Santa Clarita Diet is a 2017 horror-comedy from Victor Fresco (Better Off Ted), airing on Netflix.
Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) are, by all measures, a happy couple and solid realtors, selling houses in the LA suburb of Santa Clarita. They have their small troubles, but their relationship is strong, and they're good parents to their daughter, Abby. And then Sheila vomits during a showing. She vomits a lot. After recovering from her brief illness, Sheila notes some changes. She has no heartbeat. Her blood is clotted. And she has a taste for raw meat. She doesn't want to use the word "zombie," but...
Strangely, Sheila's fine with her undead state. It's pulled the cork on her repression, and she feels absolutely uninhibited, willing to live it up, make impulse purchases, and party like a rockstar.
Unfortunately, that also means there's not much of a barrier when she wants to chow down on flesh. And eventually, the flesh of animals stops doing it for her. Joel, Sheila, and Abby are going to make this work, though. No matter how many people need to die...
Ran for three seasons before being cancelled by Netflix in 2019.
This series contains examples of:
- Acceptable Targets: Invoked by Sheila and Joel. When they realize that they have no choice but to kill people so the now-undead Sheila can eat, they vow to only kill people who they consider bad and whom deserve it. Throughout the series, this includes convicted felons, Nazis, dirty cops, sexual predators, and one guy with really bad road rage.
- All for Nothing: The entire Season 1 arc is about the main characters going after a cure, shown in an old Serbian book, for Sheila's zombie condition. They find the "cure" in the very end, but it turns out that it will not make Sheila human again, just stop her body from rotting.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
- Sheila tries too hard, at least in Abby's opinion, to bond with her and seem cool.Joel: Are you and Eric dating? That is so cute!
Abby: We're not dating!
Sheila: Or whatever you kids call it today! "Smashing."
Abby: Mom, never be in public!
- Lisa has no problem talking about sex in front of Eric and Abby, and is very forward about helping him out with his love life.
- Sheila tries too hard, at least in Abby's opinion, to bond with her and seem cool.
- And I Must Scream: Zig-zagged with Gary. It turns out that he didn't actually die when Sheila ate him, spending several weeks buried as an undead severed head, and later is kept standing on a flower jar in Sheila's and Joel's basement. At first, he wanted to die, but changed his mind because he wished to be there to see his niece and her daughter grow. Later on, he wanted to die again because he believed that his niece was doing just fine and there wasn't much to do as a severed head, but this time Sheila and Joel are unwilling to kill him.
- Affably Evil: Loki becomes this to Joel and Sheila, after Sheila bites him. He goes from hardened Scary Black Man to soft-spoken folk singer who also dabbles in poetry. He's also much more polite and cordial, even when he's kicking Joel's ass:Loki: Sorry, Joel. You seem like a nice man, but for Sheila to be free, she has to stop clinging to her past!
- Ambiguous Disorder: Aside from having an IQ of 172, Dr. Cora Wolf appears to have minor mood swings, lacks some social skills (she appears to not even understand how to hug someone properly), prefers to use words like "act of passion" instead of "sex", cannot understand sarcasm and has no trouble piercing a woman's neck with a pen when there are other people watching.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Loki's criminal record.Joel: Larceny, arson, homicide, homicide, homicide, homicide, impersonating a forest ranger.
- Artistic License Medicine:
- The fingers do not carry arteries large enough to cause the kind of dramatic spurting seen in the first episode.
- Sheila's condition is apparently infectious enough to spread through a minor bite, yet she seems to be able to have sex with Joel without this causing any problems. The fact that she is even able to experience arousal when her blood is apparently congealed into a thick tar raises further questions; sex seems to just get a free pass from undeath.
- Asshole Victim: Pretty much all the people Sheila kills impulsively have it coming in some way or another. Then there's Dan, who Joel kills with a shovel after being blackmailed by him.
- Ascended Extra: In the second season, Ramona (the girl that works in the supermarket) and Gary.
