Starstruck season 3 review: The charming British rom-com grows up

Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck 
Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck
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Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck

“I’m sorry for your loss.” It’s a simple but crushing line delivered during a poignant moment of Starstruck’s third season. The quote isn’t nearly as devastating as Fleabag’s “It’ll pass,” but it carries a similar weight to the love story of Jessie (Rose Matafeo) and Tom (Nikesh Patel). It doesn’t pertain to anyone’s death; it’s meant to symbolize mourning the part of yourself you lose when a relationship ends. The endearing British series has devoted itself to exploring Jessie and Tom’s unexpected romance for two seasons. The winsome third season (which premieres in the U.S. September 28 on Max), however, is dedicated to the near-impossible challenge of letting go.

Despite getting together in the season-two finale after more than a year as an on-again-off-again couple, season three’s opening montage quickly runs through their rosy honeymoon phase, long-distance problems, and irreparable fights. To its credit, Matafeo and Alice Snedden’s astute writing consistently subverts a Notting Hill fanfic idea—Tom, a supposed superstar, dating a wonderful normie like Jessie—and turns it into a grounded, moving story. It’s frankly more realistic now because they’re fundamentally different people with distinct desires (kids vs. no kids) and careers (fame vs. normalcy). Opposites might always attract, but sometimes it’s not enough to keep the wheels of a relationship turning.

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For Tom, it’s figuring out his purpose in life, especially with regards to his pending wedding to Clem (Constance Labbé) and his family’s future. Yet Starstruck barely scratches the surface of both dilemmas, which is a bit of a frustrating turn after we were introduced to his family in season two. Before, it was refreshing to see an upbeat rom-com with a desirable South Asian leading man. But now, we’re just not seeing him as often.

Like we said, season three dwells more on Jessie, a flawed and relatable heroine. Matafeo imbues her performance with heart, so it’s easy to root for her success amid the confusion and chaos of trying to find love. Jessie meets a Scottish man, Liam (Lorne MacFadyen), at Kate’s wedding, and they immediately hit it off. After some banter and eye contact, they’re soon having cute bowling dates and hooking up. With utmost respect to Tom, Starstruck makes her connection with Liam also feel promising. Matafeo and MacFadyen’s playful energy helps establish their potential, even if the romance story isn’t as fleshed out as it could be.

While the show’s rom-com vibe hails from Jessie’s dual romances, the real love story (again, much like Fleabag), lies in her unbreakable sisterhood with Kate. The BFFs go through their own ups and downs, culminating in a finale set entirely in the hospital when Kate goes into labor. Thanks to Matafeo and Sidi’s real-life friendship, their onscreen repartee feels authentic and lived-in. The same applies to Jessie’s whole friend group. Jessie, a New Zealander, chose to stay in London for Tom in the season-one finale. She may or may not end up with him anymore, but at least she’s got her wacky pals to see her through it.

Jessie’s friendships and self-awareness are a surprising cornerstone, but there’s no denying the grounded romance makes Starstruck a breezy binge. (Season three’s two hours are best devoured in one sitting.) It’s not perfect, but the right balance of glee, melancholy, and realism makes it a standout modern-day rom-com.

Starstruck season three premieres September 28 on Max

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