One Day At A Time: Season 3 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Title Card for One Day At A Time

One Day At A Time season 3 is a whirlwind of positive emotions that leaves us on a finale which will make you clamor for a season 4.

One Day At A Time season 3 is a whirlwind of positive emotions that leaves us on a finale which will make you clamor for a season 4.

Creator Gloria Calderon Kellett

Mike Royce

Good If You Like Experiencing laughing, crying, and receiving a message all in one episode

Notable season to season growth and story development

Isn’t For You If You Don’t like characters who are purely comic relief or love interests
Noted Cast
Tito Danny Pino
Schneider Todd Grinnell
Penelope Justina Machado
Dr. Berkowitz Stephen Tobolowsky
Lydia Rita Moreno
Elena Isabella Gomez
Alex Marcel Ruiz
Syd Sheridan Pierce
Estrellita Melissa Fumero
Pilar Stephanie Beatriz
Mirtha Gloria Estefan
Victor James Martinez
Ramona Judy Reyes
Jill Haneefah Wood
Avery India de Beaufort
Berto Tony Plana
Mateo Alex Quijano
Schneider’s Dad Alan Ruck
Nicole Gloria Calderon Kellett

Season Summary

As with previous seasons, the Alvarez family, their landlord Schneider, and Penelope’s boss Dr. Berkowitz go through quite the whirlwind over a handful of months. Penelope is studying to be a nurse practitioner, dealing with her anxiety, depression, and also trying to date again. Lydia is feeling the effects of aging and, as usual, is in constant conflict with Penelope and Elena for their different takes on society and a woman’s role in it. Alex? Well, outside of a drug thing, and him getting one of the many talks men of color get, he is given a barebones storyline as usual. Then with Elena? Well, she and Syd talk about having sex, she tries to get her driver’s license, Victor comes back, and she addresses their issues, and then there are her usual social justice warrior proclamations which create either teachable moments, jokes, or ire.

Following the core Alvarez group are the honorary members of Dr. B and Schneider. Between the two, Schneider has a stupendous season with highs coming in the form of how he has legitimately integrated himself into the Alvarez family, as well as lows in the form of his father showing up. But, while he leans on the Alvarez family heavily, he also has a few touching moments with Dr. B as well. Especially since they both see each other as a father or son figure, thus giving them both what is absent in their life.


Meeting and Addressing Tito (Penelope’s Brother)

Tito (Danny Pino) telling Penelope why he wasn't around before.
Tito (Danny Pino): You’re the superwoman.

With there being approximately a year gap between seasons, it is easy to forget little details like Penelope not being Lydia’s only child. So with the arrival of Tito, and the show addressing his absence, and what it was like for Penelope to shoulder everything, we got some beautiful moments. Most of which benefit Justina Machado who seems to be able to cry on command.

For alongside addressing her issues with her brother, there is also a considerable amount of commentary about Latinx culture. The primary example being how Penelope seemingly was expected to take all that on and how easily Tito was forgiven. He wasn’t around much for when Berto was dying and skipped out on being there when Lydia was in trouble. Yet, you can bet your behind if Penelope tried to do the same she’d experience massive shame in the family.

Pushing one of the many reasons you have to love One Day At A Time, which is that it isn’t just about highlighting the best and beautiful parts of Latinx culture. It also, in a very critical way sometimes, addresses the worst parts of it. Especially when it comes to inequality.

Penelope & Schneider’s Relationship

Schneider talking to the family about his relapse.
Schneider: They say while you’re staying sober, your disease is doing push-ups.

The relationship between Penelope and Schneider has two purposes this season. One being a friendship that allows Penelope to mentally function and with Schneider relapsing, we get a taste of what Penelope went through with Victor. The second part is essential for the show doesn’t use a whole lot of flashbacks this season, and none in regards to how Victor was as a drunk. So us seeing Penelope react to reliving that all over again gives Machado one of her many moments to shine.

However, another important part about the second part is how it correlates with the first. In Penelope’s group sessions, she pretty much lays out how she relies on Schneider when she needs a pick me up. Though she may date Mateo, and other men, as well as have a massive family, it is this eccentric white guy she turns to when she feels at her lowest. So after him being there for her time and time again, her being able to return the favor was sweet.

Much less, her nothing that while it may take a bit to earn her trust back, she isn’t going to abandon him just because he slipped and lied.

Queer Teen Girls Talking About Sex, And Penelope’s Worries About It

Elena expressing disappointment when she learns Syd has had sex before.
Elena: I thought this was gonna be both of our first times.

Often, it feels that gay men dominate the queer landscape and conversation. Especially those who are white. This puts Elena in a unique and rarely seen position for while we see adult lesbians of all colors, teens are in lower numbers. So while Elena does a bit much when it comes to her fight for justice, you have to appreciate her both embracing stereotypes and confronting them.

On top of that, you have to appreciate the role her aunt Pilar plays in the idea of being gay only being central to your identity when you are young, and then you grow out of it. Eventually, you just so happen to be with a woman, and it isn’t a big deal to anyone but outsiders. Though, I’d be remiss to not mention Penelope’s issue with Elena having sex.

