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Hacks Season 3 Review | Polished to Perfection and Loaded with Laughs

Hacks Season 3 Review | Polished to Perfection and Loaded with Laughs


  • Season 3 of
    delivers deeper explorations of personal growth and relationships but is funnier than ever.
  • The one-year time jump resets everything for the better, leading to new opportunities as supporting characters grow.
  • The dynamic between Deborah and Ava evolves, paving the way for hilarious misadventures ahead.

The frenzy and fury have tempered in Season 3 of Hacks, but the Emmy-winning comedy still packs a punch in what surely will go down as one its best offerings yet. That’s a noteworthy feat considering the show is coming off an extended cliffhanger of sorts, one that began with the events that unfolded at the end of Season 2 and was further drawn out by two Hollywood strikes and Jean Smart’s heart surgery.

The show appears to be immune from those delays, and creators/co-showrunners Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky deliver a brilliant new season that touches more deeply on interpersonal relationships and its characters’ inner motivations and personal growth. (Or downfall). Season 2 ended with veteran stand-up comic Deborah Vance (Smart) firing the young scribe who helped drag her out of a creative slump. Letting Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) go would give the ambitious writer a chance to shine in new ways, but for viewers, it split up one of our favorite sparring TV duos.

Season 3 is fueled by a one-year time jump, which, delightfully, perhaps surprisingly, resets everything for the better. Deborah is still riding the waves of the successful stand-up special she and Ava crafted, and is now eyeing an opportunity of a lifetime. Meanwhile, Ava has become a co-producer on a trendy topical news show dubbed Last Week Tonight, feels more confident, and is enjoying her live-in girlfriend, who’s the star of a superhero series. The duo has moved on. But not for long.

Deborah and Ava Are Reunited by Fate




Hacks is an HBO-created comedy-drama series that follows two women, Deborah Vance and Ava Daniels, a comedian and a writer, who team up to revitalize their careers. When Deborah Vance realizes she’s about to lose her Las Vegas residency for her comedy act, she is sent a new writer named Ava, who has been essentially blacklisted from career opportunities due to a tweet sent out in poor taste. Both desperate to make things work, the two partner up, filling the gaps in each other’s lives professionally and personally.

Release Date
May 13, 2021


HBOMax, 3 Arts Entertainment, First Thought Productions, Fremulon

Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky

Streaming Service(s)

Lucia Aniello , Desiree Akhavan , Paul W. Downs

At Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival, a chance encounter in an elevator changes everything. Suddenly, Deborah and Ava come face to face. Pleasantries are exchanged. It’s awkward. After all, the duo had been so wickedly intertwined while plotting Deborah’s big comeback. They also know what lurks beneath the veneer. Deborah can’t help but notice Ava’s questionable attire. Ava can’t shake the fact that Deborah hadn’t texted her back in nearly a year. When the elevator door opens, Deborah says goodbye and heads to her room. But Ava’s neither going down or up. She finds herself knocking on Deborah’s door, and once she’s inside the hotel room, it doesn’t take long for the pair’s emotional walls to crumble and let each other have it.

This not-so-cute re-meet generates ripple effects neither Deborah nor Ava saw coming. When a chance to become the new host of a popular nighttime talk show emerges, Deborah wants to jump on it. Ava is on hiatus from her show. Perhaps there is an opportunity to collaborate here. Soon enough, the duo is back at it, comically bouncing ideas off each other, giddily texting, and creating great material.

But there’s something new in this iteration of Deborah and Ava. For starters, Ava is more grounded and confident. They meet each other on more neutral grounds, and the show’s ability to handle that with such great nuance brings about a new kind of creative maturity to the outing, overall. It also brings with it some real-life believability, which weaves itself through the entire season.



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Hacks Is Funny but Keeps Things Real

Let’s start with Ava’s girlfriend, who is shocked to learn that she would even go back to Deborah, which, in turn, triggers Ava’s overall commitment issues in relationships. Meanwhile, in Deborah’s camp, several personal story arcs find her having to confront her own past actions and either take ownership of them or continue holding onto her resentments.

One of them involves her tarnished relationship with her recovering addict daughter, DJ (Kaitlin Olson, worthy of an Emmy nom), the other with her sister, Kathy (J. Smith-Cameron), a longtime thorn in her side. Deborah’s ex left her for Kathy and the running gag is that Deborah burned down her sister’s house because of it (not true). That fracture came at a time when Deborah was up for a prominent TV show gig, but everything went south after that. Which makes the current opportunity even more potent. Could Deborah Vance be the first female late-night talk show host?

Meanwhile, Deborah and Ava’s L.A. managers Jimmy (Downs) and Kayla (Meg Stalter), the best quirky platonic duo, have grown, too. Jimmy has accepted Kayla’s eccentricities and Kayla seems to have tapped into her own unique superpower. The duo offers a fabulous touch of wackiness to the season, overall. Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) continues to evolve as well. The show has been leading Marcus to consider new frontiers and this season, particularly, it’s lovely to see this character come into his own. One Palm Springs-centered episode, which finds Marcus overseeing part of Deborah’s branding, is downright hilarious.


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Setting Up Season 4 and Beyond

If you’re wondering if the comedy still measures up, it does. More so than ever. Jean Smart is bound to get another Emmy nomination and/or a win. Smart is one of the finest comedic actresses around and she has helped create an iconic TV character with Deborah Vance. Hannah Einbinder is creatively on fire this season, having hit her stride, nicely filling out the complexities of her ever-evolving character.

Notable themes throughout the season include misogyny, ageism, LGBTQ+ diversity, and the madcap swirl of unpredictability that befalls show business. Look for a scene-stealing turn from guest star Helen Hunt, playing a no-nonsense exec who could be a valuable ally for Deborah. Christina Hendricks and Christopher Lloyd pop in, too, to our delight.

Bottom line: Hacks has emerged as a show that proudly knows itself. Like several great comedies before it which also found their footing in seasons two and beyond — Schitt’s Creek, Will & Grace, Better Things — this season of Hacks feels like a brand-new show, paving the way for several more seasons of hilarious misadventures. And… wait for it, because the season’s final five minutes will have you on the edge of your seat. Sheer brilliance. The first two episodes of Hacks premiered May 2 on Max. You can watch it through the link below:

Watch Hacks

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