Please Like Me is probably the most adorable, realistic Australian show to come out in recent years, and yet, it’s nowhere near as popular as it should be. This series that started off as a show about a guy who realized he was gay and who struggled with his love life has quickly evolved into one big family of conflicted characters that have made the Season 3 finale, ‘Christmas Trifle’, the most entertaining 30 minutes of television I have watched this year.
WARNING: This review includes spoilers for the whole series
When thinking about things to say to review this third season, I can’t help but keep remembering things from ‘Christmas Trifle’. The thing is that this season finale was the perfect reflection of what this season has been and, in a way, the episode that makes everything make sense. Season 1 was superb and dealt with Josh’s homosexuality as well as introducing the main characters. Season 2 was probably my least favourite, as I felt that many of the things that made the show great were lost when Claire was sent away and the show decided to focus on characters from the mental hospital instead. Still, everything that happened previously is what made Season 3 possible and so, so awesome.
Hannah and Arnold are still here and their problems haven’t gone away. Even though Arnold is in a loving, sincere relationship with Josh and he has gotten better when it comes to dealing with social situations, he still has panic attacks if something very distressful happens to him (and Josh has mastered the art of keeping him calm). Hannah, despite having found a good friend and housemate in Rose, is still dealing with her depression and low self-esteem. Compared to the previous season, we didn’t get that many new characters this time, except for Ella and Ben. Ben was more present in conversations than on camera and Ella seemed like a copy of Niahm at times, although much more likeable. The truth is that this season didn’t need to introduce many new characters as it already had all the right elements. And we didn’t need to make that Christmas dinner any more stressful, thank you very much.
There was one big difference this time around: Josh has an actual boyfriend. Not a stand-alone, nor a “friends with benefits” situation. Josh loves Arnold and he’s finally vocal about his feelings. He understands him and his needs, and he’s not only his lover, but also his friend. This is a very important step for Josh in his love life, especially when you consider he could barely take care of himself or make up his mind in the first season. Still, you can tell that Thomas (I mean the writer here) had to make some rearrangements, like having them have an open relationship so that Josh could still be seen with other guys. In this case, Ben (who happened to look exactly like Geoffrey!). I’m not sure where Josh and Arnold stand after that last episode, but hopefully, it’s a “talk later” situation, rather than them taking a break or even breaking up.
Perhaps the weakest part of this season would be Josh’s parents, Alan and Rose. While I think their stories were very entertaining in the first season, I didn’t feel the same about them this time around. I could tell that Mae cheating on Alan was made to create some sort of conflict to make the story progress but, other than that, nothing more relevant happened. Rose is still on her medication, but she’s getting better and she’s also a good company for Hannah. At least she’s not suicidal anymore.
Season 3 was wonderful because it included all the elements that make this such a great show: its characters. This is not a show that focuses on a big story or big events happening, but rather on the characters development, their relationships and their reactions to the things that happen. Among the highlights of this season: all of them singing Adele, Arnold recreating a scene from Love Actually, running for no reason while being high or Alan asking Josh if he’s a good father while talking on the roof. We also had time for some real, taboo conversations that are so rare on television, from Claire’s abortion to Ella talking about her vagina being “out” and how all vaginas are beautiful. The show doesn’t need anything else, as it’s already great at telling it like it is.
But the realest moment came in ‘Christmas Trifle’, which was a perfect reflection of what this season has been. This was a season in which it seemed like everyone had finally settled down and like all the characters were actually OK with their situation… except not. Let’s be honest, these people pick on each other A LOT. And that can seem fine and comedic when you’re among friends and you know it’s supposed to be a joke, but there’s always a limit. Some things can actually hurt, and sometimes there’s just things that you don’t want to talk about. Aside from delivering one of the most awkward, stressful Christmas diner scenes I have ever seen, this whole episode also served to showcase just how much Josh’s character has grown. I believe this is the first time that we see Josh, actual sunshine and always-cheerful Josh, get worked up over something and telling people off. That really caught me off guard. Josh actually went on and listed all the problems that came up not only during this episode, but that have also been dragging on all season. And, when you think about it, there’s actually a lot: Ben, Mae’s methods of parenting, Claire being alone, Tom
and Ella‘s issues, Hanna, Arnold’s anxiety… Many of these things are not laughing matters, and the time has come for Josh to say “enough”.
The thing is that, as surprising as Josh’s speech was, it didn’t come out of nowhere. We have actually seen a much more mature Josh this season, not only because he’s made up his mind about his sexuality and his love life, but because he’s also taken the role of caretaker of everyone else, from solving their parents’ problems, to being there for Claire, helping Arnold through his panic attacks or even feeling responsible for Ben. The last thing he needed was everyone criticizing his Christmas cooking.
Every season of Please Like Me seems to have a different feel to it. Season 3 was a natural progression for this series in which every little conflict seemed to be over… except they were not. I guess that’s why for the most part of the season I had the feeling that the show didn’t have anything else to offer and that it didn’t live up to the expectations created in the first season. Apparently, the reason for that is because many of the feelings were being bottled up and many of the conflicts were slowly and quietly being built in the background only to finally explode in this finale, allowing us to see Josh acting like the only real adult in that room. How the tables have turned!