Santa Clarita Diet Answered Its Greatest Mystery Forever Ago & You Didn't Notice

Photo: Courtesy of Saeed Adyani/Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Santa Clarita Diet
There’s always been one central mystery hiding at the heart of Netflix’s zombie comedy, Santa Clarita Diet: how on Earth did Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) become a member of the undead? While the show has taken great pains to show the agonies and ecstasies of Shiela’s zombie life — pros: increased sex drive; cons: increased murder drive — it sidestepped that essential question for most of its existence. That is, until Santa Clarita Diet season 2 finally hits its stride.
The final seconds of episode 4, “The Queen Of England,” puts Sheila and her husband Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant) on the road to finding out the burgeoning zombiepocalypse can all be traced back to some bad clams. Clams! Although it certainly seems like we don’t realize just how dangerous shellfish can be until nearly the very end of season 2, that simply isn’t true.
The season 1 ending revealed clams were the true culprit all along last year; the world simply didn’t notice.
In Santa Clarita’s freshman year finale, “Baka, Bile And Baseball Bats,” Joel ends up in a psychiatric hospital after police tase the realtor and take him into custody (he was accosting an old Serbian woman for her vomit, naturally). In the mental health facility, Joel begins blabbing all about his marriage woes. Yes, things are now so exciting his life is now in chaos, but it’s better than the routine the Hammonds had settled into after 25 years of marriage. This is when Joel drops the biggest piece of foreshadowing in all of Santa Clarita history.
“Saturday night date night at Japopo’s. The food wasn’t great,” he explains to the doctor blankly staring at him. “Stay away from the clams.”
This piece of information is so important for the Netflix comedy, Joel spells out the name “Japopo’s” letter-by-letter for the medical professional. But, this wasn’t the tiny, anxiety-ridden quirk everyone, including Joel, believed it to be. Instead, when looking back on the scene as someone who finished season 2, it’s a signal of just how integral the chronic Yelp user's supposedly throwaway verbal review is.
Because, everyone, the clams at Japopo’s — “J-A-P-O-P-O-apostrophe-S” — are what turned Sheila into a zombie. In fact, as season 2 proves, the clams are entirely to blame for Santa Clarita’s human-hungry zombie problem. Joel inadvertently told us as much in “Baka,” and we didn’t hear him. So, of course you should stay away from them.
We start to learn the full extent of just how dangerous the clams at Japopo’s are with “Queen Of England,” when Sheila and Joel investigate the abandoned apartment of recurring Rite Aid employee and fellow zombie Ramona (Ramona Young). Eventually, Joel notices a receipt by the trash, which reveals Ramona ordered the clams special at Japopo’s on the exact same night Sheila did a few weeks earlier. The day after both women ate the dish, they vomitted excessively, expelled a bizarre red ball in the process, died, and were reborn as no-effs-given zombies.
So, the Hammonds check to see if anyone else got the same, possibly-murderous, meal and now happens to be hungrier for human flesh than poorly cooked pasta. It turns out the only person to have ordered that specific dish on that specific night is a colonel named Ed Thune (Gerald McRaney, AKA Dr. K on This Is Us). In “Pasión,” Ed almost convinces Joel he isn’t undead… until all of the skin on Ed’s hand slides off during a goodbye handshake. Soon enough, Ed is hissing at Joel and trying to maim and-or eat the the realtor. Joel is forced to kill Ed and his “Mr. Ball Legs,” which is the creepy eight-legged creature that aforementioned red ball turns into if not frozen. With Ed a confirmed, now dead, zombie, it’s safe to blame the Japopo’s clams on all the zombies running around suburban California.
After a lot of digging on the part of Joel and his dedicated teenage sidekick Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo), they figure out an amateur sea food distributor named Ruby (Sarah Baker), a woman obsessed with clams, is to blame. Ruby’s brother gave her disturbingly blood-red clams he found 90 meters deep in a cave. That cave was located in, of all places, Serbia, the same locale where the original Santa Clarita zombie outbreak began centuries ago.
Coincidence, this is not. These clams literally turn people, like Sheila, Ramona, Ed, and who knows who else, into zombies. And, considering the clams kill you via ingestion, it’s highly likely they turn into “Mr. Ball-Legs” after being eaten. That would certainly explain how the creature isn’t broken down by stomach bile — even antifreeze and bleach can’t kill Ruby’s Serbian clams, which bite.
If Santa Clarita straight up told us to be suspicious of Japopo’s clams in season 1 and then gave us ravenous, zombie-creating Japopo’s clams in season 2, it’s more than likely there are more very pressing Easter eggs hiding in other episodes. With Ruby’s clams officially torpedoed, or, in this case, rocket launcher-ed by a modern-day knight (Zachary Knighton), let’s hope that hidden suggestion doesn't hint this apocalypse is nigh.
But, this is Santa Clarita Diet, the next Easter egg will definitely hint the apocalypse is nigh.
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