- Atomic F-Bomb: The Season 1 episode "Strange or Just Inconsiderate?" sees Anne, Joel, and Sheila praying for Dan's safe return. In the middle of the prayer, Abby comes home and needs Advil from her parents' bathroom. Instead, she finds Dan's body in their bathtub.Anne: Dear Lord, I sit with some of your flock to ask for your help in bringing Dan safely back to us. Lord... we love you. [smiles contentedly]
Abby: [off-screen] JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!
- Awful Wedded Life: The various stresses that can result in this trope are examined during the course of the series, particularly through the lead couple. Sheila and Joel have been a couple since high school, have been together for nearly a quarter of a century, and have been married for around two decades of that. When we're introduced to them, their passion has cooled down considerably and Sheila's newfound condition frequently causes them to verbally snipe at one another. However, it still ultimately helps them drag their marriage off of the rocks, as they realize how important they are to one another and Sheila's passion is increased from her condition.
- Bad Boss: Poplović will have those who work for him killed or threatened without any qualms whatsoever.
- Big Bad: Season 3 has Dobrivoje Poplović and his plan to harvest the undead for an aging cure. For no reason other than to make money.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The first season's most prominent villains are Joel and Sheila's neighbor, Dan Palmer, who blackmails Joel after finding Gary's finger in his yard, and Loki Hayes, one of Sheila's would-be victims who later becomes another zombie.
- Big Eater: By the time Joel discovers Sheila eating Gary, she was worked her way through quite a bit of his abdomen. After eating his entire leg. Apparently including the very numerous and very large bones normally found inside legs.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Gary seems to be a major threat at first, but he dies in the first episode and is Sheila's first victim.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Between Abby and Eric when Abby thinks her family are going to have to flee Santa Clarita. When it turns out they don't have to leave she refuses to discuss it.
- Black Comedy: See Black Comedy Cannibalism and Bloody Hilarious below.
- Black Comedy Cannibalism: This is a show revolving around a woman who turned into a voracious man-eating zombie, all Played for Laughs.
- Blame Game: Inverted in late season 2. Sheila and Joel both start discussing whose fault is it that Sheila became a zombie by eating the red clams, with both revealing a bit more about that night and trying to push the guilty to themselves, including that Joel didn't spent the day working, he spent the day high, which is why he didn't had time to get dinner ready, while Sheila knew there was something wrong with the clams, but couldn't bring herself to ask for something else. Ultimately, they decide they could keep looking for who to blame, but it's pointless, and accept it's an unfortunate accident that is no one's fault.
- Bloody Hilarious: Most of the gore in this series is played for laughs.
- Cassandra Truth: When Joel tries to tell a virologist doctor about Sheila becoming a zombie, he calls a co-worker, a psychiatrist, thinking that Joel is crazy and should be interned.
- At the very end of Season 1, Joel is arrested and again tries to explain everything that's happened, he ends up being interned for real this time.
- Casting Gag: A double dose - fans of Better Off Ted will have already recognized Ron as the neurotic scientist Phil Myman (both played by actor Jonathan Slavin), but the gag is doubled when Ron's friend Morgan appears, who is none other than Phil's best friend Lem Hewitt (played by actor Malcolm Barrett).
- Casual Danger Dialogue: A big part of the humor of the show are characters having conversations about mundane things while stalking down targets to eat, preparing to kill, and hiding evidence.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The show's darkly funny tone turns to the genuine dark with Dobrivoje Poplović's introduction.
- Chekhov's Gun: Twice over in season 2 finale, when she makes a few cheap purchases to make her plan with Joel.
- The cheap phones. Turns out that the phones are so cheap, that they don't save deleted recordings, which ends Anne's investigations before it can reaches any relevant point.
- Sheila's new bracelets. She made a sound with them, which was recorded and Anne heard of it. As it turns out, when Anne has the bracelets and they make the same sound, she connects the dots and realizes that Sheila and Joel are connected to Dan and Gary's disappearances.
