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Max Review: ‘Hacks’ is as Fantastic and Funny as Ever in Season 3

Hacks TV Series

It’s been almost two full years since the second season of Hacks concluded, and the long wait for season three has absolutely been worth it. Picking up just one year after the events of season two, this comedy feels just as fresh as when it started, taking its characters to new heights as they explore their latest challenges and setbacks. It’s great to have the show back, and there’s clearly much more terrific story to tell.

Its title has always referenced its two main characters who, despite competing separately in the lead and supporting categories at awards shows, really do share an equal focus of the show’s attention. They’ve never been on equal footing, however, and that definitely hasn’t changed this season. In fact, it presents a new source of conflict since things are actually looking pretty good both personally and professionally for Ava (Hannah Einbinder), in a positive place with her girlfriend Ruby (Lorenza Izzo) and working somewhere where her talents are actually appreciated. But the allure of being back with Deborah (Jean Smart) is just too strong, and it’s not long before they’re reunited by a chance meeting and comedy sparks begins to fly.

There’s a refreshing ease with which conversation sparks between Ava and Deborah, in part because of the newfound dynamic where the sarcastic young writer no longer works for the veteran stand-up comedian. After Deborah asks everyone around her about a dress she loves and receives nothing but enthusiastic affirmation, Ava quickly demonstrates that she’s merely being appeased by those who don’t want to make her angry since they’re on her payroll. Asking for a bellhop who’s clearly gay to be the deciding vote is an example of this show’s precise humor that knows exactly where to push in terms of its own comedy and where to show how its characters are stretching towards potentially offensive stereotypes they should probably opt not to indulge.

As Deborah strives to continue to strengthen her own career, a look back at her past is also informative as times have certainly changed. It’s fun to see how Ava’s influence has led to her gradual reckoning with her earlier and now problematic routines, and how much she fights back against them, particularly when she finds herself correcting someone else without even realizing that she’s internalized what Ava has attempted to teach her since their first meeting about gender identity and sexual orientation. Deborah is as horrified as Ava is excited, and it’s a joy to see them slowly and subtly influencing each other to change.

Smart, who took home Emmys for both of the show’s first seasons, is just as sharp and witty as when the show started, and she should easily be considered a major threat to win a third Best Actress prize this year. Einbinder’s supporting status remains debatable but the quality of her performance is not, and the occasional burst of ill-advised confidence Ava exudes makes it even more enticing to watch her. Together, they’re a formidable pair backed by standout supporting turns from Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Marcus, Paul W. Downs as Jimmy, and, hilarious as always, Megan Stalter as Kayla, Jimmy’s assistant who never fails to do something other than the task she’s been assigned to do. Guest spots from Christina Hendricks and Christopher Lloyd are particularly memorable.

The only drawback with Hacks is there isn’t enough of it, and the show’s nine episodes (one fewer than season one and one more than season two) will fly by. Dropping two installments a week through the standalone finale means the entire season will be over by the end of May, which means a renewed wait for a fourth round that inexplicably has yet to be ordered. Each half-hour episode is sufficiently satiating on its own, proving that creators Downs, Lucia Aniello, and Jen Statsky remain among the best in the business, just as skilled at making jokes as they are at telling an enthralling and endlessly entertaining story.

Series Rating: 9/10

Awards Buzz: There’s no question that Hacks will be a major part of the awards conversation, now going up against The Bear rather than Ted Lasso. Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder will absolutely be back on the list of nominees, and they’re likely to be joined by a handful of supporting and guest players too.

Check out our conversations with Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder and Jen Statsky from the show’s SXSW premiere!

Author

  • Abe Friedtanzer

    Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them.

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