Tuca & Bertie continues to burst with color, both literally and figuratively, in its third season. The show has always reveled in the sort of surreal comedy and storytelling popular at its current network, Adult Swim, and that isn’t always rewarded at its original home of Netflix (not that Adult Swim is perfect—RIP, Joe Pera Talks With You). With its wacky characters, fever dream animation, and heartfelt stories, Tuca & Bertie serves as a welcome respite from reality.
A quick refresher: in Season 2, Bertie (Ali Wong) learned how nonlinear the healing process is, Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) dated (and was dumped by) the manipulative Kara, and Speckle (Steven Yeun) went a little overboard fixing up his and Bertie’s dream home. All the while, soulless Moss was gentrifying Birdtown, until a catastrophic flood washed it away. In the three episodes from Season 3 available for review, Tuca & Bertie proves just as delightful as ever. Tuca has a new job and a new beau (voiced by Matthew Rhys), Bertie is trying to get her baking business off the ground, and Speckle is building affordable housing. The gang is back and ready for more hijinks (and meaningful personal reflection)!
Every 20-odd minutes spent in Birdtown is a treat thanks to the diligent work of the writers. The in-show universe is so wonderfully fleshed-out—there’s even a throwback in Season 3 to the Slow Walkers Parade from the series pilot. In a world so silly, it could be hard for emotional moments to land (I mean, Bertie gets swallowed by a snake and it’s considered a quotidian inconvenience). However, because the world of Birdtown and the inner worlds of the characters are so well-rounded, the more serious plot points actually work. In the first three episodes of this season, the show tackles addiction and chronic pain, while also joking about doctors using urine as currency. The writers pull off an incredible balancing act; the show is absurd and funny, but with a gooey emotional core.
The cast also keeps the show vibrant. Wong is a particular standout as Bertie; her vocal highs and lows perfectly capture her character’s pendulum swing between overwhelming anxiety and utter enthusiasm. Haddish imbues Tuca with so much life, whether she’s languishing from period cramps or leading a raucous tour of Birdtown. The pair have a rare and captivating chemistry together. And as for Speckle, he could be cloying if played wrong, but Yeun makes him one of the most endearing characters on the show.
These episodes will make you laugh, they’ll make you cry, and they’ll make you crave bug bundts (sounds gross, but trust me, they look good). Tuca & Bertie’s third season proves that entertaining, hilarious, and downright weird television doesn’t have to sacrifice heart.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.