- Closest Thing We Got: The Hammonds have to talk with Eric about Sheila's condition as he's a horror fan, which means that he's the only person they can find who might be able to offer ideas about her undead status after attempts to talk to a doctor prove fruitless.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
- As part of Sheila's transformation, she has no compunctions about swearing. The rest of the family starts to join in, for obvious reasons.Sheila: I fucking love kites. In the fucking sky, amongst the fucking clouds...
- Joel is not above to this, too. When shit starts hitting the fans, he swears a lot more.
- At one point Abby drops an f-bomb in conversation with her dad, then casually says, "Oh, yeah, I'm gonna to be swearing in front of you guys now." Joel admits that seems fair enough, considering.
- As part of Sheila's transformation, she has no compunctions about swearing. The rest of the family starts to join in, for obvious reasons.
- Comically Missing the Point: A constant on the show and often the source of good laughs.
Sheila: So Dan assumes you killed Gary? That's sexist.Joel: Yes, that's the big problem here, honey. Dan's denying the important contribution women make.
- Joel tells Sheila how Dan has figured out what happened to their first victim and that Joel killed him.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Anton claims to have an old Serbian book about zombies, along with top secret documents that proves that the government has been hiding the existence of the undead. Subverted when he reveals to Joel that he doesn't have the book or the documents; he just claims it to look cool at paranormal conventions.
- Cool Old Lady: Principal Novak's Baka.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Sheila and Christa love to exchange these with one another, usually of a dark, sexual nature. It creates a hilarious dissonance, considering their perpetually-upbeat, all-smiles mannerisms that are necessitated by their careers.Sheila: Listen, bitch. You keep talking shit about us, and I swear to God, I will drop you.
Christa: Try it, and I will kick your twat so far up your throat you'll get pregnant giving blowjobs.
Christa: Oh, this is delicious. You two came over here and told us something we never would have known, and now we are going to strap it on and fuck you with it.
Sheila: How would you like it if I put my foot so far up your perfect little ass that you won't find it again until you shit it out on Christmas morning?
- Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Dan is framed for the murder of Gary and is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Loki, especially once the police find Dan's stash of ill-gotten cocaine and cash in his garage.
- Dirty Cop: Dan, who has a stash of drugs, cash, and weapons hidden in his garage and also tries to blackmail Joel into doing his dirty work for him (i.e. murdering his informants/accomplices).
- Disposing of a Body: Joel and Sheila slowly start to get better at this, though their attempts to get rid of Sheila's first victim are... sloppy.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: The age of consent in California is 18, and even in states where it's technically legal, a 20-year-old man sleeping with a 16-year-old girl would widely be seen as creepy if not outright wrong in the United States. But reverse the genders and it's fine. No one sees any problem with it except for the fact that Ramona had seduced Eric entirely for ulterior motives.
Christian: If my relationships with women are so messed up, how come I had sex at age 13?Joel: ...Whoa. Buddy, there's a lot to unpack there.
- Briefly discussed with Christian. While his sexual boasting is played for laughs, the Hammonds are clearly disturbed by his revelations and it does a lot to indicate that Christian's mental health isn't as stable as he seems to think.
- Dull Surprise: Joel's and Abby's reaction to most of Sheila's victims.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sheila brags about her personalized realtor pen that has all her contact info on it...except she then can't find it in her purse, and realizes she left it behind at a crime scene.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The first two seasons take place over the course of just three weeks.
- Eye Scream: Sheila's eye pops out of its socket in one episode, meaning Joel has to help her push it back in.
- At the end of the first episode, Sheila starts licking Gary's finger, which he mistakes for a sexual act, until she bites it off and devours it.
- In Season 2, Sheila ends up biting off her own finger by accident as a result of stress.
- Joel and Abby do this when they see Sheila's "blood", which has turned thick and almost black from decomposition.
- Eric passes out when Sheila intentionally (and casually) breaks her own thumbs to escape a pair of handcuffs.
- Faux Affably Evil: Dan often treats Joel as a friend, but he is not afraid of sending both him or his wife to prison, as he sees Joel as nothing more than a tool.
