TV Review – ‘Physical’ Reaches a New Level in its Terrific Third and Final Season

TV Review – ‘Physical’ Reaches a New Level in its Terrific Third and Final Season

Over the course of its first two seasons, Apple TV+’s Physical has chronicled the immersion of its protagonist, Sheila (Rose Byrne), in the world of aerobics as she combats a severe eating disorder and a crippling inner voice that constantly tells her how worthless she is. It’s certainly been a journey, one full of intense moments and a great deal of growth. As the show works its way through its third and final season, Sheila has finally found success, but faces a new nemesis in the form of a rival aerobics personality who officially takes up residence in her head space, determined to knock her back down to where she started.

Zooey Deschanel joins the cast as Kelly Kilmartin, a bubbly star who Sheila sees on television with exactly the kind of following she’d love to have. Just after Sheila watches her on television, Kelly appears next to her, sporting an exaggerated Southern accent and a heavily critical attitude. As Sheila makes her own foray into television and seeks to expand her business, Kelly is always there to remind her of the self-doubt she thought she left behind. It’s an interesting narrative device, replacing Sheila’s own voice inside her head with an out-of-body representation of everything she fears. It’s also an impressive departure for Deschanel, known for playing plucky, likeable characters like the title role in Fox’s New Girl, and she delivers on an entirely new level.

Zooey Deschanel in “Physical,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Season three also allows for a welcome focus on three supporting players. Danny (Rory Scovel) is on his own journey of self-empowerment now that he and Sheila are separated, not that his ego ever needed a boost. His discovery of running as a pastime when he chases after a man who moved his recycling to the wrong bin for miles is one such instance of him believing far too much in his own innate intelligence. Greta (Dierdre Friel) has the challenging task of working with Sheila without knowing everything that’s going on in her head and still having to prove her own worth to her husband Ernie (Ian Gomez). And Breem (Paul Sparks) is given the opportunity to soften, taking the time to try to understand his wife Maria (Erin Pineda) and her struggles while turning to Sheila for, of all things, marriage advice.

What’s sadly missing throughout this otherwise terrific final act is the presence of two sorely missed characters, Bunny (Della Saba) and Tyler (Lou Taylor Pucci), who were sent off on a new direction at the end of season two, apparently not to return. It’s not clear what their arcs would have been in connection with other events, but they were so crucial to the tone and vibe of the first two seasons that it’s a shame not to see them close out the show with the rest of the cast. Fortunately, there are worthwhile additions, including José Zúñiga as a new love interest for Sheila and Casey Wilson as Danny’s sister Deb.

Rose Byrne in “Physical,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

In its final season, Physical feels just as intense, with its signature in-your-face cinematography adding considerable depth to each scene and pulling even more emotion. Sheila’s mental health journey is a fascinating and often frightening one to follow, and this season doesn’t shy away from the darker moments she experiences and the desperation she feels when all the hard work she has put in feels like it may never be enough to truly course-correct. But there is still a spark of humor to be found in the way that this questionably categorized “comedy” series charts its course, and Byrne is excellent as ever, embodying Sheila with an unpredictable nervous energy that makes her a fascinating lead character.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

New episodes of Physical premiere Wednesdays on Apple TV+ through the series finale on September 27th.

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