she’s extremely flawed and messes up in major ways in almost every episode. Season two did push the negative aspects of her personality almost to breaking point, with her toxic relationship with boyfriend Ryan being a major storyline. It was not that enjoyable to watch because of this, but I’m pleased to say that season three is a more positive experience.
Thankfully, season three sees Annie finally having broken up with Ryan once-and-for-all and pursuing other romantic interests, including Nick (Anthony Oberbeck) and Will (Cameron Britton). Season three is also blissfully free of Annie’s parents who are on a kind of ‘senior gap year.’ Annie’s relationship with her mother, in particular, was one of the most stressful aspects of the show (that frequently made me cry), so it feels good that she is out from under that constant pressure. Annie still regularly f*cks up at work, however, in her attempt to navigate modern day journalism (especially as a woman) and frequently gets it wrong. In her endeavour to break out of just doing pieces about being fat, she goes to a ranch where a far-right cult/terrorist cell are hiding out and tries to ‘understand’ them. This, predictably blows up in her face, meaning she has to spend one of the episodes on an apology tour.
The biggest strength of Shrill continues to be Annie’s relationship with her best friend and roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) and Fran gets a lot of her own time, away from Annie, to shine this season. She is basking in her new relationship with her non-binary partner Em (ER Fightmaster) and this is brilliant at pushing Fran out of her comfort zone. It’s a shame that Annie’s friendship with her work husband Amadi (Ian Owens) has never been as fully explored as it was in season one, especially with Amadi moving into more of a boss role. John Cameron Mitchell continues to shine as Annie’s insufferable boss Gabe, who has mentally checked out of The Thorn (the newspaper they all work for) to write his memoir. And for Hedwig fans, there is even a chance to see him singing this season! The great Illeana Douglas also appears as Gabe’s boss Sheila – an always welcome sight.
Annie has her own internal fatphobia challenged when Amadi sets her up on a date with one his best friends, Will who is played by Cameron Britton (who has massively impressed in the last few years in the likes of Mindhunter and The Umbrella Academy). She leaves the date from hell early to be with the man she thinks she likes more, Nick and although Annie’s love-life may be exciting, it sure ain’t plain sailing. One of the show’s greatest strengths continues to be the amazing outfits, especially for Annie, with highlights including a red strapless number she wears on a girls’ night out and the rainbow checkered dress she wears in the finale.
It looks like season three will be the final season of Shrill, which is a shame, but it will always be important to me and many other people for its depiction of a nuanced fat woman at the centre of her own show. The storylines mean she gets to have a complicated love life, career and relationships with family and friends that never takes an easy path or wraps things up in a neat bow. Shrill is as messy as real life and we should be grateful for its realistic depiction of being a woman in a modern newsroom, as well as the other aspects and challenges of contemporary life for millennials.
Ultimately, Shrill has been a love story between Annie and her best friend Fran and it shows that friends can be more important than family or romantic partners. I really hope that British actress Lolly Adefope has a hugely successful career after Shrill, because she’s been an undoubted highlight throughout. Aidy Bryant is a talented writer and director and it’s hoped that she can expand her career beyond SNL to take on a range of projects because Shrill has proven what she can do.
Shrill Season Three is available on Hulu from May 7, 2021.