- Family Themed Naming: Joel and Sheila's real estate rivals are Chris and Christa. It also serves as foreshadowing that Christian is their son.
- Rick and Dan, police officer neighbors of the Hammonds. While Rick is a Nice Guy, acts as a Friend on the Force to Joel, and is shown to be a Happily Married Doting Parent; Dan is a repellent Jerkass to everyone, is hated by Eric and Lisa, and is a Dirty Cop who blackmails Joel and Sheila into killing people for him.
- Season 2 introduces a couple that, despite some arguments, seem to be Happily Married and also happen to be zombie hunters, which makes them a foil to Sheila and Joel.
- Chris and Christa act as a less scruplous, skeezier version of Joel and Sheila, but their acts are limited to the real estate business rather than the more dangerous zombie world. Their son Christian also acts as a foil to Abby, being just as impulsive and self-serving, but at more harm to innocent people.
- Early in Season 1, Shelia wonders aloud how she contacted the virus, asking 'Could it be those clams I had at Japopo's?'. Season 2 reveals that's actually what happened.
- when trying to determine if Ed Thune was undead, Joel checks his freezer to see if he had any human parts. While there was none, the supposedly vegan Thune did have shrimp, foreshadowing that he was lying
- Freudian Trio: Sheila is the Id. Like all zombies, she is driven by the desires she repressed while she was human. Abby represents Ego; she's a snarky teenager with a heart of gold. She also has a strong sense of justice, but at the same time she's not above using the unique circumstances she's in to justify her own less-savory aspects. Joel is the Superego; he's the most rational (if neurotic) person in the cast, who wants everything to go back to the "normal" life before the zombification.
- Gilligan Cut: While shopping for murder supplies, Joel promises Sheila that he's on board and cool with everything. Cut to him smoking pot in the store restroom and having a minor meltdown.
- God Guise: Sheila stumbles into it by accident when Anne finally tracks her and Joel down, with the devout Christian quite willing to pledge herself to someone who came back from death, can make others immortal, and wreaks horrible vengeance on the deserving.
- Hero Antagonist: Anne Garcia becomes obsessed with investigating the murders all throughout Season 2.
- Hero of Another Story: Season 2 introduces a married pair of zombie hunters who show up infrequently for brief scenes, with dialogue that makes clear they have a rich inner life that could easily support its own show. They're also implied to be eventual Hero Antagonists, as they will try to destroy Sheila if they discover her true nature (which they've come close to knowing).
- Hope Spot: The "cure" that Joel and Sheila spend the whole first season searching for turns out to only be a way to stabilize Sheila's condition so her dead body won't decompose; she'll still be a zombie apparently forever.
- Horror Hunger: Sheila's hunger eventually shifts from raw beef to something... harder. Her second kill is very impulsive, and she notes that she was pretty much out of control when she ripped the man's throat out with her teeth.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Joel and Sheila's attempts to discipline Abby tend to be stymied by this, as their parental authority has been completely undermined by their new need for murdering people.Sheilla: You stole tear gas from Dan?
Abby: Dad killed him and you ate him.
- Joel and Sheila meet a crippled Neo-Nazi in a wheelchair, who complains that other people mistreat him for being disabled, even while spewing very racist insults under the same breath.Kevin: Shame on you. Treating a whole group of people like they're second-class citizens! You're worse than my Jew landlord! I don't want to be treated differently than anyone else, you gypsy-nosed cunt!
- Ruby, an overweight clam farmer, dislikes her other job of helping out "fat fucks" with treating their sleep apnea.
- Joel and Sheila's attempts to discipline Abby tend to be stymied by this, as their parental authority has been completely undermined by their new need for murdering people.
- I Love the Dead: Joel and Sheila's attempts to bribe a mortician into yielding a John Doe's body first leaves him thinking they want the body for... other purposes.
- I Need a Freaking Drink:
- Joel and Abby do this with glasses of orange juice.
- Lisa isn't above drinking alcohol at 11 AM when she's stressed.
- Inspector Javert: Throughout Season 2, Anne refuses to let go her investigation to the point of obsession.
