Considering how much I enjoyed watching Tuca & Bertie’s third season, it’s clear how much Netflix dropped the ball when they canceled the show three months after its series premiere in 2019. Despite public outcry from fans and critics alike, the streaming juggernaut failed to see that its authentic portrayal of female stories and friendships made it unique.
According to creator and cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt in a scathing Twitter thread, Netflix canned the raunchy cartoon since its highly complex and mysterious algorithm deemed her work unworthy for viewing (whatever that means). On top of that, the streamer was losing (and continues to lose) subscribers. Fortunately for Hanawalt and company, Tuca & Bertie was immediately picked up by Adult Swim for a second season, which currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Tuca & Bertie Season 3 returns with a newfound swagger by including new characters and conflicts for its two feathered besties. With Hanawalt leading the ship, the hit Adult Swim animated show settles nicely into its first two episodes by focusing on what works, such as its fantastic voice cast, zany visuals, and Tuca and Bertie’s quest to become better bird friends.
Like its first two seasons, audiences will flock to watch Tuca the toco toucan (Tiffany Haddish) and Bertie (Ali Wong) the song thrush, get in and out of hijinks and fall in and out of love as they navigate adulthood in the big city of Bird Town. Unfortunately, Season 2 ended with a massive flood that not only wiped out the city but ended the trajectory of Tuca and Bertie’s lives as they knew it. Now the two women must pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild.
With the city still relatively underwater, Tuca becomes a Bird Town tour guide and is surprisingly good at her job, even though she almost sabotages the gig. Meanwhile, Bertie struggles to run her pastry shop as she spends more of her time tackling IRS forms than baking. Thankfully, the office worker turned baker accepts a position with her idol Chef Winter Garcia (Justina Machado) to help develop new recipes. Speckle (Steven Yeun), Bertie’s loyal boyfriend, helps his cash-strapped neighbors by selling his residential land back to the government in exchange for an affordable housing complex.
With three seasons under their belt, Haddish, Wong, and Yuen are more comfortable with their roles as Tuca, Bertie, and Speckle. The lead’s rapport with one another feels more natural than in the previous seasons since they, and by extension, the writers, know the anthropomorphic birds inside and out. For instance, when Tuca barges into Bertie and Speckle’s apartment near the beginning of Episode 1, “Leveling Up,” with her tour group, Bertie barely pays them any mind as she adds her pastry business onto the Yack app (Yelp for birds). At the same time, Speckle tries but fails to impress his visitors with a casserole dish. This downright hilarious scene is an excellent reintroduction to the main cast as it shows how differently each character reacts to their bizarre situation.
Matthew Rhys is also a great addition to Tuca & Bertie. His sophisticated and highly charming performance as Tuca’s new boyfriend Figgy fits nicely into the adult cartoon. Seeing Tuca in a healthy relationship after her horrendous break-up with Kara is a nice change of pace. Of course, the sentient tree man is not perfect as he suffers from a drinking problem as Tuca did in the past. However, Tuca’s new partner is a massive upgrade as he treats his girlfriend with the love and respect she deserves, like when he helps Tuca recover from her painful menstrual cycle in Episode 2, “The Pain Garden.”
Bertie’s mentorship with Chef Garcia is an intriguing new development for the series. In spite of the little screen time she has in Episode 1, Machado of One Day at a Time fame brings so much warmth and realness with her take on the new character. Hopefully, the famous chef will not screw Bertie over like her previous boss, Pastry Pete (Reggie Watts), as the last two seasons covered terrible womanizing bosses spectacularly.
Aside from its terrific voice cast, the animated series continues to be imaginative with its visuals, like when Bertie describes the intensity of her menstrual pain as dirt and vines pull her beneath the bed. However, it is Tuca’s and Bertie’s journey to becoming better women that prevent the beloved show from going stale. These women are indeed leveling up in their respective lives, but they still have a lot of growing up to do. To illustrate, Tuca is successful at her new job, but the toucan struggles with failure and nearly loses her promotion by bailing out mid-tour. While on the other hand, Bertie feels so stuck with her pastry career that she begs Speckle to let her cater during his architecture event at the last minute.
The almighty Netflix algorithm declared Tuca & Bertie a failure, but its fanbase saw something different. With its stellar voice cast, beautiful visuals, and realistic depiction of womanhood, the adult animated series continues to deliver weekly.
Tuca & Bertie Season 3 airs new episodes Sundays at midnight EST on Adult Swim.