Hacks, season 3, improving on excellence

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks

Hacks keeps getting better and better. In season 3 (season 4 has already been approved) the character growth and relationships deepen and become more revealing and more vulnerable. Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder lead a huge ensemble cast through 9 episodes of comedy and drama.

It’s been a year since season 2 of Hacks ended. Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is still riding on the spectacular success of her special. Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) is working on another show as writer and co-producer.

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks

Although Ava tries to avoid running into her former boss at a conference, they accidentally end up in an elevator together. The journey of season 3 is launched there.

Megan Stalter and Paul W. Downs in Hacks
Kayla might be better at her job than anyone thought.

Deborah is scheduled to be the subject of a roast. She asks Ava to work with her during the hiatus from her current show to get ready. When Deborah learns from her manager Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) and his disaster-prone assistant Kayla (Megan Salter) that a slot as a late night host is opening up, her entire focus turns to getting that hosting job.

Ava’s girlfriend breaks up with her because Ava cannot stop obsessing about what Deborah needs above her own needs and life.

Helen Hunt, Jean Smart, and Paul W. Downs in Hacks
Helen Hunt plays the head of the network

Deborah’s campaign for the host position puts her in all sorts of situations to stroke the egos of the folks in power. She meets with old contacts, plays in a golf tournament, and pulls every favor she can.

Deborah and Ava have such depth to their relationship in this season. Deborah is selfish and often cruel. Ava tries to help her understand how to treat people in the modern world, and why some of her old racist material from the past is a problem. They are closer and more honest with each other than ever before. It’s powerful watching these two actors do their thing with such well written material. In the final moments of the season we see how much Deborah has learned from Ava, and how much Ava has learned from Deborah.

An amazing array of talent shows up this season, often for only one episode. Some of those guests are Dan Bucatinsky, Christina Hendricks, Christopher Lloyd, Luke Macfarlane, Hal Linden, Deidre Hall, Tim Bagley, Tony Goldwyn, Patton Oswalt, several famous comics playing themselves, and the cast of The View. I thought the action between Christina Hendricks’ character and Ava at the golf tournament was a wonderful twisty surprise and a hilarious highlight of the season.

Deborah attempted to do better with her daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson) and her husband-stealing sister Kathy (J. Smith-Cameron). She wasn’t very good at it. Deborah’s business manager Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) wasn’t happy with the way things were going in her pursuit of the late night slot. There are many subdramas and twists in the 9 episodes.

The thing I love about Hacks is even the subplots and smallest encounters have substance and meaning. Everyone gets a moment to shine.

Hacks was created by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky. Women directors in season 3 were Lucia Aniello and Jessica Brunetto. Max has all three seasons of Hacks available now. It’s absolutely one of the finest things on television. If you aren’t watching it, I suggest you give it a try.

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