'Starstruck' Season 3 Review: HBO Max Comedy Returns In Full Force

‘Starstruck’ Season 3 Review: HBO Max Comedy Returns In Full Force

Engaging in a love affair with a movie star might fulfill your wildest fantasies if you happen to indulge in romantic daydreams about a glamorous life, but in the hilarious and heartfelt comedy “Starstruck,” Jessie (series writer/creator Rose Matafeo) has already been down that road. In the show’s first season, she finds herself in a string of meet-cutes with A-list actor Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). Though the pair decided to give their relationship a real chance at the end of the first season, the second season, which is much more tonally subdued and melancholy, showcased the fractures in their bond, eventually leading to a breakup. In the third season, Tom and Jessie find themselves in different spaces, but are circling the perimeter of each other’s lives just the same. 

That third season of the London-set “Starstruck” picks up where Season 2 ended, after Jessie and Tom’s dramatic kiss as they stood in the center of a filthy pond. Within the premiere’s first five minutes, a quick montage pulls the audience through the following year of their relationship, which has a promising start. Jessie moves into Tom’s flat, and they seem enthusiastic about giving their partnership another chance. Unfortunately, the same issues arise between them as the months press forward. After much distance and friction, their relationship ends again with a final embrace. 

“Starstruck” then zips forward two years into the future. Jessie poses for photos at her best friend Kate’s (Emma Sidi) wedding to her loveable but awkward husband, Ian (Al Roberts). Eager to get the heavily pregnant bride through her special day so that she can rid herself of her maid of honor duties, Jessie is thrown into panic when Kate tells her that Tom will be attending the reception. An awkward reunion ensues between the movie star and the cinema manager, during which he reveals that he’s engaged to be married. Later, Jessie locks lips with Liam (Lorne MacFadyen), an adorable electrician who shares her sense of humor. 

With a much lighter tone than the previous installment, “Starstruck” Season 3  is enveloped by the same humor that made its freshman season so enjoyable. However, as Tom and Jessie orbit around each other this go-round, there is a sense of maturity and elevation. Tom is planning his wedding to A-list actress Clem (Constance Labbé), who, much to Jessie’s horror, is warm and wonderful. Meanwhile, Jessie and Liam are trying to figure out whether they have a chance at a real relationship. Yet, the former couple can’t seem to keep their distance from each other. 

For anyone who has ever found themselves inexplicably drawn to another human being, the deep, enticing chemistry between Jessie and Tom is a hypnotic throughline throughout the season. Their connection simmers even when an ending feels inevitable. Along with Matafeo and Patel, the “Starstruck” ensemble gets to shine this season. Since Ian and Kate’s baby is on the way, Jessie moves in with Joe (Joe Barnes), her former manager whose impending divorce makes him both chaotic and beautifully vulnerable. An incident involving an Ikea bedframe crammed in a tiny bathroom is truly a joyous scene of television. An iconic appearance by Minnie Driver as Tom’s agent, Cath, a shocking confession at a bachelor party and an ill-fated country getaway are also highlights of the season.

Viewers are given a window into the lives of Jessie’s friends, Steve (Nic Sampson) and Sarah (Lola-Rose Maxwell), who are exhausted parents to a precocious toddler. Also, Jessie and Kate’s mutual fears about the impending changes in their friendship once Kate’s baby is born sit at the heart of the show. 

The first two seasons of “Starstruck” centered on the will-they/won’t-they of Jessie and Tom. Season 3 is a love letter to Jessie’s friends and how their friendships have shifted and adjusted for marriages, divorces, babies, moves and every other life-altering thing that comes with adulting. Jessie’s friend, Sindhu (Sindhu Vee), amid her hostile candor, even gives voice to the unpartnered, who are often expected to compromise when surrounded by couples. 

In addition to the sharp wit of the series that leads to many laugh-out-loud moments, “Starstruck” is elevated by its pacing and use of time. With short six-episode seasons that run 30 minutes or less, the show has never been afraid to use a time jump. This boldness enables the series to reset and showcase characters in entirely new phases of their lives. Jessie has aged from 28 during the pilot to 33 by the end of this season. In this time, everything has changed for her, including the dynamics in her friend group. Jessie’s handling of these shifts showcases the character’s growth. 

“Starstruck” gets to the heart of what makes likes life such a mindfuck. Some people stick to your ribs, but the ones that seep into your soul are hard to shake, even when true freedom means letting them go. As Jessie also learns, there’s no “right” way to navigate experiences; the only thing to do is to settle on a direction and go with it.  

Season 3 of “Starstruck” premieres Sept. 28 on Max.