This review contains mild spoilers for Clone High season three.
Would you look at that? They released a third season of Clone High, and we didn’t have to wait 20 years this time.
Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Bill Lawrence’s cult classic 2D animated series centered around adolescent clones of historical figures like Joan of Arc, Abe Lincoln, JFK, Cleopatra, and Frida Kahlo returns for a third round of zany, absurdist, high school-set hijinks. Whereas its previous season made a few stumbles in finding a new identity within its new contemporary setting, the latest season of Clone High finds the rhythm of what made the original run so adored — all while doing its own spin.
Following the second season’s finale, where Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan) betrays all of her best friends by attempting to outright kill them, the new year finds her an outcast. She finds herself accepted into the low social class group of Bleacher Creatures, consisting of Topher Bus (Neil Casey), Ivan the Terrible, and Jackee the Ripper, to name a few. Meanwhile, Abe (Will Forte) and JFK (Chris Miller) become best bros forever, Principal Scudworth (Phil Lord) puts his plan to make his theme park dream Cloney Island into motion, Harriet Tubman (Ayo Edebiri) and Confucius (Kelvin Yu) relationship starts stumbling as Tubman eyeballs Toussaint L’Ouverture (Jermaine Fowler), and Cleopatra (Mitra Jouhar) and Frida Kahlo’s (Nikki Martinez) partnership goes through a series of peaks and valleys.
Clone High‘s third season is able to escape the confines of that dreaded “revival series curse,” no longer having to bridge the old wacky gags original fans loved from 2002 with a progressively updated sharpness and a new cast of clones.
Now that the new clones are well established with the old, the writing team finds freedom in going bolder in their comedic and dramatic sensibilities. They build on Clone High‘s beloved rambunctious spirit with equal attention to the larger ensemble’s relationships.
One of my favorites is “Cyranos: A Portmant-opus,” where Frida Kahlo is anxious over Cleopatra’s unapologetic spoiled attitude not appealing to her easy-going father’s (Randall Park) nature, so she turns to Harriet to be the Cyrano to Cleo, being in her earpiece and disguising as a nerd. Another is “Money Can Buy Me Love: Stupid Is As Cupid Does” which has the same premise as “Anyone But You,” with Confucius enlisting Joan of Arc to be his fake girlfriend — paying for her indie short film festival submission — to make Harriet jealous, only for them to fall for each other.
Much like Clone High‘s original installment, this season is packed with unexpected side-splitting visual gags and an unapologetic, assured edge more welcoming than before. While it makes several callbacks to the first season through easter eggs and cameos of fan favorites — specifically Scudsworth greatest adversary, Skunky Poo — a dedicated fresh slew of gags spur heavy cackles. It goes bolder with its continuity, returning to old jokes and characters and utilizing them for grander purposes — one of which effectively bears a solid twist regarding a new love interest that enters Abe’s orbit later in the season.
With the most recent ending of Riverdale, it’s safe to say that the era of the corny, campy drama teen series is over. Clone High, a product made to mock the genre, has become the thing it was spoofing. In every other episode, the focus on love triangles and high school hierarchy carries the same repetitious sentiments as season one. Yet, the sincerity of the cheesiness at its core, as opposed to the typical snarky edge one expects from an adult comedy series, adds authenticity whenever those beats occur. They play up the absurdist comedy while building the drama to the point its finale ends on a cliffhanger so compelling I had to DM one of its key players and ask, “Why must your writers do this to my soul.”
Like the writers, the returning voice cast add freely to the show’s wild energy. The standouts lie in Kelvin Yu’s charming himbo Confucius, playing into the oblivious and sweet-natured side of the character, and Ireland’s best Ayo Edebiri as Harriet, who taps into her quick-wit and spontaneity making Harriet increasingly funnier as the season progresses.
Max shadow dropped Clone High‘s third season last Thursday because the service treats animation like that outcast cousin nobody wants to talk to during Thanksgiving. But like that outcast cousin, it’s better than most of their relatives anyway. This season feels like Clone High at high volume again. I hope enough people watch the series to give it one more season. The creators said if so, they’ll unfreeze Ghandi from the clone closet.
Clone High season three is now streaming on Max.