5 Screenwriting Takeaways: The final season of 'Shrill' delivers laughs and pathos
June 8, 2021
"S/hot Girl Summer” is upon us and Shrill's third season seems like good timing as people contemplate rejoining society as well as how to date in a post-pandemic world. While Annie (aka Aidy Bryant) isn’t having to embrace a post-pandemic world, she’s still going through much of what the world is feeling after a monumental event—in her case, a break-up and lots of work change—and how do you carry on?
Here are your five screenwriting takeaways from the latest (and likely final) season of Shrill that struggles to answer how to keep on keeping on.
1. Annie is single and free. Much of Shrill's third season focuses on Annie’s dating life. She finally gets the courage to end her longtime on-and-off-again relationship with Ryan (Luka Jones), which brings a lot of comedy and complications now that Ryan is employed at Annie’s newspaper. Nevertheless, Annie is ready to juggle a lot of “nasty boys.” And as Fran’s delightful girlfriend puts it, “keep a lot of little pots cooking.” Annie does so as she dives back into the dating world headfirst. Her first experience is not great, as her insecure date, Joe (played by a very funny Whitmer Thomas) tries to make a sex move with rib juice on his hands, causing Annie to bail. Meanwhile, she has a delightful crush on Nick (Anthony Oberbeck) who makes biting a string off Annie’s skirt look very sexy. Ultimate takeaway: Delightful awkward romance writing always deserves a place on television.
2. Blindspots can lead to Ccmedic delight. Annie is often consumed in this season with size. As she finds her voice as a journalist, she knows in her heart bigger can be better, but that doesn’t mean a reminder of being a fat woman won’t still spring up in her daily life. In a heartbreaking episode, Annie is dismayed when Amadi (Ian Owens) sets her up on a date with his friend Will (Cameron Britton) and Annie is so upset that she figures Amadi only paired them due to their size. Annie doesn’t initially give Will a chance and mistakenly sends him a text message informing him she’s on the worst date ever. Britton breaks hearts instantly when he mentions: “I knew I wasn’t knocking it out of the park, but I didn’t think I was doing that badly.” Annie also battles stigmas at work when during a “brain jail” session a coworker asks if she’d like to write a piece on “fat women who hike.” Annie declines and takes a pitch instead on a cultish group to work outside of expectations. It’s refreshing to watch a character struggle with her own prejudices while also fighting against them. Activism within writing is not black and white and people are nuanced, and it’s refreshing to see Annie actively work through her own blindspots.
3. Everyone needs a Fran. Annie and Fran’s (Lolly Adefope) relationship has always been a focal point of the show, but in season three, Fran and Annie are there for each other through even more ups and downs. They are each other’s confidants, cheerleaders, consolers, and ultimate roommates. Fran makes one actually pine for the days of a roommate relationship—but only if that roommate could be as wonderful as Fran. Fran remains to have excellent taste in dating, continues to strongly stand up for herself, and makes friends wherever she goes (even if it’s with the queen of the salon who’d rather not speak to anyone else but her customers). Since there may be no more seasons of Shrill, might we suggest a Fran spin-off? Fran and Friends?
4. Men are not always what a gal needs. While Annie’s diving head-first into romance is admirable, her newfound confidence and girl friendships are just as fun to watch. Just a small suggestion, Hulu, before you let Annie go, could there possibly be more nights out with Ruthie (Patti Harrison) and Maureen (Jo Firestone)? Kudos to the writers for having every line these two utter be pure comedic genius. Major takeaway: Never underestimate hysterically funny supporting characters.
5. Open-ended isn't a bad way to conclude. Shrill is absolutely ending on a high note, even though the show started with Annie struggling with her professional and personal life, and it’s ending with no struggles concluding on either front. While this show definitely deserves another season, it’s not so bad to end on a very realistic note. In real life, our professional and personal struggles don’t end up tied neatly in a bow with a simple life lesson. We may continue to struggle, but along the way, we might also get better tools to help us get through. Annie’s life feels similar. Her self-confidence blossoms. She finds her voice, but life doesn’t magically get easier, and there’s comfort in that.
Final Takeaway: Shrill may not have had a flashy or catchy hook aside from the fact that it’s based on a book by Lindy West, but it did have heart, pathos and a whole lot of comedy (not to mention some of the best dialogue writers around). Annie—and Aidy—will be missed in a narrative format, and hopefully, if Shrill indeed does not return, it’s just the beginning for realistic comedies with a side of hysterical laughing medicine.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/