The pandemic hit during the spring TV season, and NBC’s hit show Superstore is one of the shows that got put on hiatus a little early. The show’s setting made it important to shift plans as retail suddenly became ground zero for panic shopping that marked the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a warning, there may be spoilers ahead, as I’ve now watched the first two episodes of Season 6 through NBC’s PR team. The episodes reviewed here are:
“ESSENTIAL” (Thursday, Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT)
After the coronavirus hits, Amy and Jonah try to bring some order to the chaos at Cloud 9 while being pulled in multiple directions. The employees learn what it means to be considered “heroes.” Amy and Jonah’s impending move to California looms large.
“CALIFORNIA PART 2” (Thursday, November 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT)
In the show’s 100th episode, Cloud 9 employees prepare to send Amy and Jonah off as Mateo and Glenn attempt to organize a video tribute. Dina searches for a new best friend.
Remember these empty shelves everywhere?
Of course, season 5 ended on a bit of a cliffhanger reveal about America Ferrera’s character Amy’s departure from the show. Series regulars Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nichole Sakura, Nico Santos and Kaliko Kauahi are returning to work on the show, and Ferrera (who also serves as the show’s executive producer) is on full display in these two Covid-19 episodes.
We won’t dive into the plot too much to explain how the move goes. Jonah and Amy’s move is the main plot driver of “California, Part 2,” and fans are definitely in for an emotional journey as these two say their goodbyes to the Cloud 9 staff and they say theirs.
It’s a new era in retail, and this show found itself in the right place at the right time to document an important part of the culture. Cloud 9’s employees are no strangers to overcoming difficult times. From a tornado to employee strikes, unfair firings, and death. But they’re resilient heroes who found out what it’s like to be essential in a turbulent summer for Hollywood.
In fact, “Essential” is the name of the episode wedged in as an extra before the move to California. It extends the two-parter into a three-part episode and gives us more time enjoying the cast before Ferrera’s departure. In it, the staff learns of the issues during one of their many excessive staff meetings. This sets the stage for everyone to step up and be heroes one more time.
Of course, they don’t figure it out immediately. The company still has full shelves, and the shopping sprees are much more reserved than the store’s depiction of Black Friday…until the toilet paper is carted out.
The second act shifts into the social distancing age that followed, with the company struggling with both lines of customers and employees not wearing masks. The show tries to make light of the rules that were rolled out throughout the pandemic, starting with how employees are forced to wear masks while not having them provided by the company.
Cheyenne and Sandra keep getting the short end of the stick and can’t keep people following rules, so they attempt to game the system themselves. The lack of cleaning supplies, unruly customers, and other problems start stacking up, and Amy does whatever she can, much like we all did, including using high-proof alcohol for disinfectant, using shower curtains and other materials for makeshift shields, and more.
As funny as it is, it does highlight some of the crazy things entry-level retail employees were forced to deal with this year. Even Glenn, who’s notoriously the Christian butt of jokes, is cautious about his chances of surviving the pandemic as customers are willing to remove their masks and sneeze directly in his face.
It even quickly mentions BLM and the Tiger King, showing the awkwardness of allowing people time off to protest amid a pandemic. Customers are also attempting to fight the staff with tinfoil conspiracies to not wear masks because of their medical conditions. No matter which side of the fence you were on, there’s something for you in this episode.
Overall, the show’s fall return is a welcome bright spot in what’s been a long, stressful year. I look forward to ignoring the election for the next few weeks while focusing on new episode drops from this sitcom’s 6th season. It’ll be interesting to see how the store (and show) focuses without Ferrera’s leadership.
Check out Superstore on NBC or Peacock starting Thursday, October 29.