Another thing not really talked about is protection when it comes to sex between women and the details which aren’t sexy. That isn’t really gone into this season either. However, Penelope acknowledging how complicated it is to talk about when there is no penetration with a penis brings about a rare topic to a rather large platform.

Supermom No More

Penelope crying.

Penelope is the type who tries to relieve everyone of their stress while she is struggling. To a certain degree, Lydia is the same way as it is established that anxiety runs in the family, just in different ways. But, the big to do is Penelope further establishing she can’t do it all. In the last season, it was shown by the family taking on more chores, and this one deals with Penelope opening up about her mental illness. Not to the point of talking about suicidal thoughts and all that, but giving her family enough info to identify when someone is having an attack and giving them the tools to help.

Prime example: Anxiety seems to only be an issue for the women of Alex’s family so with learning his mom suffers from anxiety, and sister, he gains the empathy and knowledge needed to help. So when Elena has an attack before her driver’s exam, he helps her out. Heck, he even helps Dr. B when he is starting to lose it a bit. Thus showing how important it is to say something. For representation, whether in real life or in media, sparks something. If not a conversation, perhaps understanding.

Victor & Elena

Elena and Victor dancing at his wedding.

Take Victor. He meets a woman named Nicole, and with her having a gay sibling, it forces him to really address his aversion to homosexuals. For while he somehow found it within himself to distance himself from his own daughter, Nicole was too precious to him to give up. Thus bringing a rather sad storyline in which you realize both Elena and Penelope had to get Victor’s worse for him to get better.

Yet, from season 1 till now, we see so much growth because of what Victor is exposed to and his willingness to change. Making for a really touching moment when he and Elena don’t fully reconcile but definitely reach a turning point. I’m talking a tear-inducing turning point.

Low Points

A Conversation About Hair Was Missed

Lydia's hair wet and curly.

In episode 6, Lydia gets hits by a rainstorm and her natural hair is out. Now, being that the family doesn’t have the curliest of hair or features which could be deemed as Black, seeing Lydia with a bit of a fro opened the door to talk about being Afro-Latinx. However, no one walked through that door, and the opportunity passed.

So, About Penelope’s Family Who Are Around One Episode

Is it wrong to be mad we got to meet Mirtha, her daughter Estrellita, who is a Latinx republican, and Pilar for only one episode? I get Gloria not sticking around, but at the very least, Estrellita would have been awesome for an arc. Latinx republicans exist, and having her voice could have brought something to the show. Especially since she wasn’t portrayed in the same light as Schneider’s father so maybe, similar to how Ana was supposed to be in Grown-ish, she could have presented a conservative viewpoint without being a villain.

On The Fence

It’s Still Rushing Through Topics And Feels Like A After School Special

Whether it is Penelope talking to Alex about him doing drugs and experimenting is more dangerous than his white friends, talking about gentrification, Schneider’s relapse, and so much more, there remains the vibe some topics are rushed through. Thus not giving them their proper due or, like with the hair thing, just ignoring them altogether.

Penelope’s Support Group

Penelope in support group.
Not all techniques work for all people.

While we know Ramona fairly well, and Jill is always cracking a joke, it kind of stunk the rest didn’t really get to leave an impact on the show. They had their moments, like relating to issues with their mother, PTSD, and things like that, but they weren’t necessarily all given a moment to be in the sun, have some form of a storyline, and things like that. Which sucks since they seemed interesting enough to know, but nothing was written for them to make their name easily rememberable.

Avery & Dr. B

Both Avery and Dr. B are welcome parts of the show but rarely go above being jokes or, in Avery’s case, a love interest. Which sucks in a way for with Avery being rich, yet holding a teacher’s job, it leads you to wonder why? Also, being that we haven’t seen Schneider in love and what that does to him, it would have been nice to see more of her.

Then with Dr. B? I just wished he wasn’t made to be such a joke. Especially since he has genuine moments. One which sticks out is him hanging with Schneider and telling one another they are like the son and father they never had. Also, off camera, Dr. B seems on the way to maybe reconciling with his daughter, but we don’t get to see it in action. Thus giving us many missed opportunities with both characters, despite what sometimes seemed like a long season.

Overall Season Rating

Positive (Watch This)

Lydia and Dr. B in Cuba.

While at times frustrating due to underdeveloped characters and missed opportunities, One Day At A Time remains one of the premiere shows on Netflix. It goes beyond bringing a Latinx voice to the platform and provides an experience like few shows can compare to. From the jokes and laughter Lydia, Schneider, and others bring, to the tear-inducing moments Penelope gives nearly every other episode. Truly, One Day At A Time deserves its own pedestal and enough seasons for us to see Elena and Alex graduate before ending.

Leading to why the positive label. Despite some qualms, the growth we see from season to season is notable and makes it so, no matter how small a storyline, we see it snowball into something bigger. Each action has a follow-up, and it makes it so you feel rewarded for being loyal to the show and new viewers are likely pushed to watch old episodes. Also, there are so few shows which have the ability to take you from laughing to crying, to having a serious talk, and then follow that up with a cultural specific moment which has a taste of universality to it. Offhand, only One Day At A Time does that and that is why you should definitely watch this.

Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Nope

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