How many times can Starstruck play out a version of the same storyline, with some tweaks here and there? Girl meets boy; or, in some cases, is reunited with boy. Sparks fly. They go home together. Everything is magical. But slowly, and unbeknownst to the happy couple, the relationship starts to fray. They push one another apart. Thankfully, right before the final episode, the pair has an epiphany: They’re meant to be together. With minutes to spare before the season concludes, they race into each other’s arms—love, at long last.
The answer is as many times as Starstruck wants. I will gladly watch Jessie (Rose Matafeo) and Tom (Nikesh Patel) on a romantic comedy loop, because the show is so masterful and comforting that originality no longer matters. In its third season on Max, Starstruck goes above and beyond the rom-com magic we’ve come to expect—we get those same rom-com beats (the meet cute, the reunion, the will-they-won’t-they) with some fresh storylines threaded into the mix. Starstruck needn’t do anything beyond giving me some banter between Jessie and Tom, but because it is a perfect (yes, perfect!) rom-com series, it offers up even more—Heartbreak! Rain soaked confessions! Adorable side characters!—than just that.
Starstruck Season 3 begins like the two seasons that came before it: average woman Jessie and actor superstar Tom are dating. Thank god they’ve found each other. In a montage—another rom-com element, another “Hallelujah!” from me screaming in delight at my “telly”—we see Tom and Jessie cohabitating. Giggly tooth brushing, snuggles in bed, that famous banter…love is real, guys. Until it isn’t, because Tom is busy with work, now they’re fighting more and more, and the relationship simply isn’t working out.
Jessie and Tom, for a third season, do the hardest thing possible: They break up, even though they’re both still deeply in love with one another. Mind you, all of these emotions pour out in the first five minutes of the new season of Starstruck. In a swift six-episode season, there’s no time to waste.
Here we go again. Jessie and Tom are broken up but, of course, all of us are rooting for their eventual reconciliation by the end of the new season. This time, though, it feels a little different. More serious. Realer. In the first episode, there’s a two year time jump: Jessie has been single for a while as she supports her best friend Kate (Emma Sidi), who is getting married to Ian (Al Roberts). Oh, they’re pregnant, too. At the wedding, Tom is back—and he’s engaged to a sleek actress, Clem (Constance Labbé). But Tom also kisses Jessie (fully, like on the lips!) when he sees her again. What is going on?
At that same wedding, Jessie also kisses a new guy: witty Liam (Lorne MacFadyen), a friend of a friend. We should hate Liam, right? He’s not Tom. Jessie and Tom are endgame. They’re going to get married and have beautiful A-List celeb babies and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Jessie and Liam are undeniably a wonderful match. When Tom confesses he’s still in love with Jessie, a Starstruck love triangle is born.
The love triangle, while being another classic rom-com formula, also finds a way to be unique in this series. Both of the new supporting stars—Liam and Clem, paired with Jessie and Tom, respectively—are incredibly likable. (Does this make it a love square? Rom-com geometrists, do your thing.) Clem, a French actress, has the coolest haircut ever and finds a way to bring charisma to every conversation. Liam is a dorky everyman. They work so well with Tom and Jessie. A love triangle is one thing—but making it feel so incredibly impossible to solve creates a new beast. Usually, it’s pretty easy to decide #TeamJessie or #TeamLiam. Not this time around. Up until the final minute of the third season, I still was unsure about who I wanted Jessie to pick.
But the love story isn’t isolated to Jessie and her romantic prospects. The most endearing tale of companionship is actually shared between Jessie and Kate, who are as close as ever, although they’re both at very different stages of their lives. As Kate prepares to become a mother, Jessie sticks by her side. “Will you still tell me all your secrets when the baby is born? Can I tell the baby all your secrets?” Kate asks Jessie near the midpoint of the season. It’s a subtle moment, but as we all evolve in our lives, aren’t we always worried about growing out of our friendships? A rhetorical question—the answer is yes, and Starstruck knows that.
Although Starstruck will always remind me of New Year’s Eve celebrations—in the first season, Jessie and Tom meet at a NYE party—and Seasons 1 and 2 were both released in the spring, in its third installment, the show has become a perfect fall story. As rom-com lovers flock to the sweaters and cozy vibes of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, the third season of Starstruck also has that unmistakable, dazzling autumnal feeling. The characters swaddle themselves in blankets and sweaters for a bottle episode in a fireplace-lit cabin. There’s a dramatic scene in the rain. The iconic piano taps of the score, too, feel straight out of a homey coffee shop frequented in October.
Which is all to say: Watch Starstruck now, because the show is coming out at the most intimate, snug, relaxing time of the year. Season 3 ups the mellowed autumn vibes while also introducing a compelling love triangle. Starstruck feels as lived-in as the most popular rom-coms; but at the same time, Matafeo’s series is constantly reinventing itself and its leading lady. So, the question isn’t really, “Who will Jessie end up with?” Instead, we’re asking, “In what new ways will we, the audience, fall in love with Jessie again this season?”
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