- Interservice Rivalry: The Hammonds live between two cops from different departments. In the first episode, Dan makes fun of their other neighbor Rick for being a Santa Monica cop, saying that they're all wimps who aren't allowed to chase suspects because "they might hurt somebody's feelings". Rick's rejoinder is that Santa Monica cops actually protect and serve while the sheriffs are all dirty cops.
- Irony: Meta Example. Ramona is said to be older than Eric and Abby. The actors who play them are 2 and 3 years older than her actress.
- Knight of Cerebus: Season 3's Big Bad Dobrivoje Poplović changes the tone of the show with his disturbing actions and motivations.
- Large Ham: Tommy, introduced in Season 3, is an enormous man with hamminess to match. In his very first scene, he kills a moth with a crossbow while Sheila and Joel talk to his brother Paul:Tommy: You come into my house and you try to eat my woolens? FUCK YOU!
- Left Hanging: Season three ends on a big, bizarre cliffhanger: Mr. Ball Legs entering Joel's brain and seemingly taking control of him. Season three is also the last season of the show, and the cliffhanger will apparently never be resolved.
- Losing Your Head: Gary, after it's revealed that he was turned into a zombie after being decapitated and then buried underground.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: This trope is in play because no woman has been killed and eaten in the first two seasons. Season 3 makes up for it slightly with Sheila and an elderly woman she zombified killing and eating the female nurse who was swindling the old woman heavily and showing no shame at all in admitting it without a problem.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: After becoming a zombie, Loki falls in love with Sheila because she understands his feelings about being undead. Sheila rejects him because she is already married to Joel, so Loki attempts to kill him.
- The Nth Doctor: Nathan Fillion played Gary for the first two seasons of the show. He was replaced for the third season by (former Firefly co-star) Alan Tudyk. The show explains that as the result of the Hammonds forgetting to give Gary (who, remember, is a severed head at this point) the maintenance serum, resulting in Gary losing a ton of skin and throat tissue.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Sheila's attempt at devouring Loki not only results in him escaping and becoming another zombie, but she also leaves circumstantial evidence behind.
- Non Sequitur: The second time Ramona crosses paths with Joel at Rite-Aid, she desperately tries to keep the conversation from steering:Joel: Do you know which one of these [toaster ovens] has a knob without any slack?
Ramona: No... does it matter?
Joel: I thought so. I really did. Maybe it really doesn't. Maybe I shouldn't care about toaster knobs or being responsible or descending into chaos.
Ramona: [meekly points to one of the toaster ovens] This one's cheaper...
- Nosy Neighbor: Joel and Sheila have a Santa Monica PD cop next door and an LA Sheriff's Deputy in the other next door. It doesn't help their stress.
- Not Quite Dead: In Season 2, It's revealed that Gary turned into a zombie before Sheila ate his body. His severed head remained "alive" where he was buried.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: Lampshaded and discussed. When Eric first explains that Sheila is undead, Joel replies "So she's a zombie?". They both agree that "zombie" has a negative connotation, and from there on they just call her "undead".
- Moral Dissonance:
- When it's discovered that Ramona is also undead and is attacking random joggers, the only issue made of this is that she might attract attention. When she decides to move to Seattle, everyone is fine with the implied spree of completely indiscriminate murders that she will carry out there presumably for years, decades, or even more, although she is encouraged to be more discrete about her kills. At no point does anyone try to convince her to adopt Joel and Sheila's philosophy of trying to kill only people they think deserve it.
- After the Hammonds discover that Gary's still alive (albeit as a severed head) and seems to have turned over a new leaf, very little is made of the fact that he effectively tried to rape Sheila, even by Sheila herself.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The undead look and act almost exactly like living people at first sight, and they retain all of their intelligence; but gain an intense craving for raw flesh and blood, and will consume nothing else. They also tend to go through drastic personality changes after turning, if not totally opposite of what they used to be like. However, they will gradually decompose (and perhaps devolve into mindlessness), unless given treatment to arrest (but not cure) their symptoms. Also, the zombie disease can infect and transform non human animals as well, such as mice and clams.
- Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: After Eric and Abby blow up a local fracking site as a means of protest, Lisa overhears them having a conversation about it and thinks they finally had sex:Abby: Last night was amazing. You were amazing.
Eric: Oh, shucks. So were you.
Abby: Were you scared?
Eric: A little.
Abby: The whole thing was perfect and you are a fucking master.
Eric: I mean, you did more than your share of the work.
Abby: I didn't know something could explode like that.
Eric: Was it too much? It was too much.
Abby: It nearly knocked me out of my shoes.
Eric: You said go big.
- Overly Long Gag: Abby really wants to get Dr. Wolf back for relegating her to shopping duty, and repeatedly pretends the experimental cure is giving her convulsions. Wolf and Eric both get just as exasperated as the audience.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Sheila and Joel eventually decide the only way they can live with each other is making sure absolute dickheads die to feed her hunger.
- Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It's implied that this is the way to kill a zombie. Confirmed when Loki dies after having his skull pierced by Joel and Sheila. They later realize that anyone bitten by Sheila without having their brain destroyed will turn undead, as proven when Gary's disembodied head talks to them.
- Resurrected Romance: Though Sheila never claws her way out of a coffin, her death and continued working and romantic relationship with Joel comes across as a non-tragic form of this.
- Reverse Psychology: Sheila and Joel ask Abby to clean the basement in an attempt to stop Abby from walking in there and discovering Gary's head. It doesn't work.
- Running Gag: Ramona, the Rite Aid employee, who keeps encountering members of the Hammond family standing around the store aisles, who then overshare to her when she asks them if they need help.
- Scary Black Man:
- Zig-zagged with Loki. He's introduced as a gangster drug dealing serial killer, then is revealed to have turned a new leaf and become a musician who just wants to make music... until he falls in love with Sheila and attempts to murder Joel so he can steal her.
- Foreshadowed somewhat when Joel goes to Loki's apartment to retrieve Sheila's pen. Joel panics and jumps on a chair when he sees that Loki's pet banana python, Baby, has escaped from his cage. When Loki's friends show up, they reveal that the snake was a rescue and accuse Joel of trying to hurt him.
- Also, Loki's folk singer career is foreshadowed when Joel and Sheila visit him in his apartment. In the background, you can see a rather nice acoustic performance space set up for a drug dealing serial killer, complete with a few acoustic guitars and some other musical equipment.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Dr. Wolf wishes them well, but gets out fast when it looks like the police may be closing in.
- Serial Killer:
- Loki has committed at least four murders.
- As a result of being forced to kill people in order to eat (plus the fact that Joel is too squeamish to do it himself), Sheila herself qualifies.
- Serial-Killer Killer: It looked like Dan was setting them up to be this until it was revealed that the drug dealer and killer Loki was blackmailing him and the human trafficker was just having an affair with his wife and really was a pediatrician, proving he just wanted his neighbours to do his dirty work for him.
- Starter Villain: Gary.
- Stylistic Suck: Erics documentary regarding Dr. Wolf employs heavy use of stock footage, makes wild assumptions based on little evidence and has an ending that is insensitive in-universe and utilizes an amateurish effect to make Sheilas eyes red.
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Lisa's adultery is portrayed sympathetically because her husband, Dan, is a jerk and the guy she was seeing behind his back turned out to be reasonably nice.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Like mother, like daughter; this is Abby and Sheila's go-to if they need a quick way to punctuate an unpleasant interaction.Abby: Put your pants on, bitch, 'cause you're coming out!
- Those Wacky Nazis: A sub-plot in Season 2 has Sheila targeting a gang of Neo-Nazis, who of course are all obnoxiously racist. She ends up eating three of them.
