Physical season three
Physical’s initial release presented a series in which internal monologues of the darkest and meanest thoughts a person could ever have about themselves and everyone around them were realised and said out loud by main character Sheila (Ross Byrne). It had lots of potential; tackling the idea of being pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside, exploring women’s unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and body image, and how empowering physical fitness could be at a time when men dominated in all other aspects. But three seasons in and it’s still using the same tired methods it heavily relied on the previous two to exhibit something like an engaging story.
The constant back-and-forth and character regression Sheila faces in the transitions from season to season are lazy excuses to thrum up tension and create more drama. It seems every time the show finds the right note move on with Sheila’s story, unnecessary obstacles and potholes appear out of nowhere just to provide something to write about for the next release. While the journey to recovery – especially from an eating disorder – is not an easy task, there’s nothing profound about how cyclical Physical’s handling of its protagonist’s development is. Once she reaches the mountaintop, her triumph over her husband, Danny, and her disregard for her friends and the people who helped her along the way become stale story points that repeat over the course of the three seasons. Sheila’s lack of character development due to her consistent regression is summarised in one line: “This is who I’ve always been Danny, I just never let you see it before.”
Zooey Deschanel is a refreshing and energetic addition to the show, giving a different voice to Sheila’s insecurities and distinct inner thoughts – a reflection of how often humans to project their lack of self-worth onto other people’s successes. Another positive aspect is provided in the solid aesthetics: the soundtrack is energetic, funny, quirky and dramatic, and underlines the 80s time period; the pastel and neon world, with its brightly coloured outfits and super-saturated filter, clashes with the heavy topic of eating disorders, the darkly satirical comedic tone, and Sheila’s gradual descent into madness. Her outfits become indicative of her state of mind as she sheds her previously vibrant palette for something more sultry and grungy. That’s why, despite its mediocre and recycled storytelling, Physical is still an interesting watch.
Physical season three is released on Apple TV+ on 2nd August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Physical season three here: