There’s plenty to unpack in the long-awaited return of Review, which aired its last episode in October 2015. After miraculously surviving his fall from a bridge, life critic Forrest MacNeil (Andy Daly) believes more zealously than ever that his work is his purpose for living, and that zeal carries him through a trio of bizarre experiences in a compelling season three premiere. “Locorito / Pet Euthanasia / Dream” manages to lay out a number of intriguing subplots in shockingly efficient fashion while still delivering the kind of delirious absurdity that makes Review so fun to watch despite its practically ever-present darkness.
There are echoes of reviews gone by throughout this episode: Forrest’s first review, “Eating the Locorito from Neatos Taquitos,” hearkens back to his unforgettable misadventures in pancake consumption; “Putting a Pet to Sleep” quite resembles “Quitting Your Job,” if only in that Forrest grows attached to the thing that his review requires him to terminate, only acquiescing after being spurred onward by his producer Grant (James Urbaniak); and the episode-ending “Making Your Dream Come True” is reminiscent of when Forrest made his son Eric’s ill-advised dream come true back in season two. These allusions, easily observable by dedicated Review viewers, would suggest that a lesser show was running out of creative road, but here, they provide a strangely comforting sense that Review is coming full circle—that ultimately, maybe Forrest is capable of learning from his past mistakes, and has a brighter future ahead of him.
But the most fascinating element of this episode, and the one that threatens to undercut that hopefulness, is the apparent introduction of Forrest as an unreliable narrator. There is clearly something being hidden here: Forrest refers to his and Grant’s fall from the bridge in last season’s finale as “accidental” when it was anything but, and he seems fine with being treated more poorly than ever by his increasingly supervillain-like producer. The paranoia of last season’s “Conspiracy Theory,” which ended the second season on such a frightening note by threatening to unravel the show’s very fabric, is still alive and well here, but it’s lurking just beneath the surface, which is even more frightening, especially because Forrest appears complicit in its continued existence. He kowtows to Grant at every turn, all while putting on a brave face—but why? What exactly happened in those woods?
I digress—those questions are sure to be answered as Review’s final season continues. Just as important, if not more so, is the impeccable blend of horror and humor that this show does so well, this episode being no exception whatsoever. The clever and stomach-turning “Eating the Locarito from Neatos Taquitos” finds Forrest availing himself of a hoarder to acquire a six-month-old fast-food burrito from a now-defunct restaurant chain—it went out of business while he and Grant were stranded in the wilderness—and though Forrest’s physical suffering in itself is quite funny, the review hits its stride when, while violently ill, he is called in for jury selection in his murder trial, which, on top of everything else, is still a thing. Forrest barely keeps it together … for about 10 seconds, then expels concentrated awfulness out of both ends of his body, with a potential juror caught in the crossfire. It may be a relatively cheap one, but for me, this was the biggest laugh of the episode.
“Putting a Pet to Sleep” benefits, as all things do, from the inclusion of Beyonce, who in this case is not a world-beating pop superstar, but a bearded lizard whom Forrest must mark for death. With the help of his interns Josh (Michael Croner) and Tina (Hayley Huntley), Forrest learns to take care of Beyonce, bonding with the beast so as to have an authentic experience of putting a beloved pet out of its misery. Forrest’s miniature arc, in which he moves from indifference to Beyonce, to warming up to the animal, to being delighted by it, is genuinely affecting despite its silliness—Daly’s performance toes the line between humanity and absurdity so well that it’s just as easy to laugh at him as it is to cry along with him when his lizard bites the dust.
The episode ends on the surreal and surprisingly sweet “Making Your Dream Come True,” in which Forrest totally misconstrues what was meant as an altruistic review request—in opting to record and reenact an actual dream, rather than interpret the ask figuratively, as any normal person would have, the life reviewer misses a golden opportunity to do something nice for himself. Don’t make the same mistake he did—watch Review while you still can.
Scott Russell is Paste’s news editor and resident Review reviewer. He’s on Twitter, if you’re into tweets: @pscottrussell.