‘Tuca and Bertie’ Season 3 Review of “Leveling Up” and “The Pain Garden”
The first two episodes of the new season of Tuca and Bertie premiered on July 10 on Adult Swim and HBO Max, and the first two episodes are better than I could’ve imagined. The show continues to be zany, fun, and profound in each roughly twenty-minute episode.
Season 3 makes a splash with new jobs and romances. The new season is promising and exciting, and it deals with pressing real-world issues. I liked Season 2, but I’m even more excited for what Season 3 has in store. These characters never cease to surprise me, and I am excited for what’s next.
Tuca is the biggest surprise. She starts a job as a tour guide and takes tourists out on giant inflatable ducks and gives them tours and makes everything up as she goes along. Somehow, likely due to her charming personality and ability to come up with ideas on the fly, her boss and customers love her.
She has also moved on from her ex, Kara, and is dating a tree named Figgy. He does bear fruit and Tuca is over the moon for him. I thought BoJack Horseman was strange for introducing animal and human romances, but I’d never thought I’d see a bird and plant. But I like them together–Figgy is a cool dude.
These changes are overwhelming at first, and Tuca has an urge to self-sabotage. She has settled into a new routine compared to season 2. She has this long-term job and a boyfriend she really likes, and she’s worried she’ll mess it up.
Tuca and the Epic Self Sabotage
In this episode, there are two different sides of self-sabotage. Tuca, overwhelmed by her boss’s praise and her new relationship, quits her job and heads back to Bertie’s apartment. She proclaims to Bertie that she is self-sabotaging, ignores plans with Figgy, and invites herself to Speckle’s gala. She arrives and starts entertaining gala guests with similar jokes that she makes on her tours. Not the best look. I also noticed that they don’t address her blowing off plans with Figgy in the episode at all. Unless she canceled their plans, but the way the scene looks, it sounds like she didn’t text him.
As to her job, that works out, somehow. Her tour guide is also dramatic and more impulsive than she is, and he doesn’t know what he is doing. She is understandably worried and starts to spiral when he says:
“I staked my whole future on you, Tuca. And if you let me down, I’m ruined.”
“I’m Tuca, I’m distracted because I’m unreliable and no one should trust me.”
Her illustrated doubts bring to mind Diane and BoJack’s anxieties in BoJack Horseman. She imagines Bertie and her boss drowning in the water while she stands on land and refuses to help them. Tuca doesn’t spiral quite to the level that Diane does. She is more extroverted, so rather than stay in her head, she starts to go out and get outside of herself. She doubts herself mostly because of what other people have said about her, the most notable person is her Aunt Tallulah. It will be interesting to see how her doubts affect her in future episodes. She is doing well, but her problems and insecurities are still there. But she does have the opportunity to overcome them or go forward despite of all those doubts.
Tuca finally has a job where people take her seriously, and she is the responsible one for once. The feeling is overwhelming, but it can also be freeing. During tours, she can be herself and build connections with the people around her. Tuca can be responsible but doesn’t have to give up herself to fit a mold about what a responsible adult looks like. She doesn’t have to wear pants.
She is becoming more of herself as she doesn’t have to put on a face or pretend with this job or in her new relationship. But, of course, life isn’t that easy, and the new episode throws Tuca a curveball.
Tuca and “The Pain Garden”
In the next episode, The Pain Garden, Tuca’s storyline shifts when doctors refuse to acknowledge or take her seriously when she comes in experiencing pain. Tuca feels extreme pain every time she gets her period and throws up.
She has felt like this since she was a teenager, but she never got treatment because no one told her getting help was an option. Tuca thought she had to suffer in unexplainable, terrible pain in silence.
When she feels like this, she can’t do anything and feels like she has to hide away for a week because it hurts so badly. When Bertie suggests she see someone, she goes hopefully like one usually does when they visit a medical professional for help.
But, when she gets there, her doctors dismiss her pain and refuse to listen to her when she says her pain doesn’t feel normal. It is more than painful periods; this pain is chronic and debilitating. Her doctors are bees, and they’re completely unhelpful. They have no idea what is wrong with her, but instead of trying to figure it out, they blame her.
They suggest that she should lose ten pounds, or three pounds, or seven pounds or that her pain comes from “anxiety” and they don’t know what they’re doing at all. Tuca goes to different doctors in different specialties because she’s told they will help, but no one will listen. They keep trying to look at one part of Tuca, and they don’t look at the whole picture.
“My body is a galaxy, not just a planet. Is there anyone who can look at my whole being and not just all the parts?”Tuca (the galaxy animation in this scene is also awesome)
After a day of hearing nothing, Tuca brings them all together and stands up for herself. The bees are lost without their Queen, so Tuca declares herself the Queen Bee. So they listen, and after a whole day of hearing nothing, they run some tests.
This scene is funny, but Tuca’s problem is a real issue that many people face. The problem of doctors not taking people seriously when they are in pain is a big one. Periods, in particular, tend to be dismissed, as extreme pain is seen as “normal” and a part of the cycle. But endometriosis and PCOS are serious medical problems that need proper treatment and care. There is also a history of doctors telling patients that losing weight will solve an unrelated issue and misdiagnosing patients because of their weight.