- Took a Level in Kindness: After spending several weeks as an undead severed head in a shallow grave, Gary thought about what he had done when he was alive, and his first act after being dug up is to ask Sheila and Joel to give a house in his possession to his niece, the only person he cared about in life. After that, he started living in the Hammonds' basement (and later in their storage unit), develops a friendship with Joel and Sheila, even comments that he became a better person.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Sheila and Abby attempt to force someone out of a storage unit by playing a Raffi CD on repeat. He's unbothered and encourages them to keep playing it.Man: Put Raffi back on, he makes me happy!
Sheila: Yeah, he makes everybody happy, that's why he's a multi-generational success!
Man: You and your daughter's asses are a multi-generational success.
Sheila: Stop reducing us to only sexual beings!
Man: Ooh, keep talking, I'm almost finished.
- Undercover as Lovers: Eric and Abby pretend to be a couple to have an excuse for being out in the desert late one night. Truth is, they were blowing up a fracking trailer as an act of protest.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Increasingly between Abby and Eric. Eric has had a crush on Abby for years but Abby only really starts to develop feelings for Eric in season 2, admitting that there was "a 3% chance of them eventually becoming lovers", and the two of them sharing some awkward Held Gazes. When Abby thinks her family might have to flee Santa Clarita her first thought is that she and Eric ought to kiss, which Abby then refuses to discuss when it turns out they don't have to leave.
- Vegetarian Vampire: Immediately subverted in the beginning. Joel tries to make Sheila eat animal meat in hopes of satisfying her extreme carnivorous cravings, but anything other than human flesh makes her vomit. And it can't be cooked or too old, so it has to be raw and fairly fresh, making it necessary to find recently-deceased corpses (according to Sheila, they taste better if they were killed just a few moments ago).
- The Virus: Sheila is turned undead by a mysterious pathogen that causes its victims to vomit to death, and immediately come back to "life" as a walking corpse. It turns out she contracted it (along with two other people) as a foodborne illness, caused by eating infected clams in Japopo's restaurant, which originated from a lake in Serbia (the site of a medieval zombie outbreak). Furthermore, it can spread either by biting people or cross-contaminating their blood.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Sheila when she's showing a house. It gets everywhere. Also one of the first symptoms of the zombie infection.
- Wax On, Wax Off: Part of Joel's audition to become a Knight of Serbia, involves demonstrating how fast he can insert a whole pear into a dead chicken. He films himself doing so, but can't figure out the real-world application for this skill, and spends part of an episode wondering about it. At the end of the episode, he has to fight an undead, and uses the muscle memory to shove a pear in its mouth, realizing that the skill is meant to quickly keep an assailant from biting you.
- Wham Shot:
- Sheila finds a toe in her bathtub after disposing of a body, and muses that she needs to get better at it. Then she sees it's her own toe, as she's starting to decompose.
- Ramona the Rite-Aid employee, an unassuming minor character, reveals a fridge full of human body parts while talking to Eric over the phone, implying ulterior motives for wanting to meet him.
- Digging up the spot where they buried Gary, Shelia and Joel are shocked to find Gary's still alive severed head talking to them.
- World of Snark: Deconstructed as a lot of the jabs are deeply personal and full of malice no matter who says them.
- You Have Failed Me: The attitude Poplović has towards those who work for him and let him down.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Any human who turns out not to be undead is expendable to Poplović.
- You Say Tomato: Sheila and Joel pronounce the word realtor as "reel-uh-ter" instead of the usual "reel-ter". Two of their rivals, Chris and Christa, constantly give them a hard time about it.Sheila: [to client] A lot of people are gonna want to sell your house, but I can guarantee that we are the best damn reel-uh-ters in town.
Christa: They're actually the only reel-uh-ters in town because the rest of us pronounce it "reel-ters".
Joel: That's what she said. "Reel-uh-ters". Wait... I heard the difference. You know what, it doesn't matter. Both ways are correct.
Christa: [laughing and smiling warmly] That's not true. One way is correct and the other is profoundly ignorant.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Narrowly averted at the end of Season 2, when Joel tracks down the zombie disease to a farm full of infected clams; which necessitated their total destruction in order to prevent a potential pandemic, which would've happened if they were to be mass-distributed to restaurants around the country.