At the end of the episode, Tuca has been tested and the results are “inconclusive.” She has a conversation with her Aunt Tallulah who admits that she experiences the same levels of pain during her period, but she never got it treated. Viewers suggested that she has endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which both could be the case. For now, Tuca will have to wait. Luckily, she has Bertie and her supportive boyfriend, Figgy, are there to support her.
Speckle, Bertie, and Figgy
Bertie in this episode was waiting in the waiting room and noticed Tuca getting a text from Figgy. Watching her in this episode was a nice respite from Tuca’s pain. She starts answering questions concerning Tuca’s birthday and then falls into a full-on conversation using Tuca’s name. We also see Speckle dressed up as Tuca, which is an image I can’t quite get out of my mind.
Speckle is so oblivious; I don’t know anyone who would dress up as a friend and go to their apartment to pick up a pizza for a friend’s boyfriend and ask no questions. But he obviously would do anything for Bertie, which is valid. Speckle and Bertie clearly adore Figgy.
Figgy says to Speckle in a Tuca disguise:
“I like all of you, every part of you.”
Figgy loves Tuca for who is is and adores all her quirks. He buys her a gift that she’ll like for the heck of it. Figgy is intellectual, serious, and British. I’m not sure what will happen with Figgy. He admits to Tuca that he drinks, a lot. At first, I thought he meant he drinks a lot of water because he is a plant. I really hope that is what he means, but if he does have a problem with alcohol, it could cause problems with his relationship with Tuca, as she is sober. He also likes taking care of people and seems like a sweet plant.
He is a likable character so far, so hopefully, he and Tuca are happy together or he tells an interesting story. I’m hoping for both, and if it doesn’t work out, I wonder if Tuca will meet someone new or stay single for a while. He contrasts with Bertie’s boyfriend, Speckle, who is nerdy and zany. I’d also like to see more of Speckle and his relationship with Bertie as the show goes on.
At the moment, he and Bertie are doing well, and his career as an architect is flourishing. He has plans for affordable housing after a flood and he gets to host his own gala.
Bertie’s Bakery Dreams and Choice Feminism
But Bertie is anxious about her place in life. Her bakery business, SweetBeak, is floundering, and she needs some business, any business. She decides to cater Speckle’s gala the day before and tells him to fire his current caterer. She even hires a wannabe baker, a woman named Tyler, a millennial-stereotype character who requests an extra hour for a lunch break and calls it “self-care.”
Tyler is everything that people criticize about millennials and young people. She doesn’t want to work; she is condescending towards Bertie and manipulates her into hiring her. Bertie cares about mentoring young women, right? She should hire this girl, who is young and making her way in the world.
Tuca and Bertie likes to criticize what you could call choice feminism and ideas about self-care. Choice feminism is essentially the idea that women should have choices to do what they want with their lives and that those choices are justified and right because they made them. If a woman does what she wants in life, that is inherently feminist and good. Self-care is the same way. If you look out for yourself and take care of your needs, that is always a good thing.
But the problem is, people aren’t inherently good, nor are their actions. To Bertie’s assistant, Tyler, “self-care” is looking out for one’s self, regardless of the impact that has on others. Anyone getting her way is “micromanaging” her, she screams to Bertie. To Kara, “self-care” means ending a relationship with Tuca by ghosting her because Kara was “too busy” working on her mental health to consider her relationship with her girlfriend.
Bertie Lets go of the Bakery
When it comes to the assistant, Bertie too easily says yes. She’s a people pleaser, and she is also desperate to get the job done as soon as possible. She does get it done, without the assistant’s help, because she’s a great baker.
Bertie doesn’t give up on anything either. She meets her favorite celebrity chef, Chef Winter Garcia, at the gallery. Bertie wows Winter with her baking knowledge and ideas, and the two get along great. When Winter suggests Bertie to join her bakery as an “idea person.” Bertie is flattered, but she is hesitant. She dreamed of running her own business. Winter knows this and advises her:
“Look, sometimes as you get older, all you can see are the doors closing, but here is an open door. Don’t get hemmed in by the dreams I had in my twenties. That’s the advice I’d give myself at your age. Think on it.”
Bertie closes down her bakery on Yak, a review website, and then slips on a piece of desert and shakes her new boss’s hand. Her boss is friendly, but will Bertie be happy closing that door? I’m a bit doubtful, but we will see as the rest of season 3 comes out. It could turn out that maybe she didn’t need to run her own business to be happy. She and Winter get along well, and working with someone could lessen the workload and stress of owning a business on her own. Episode 3 coming soon, so hopefully we find out what happens.
The animators are also clearly having fun with this. The inflatable ducks crash into the gala and it turns out tha one duck is sick and needed to recover. Tuca’s pain garden looks like real dirt and it serves as a good metaphor. I’m excited to see what they do next with animation, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.
Are you curious to learn more: I included some links to articles about the show here:
Have you seen the recent episodes of Tuca and Bertie? What did you think? What would you like to see in Tuca and Bertie’s futures?
Let me know down in the comments below!