15 Shows That Prove The Theory Season 3 Is The Best Season Of A Series


Summary

  • Season 3 of a TV show is often the most memorable and perfect point in a series, with established characters and themes.
  • Not every show gets a satisfying conclusion, but the most important part is if each season concludes the narrative arc.
  • Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City, and Game of Thrones are particularly standout seasons with strong storylines and character development.


The debate about what season of a TV show is the best one is hotly contested, but there is plenty of evidence that it’s likely to be season 3 of the series. Season 3 is the perfect point in a series because it has worked out the kinks in season 1, established its longevity in season 2, and then can play with the concept and themes in season 3. Whether the show ends there at a high point or goes on for several more seasons, season 3 is often the most memorable of a show.

It’s never guaranteed that a series is going to be renewed for another season, so television writers and producers must always be prepared for the possibility that the current season they’re working on may be their last. Not every show gets the opportunity to conclude in a satisfying ending that neatly ties together all the threads of the plot in the whole series. However, it is not always the conclusion that is the most important part of a series. If a show has done its job properly, every season will conclude the narrative arc, leaving the opportunity for more seasons, or an exciting end.


15 Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003)

The Mayor, Faith, and Graduation

A promotional still of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast season 3

Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a mid-season replacement for the network, The WB, and was not expected to do as well as it did. The series grew a cult following, and got a full order for season 2, introducing new characters and a more complex season-long arc. Though season 2 is excellent, and there’s an argument to be made for many seasons of Buffy, season 3 hits all the marks of a perfect season.

The character Faith (Eliza Dushku) joins the show as a foil for Buffy and makes her question the morality of slaying. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are many times when Faith is like Buffy, and vice versa. Buffy and the gang graduate from high school and much of the season reflects the difficulties of that transitional period. Additionally, the Mayor (Harry Groener) is one of the most compelling villains of the series. Overall, season 3 is where the show peaks, as Buffy’s growth is handled flawlessly, and the themes for the remaining seasons are set up.

14 30 Rock (2006 – 2013)

Jon Hamm, Salma Hayek, and Jack’s father

Jon Hamm and Tina Fey exchanging mail in front of a door in 30 Rock

30 Rock

Release Date
October 11, 2006

Cast
Tina Fey , Alec Baldwin , Tracy Morgan , Jane Krakowski , Jack McBrayer , Scott Adsit , Judah Friedlander , Katrina Bowden , Keith Powell , Lonny Ross

Rating
TV-14

Seasons
7

Writers
Tina Fey , Robert Carlock

Showrunner
Robert Carlock

Liz (Tina Fey) and Jack (Alec Baldwin) get amazing guest stars to play their love interests. Jon Hamm plays Dr. Drew Baird for Liz and Salma Hayek plays Elisa for Jack. Both actors are highlights of the season, but season 3 is where 30 Rock hit its stride for many reasons. The show was always dedicated to outlandish humor and improbable plots, but season 3 leans in and throws out any attempts to be rooted in reality. This strengthens the show and makes the characters even more fun to watch in standout episodes like “The Bubble” and “Reunion”.

13 Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – )

Izzie’s recovery, Cristina’s wedding, and the Meredith & Derek drama

Meredith almost drowning in the lake in Grey's Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy

Release Date
March 27, 2005

Cast
Kelly McCreary , Patrick Dempsey , Kevin McKidd , Chandra Wilson , Jesse Williams , Jake Borelli , camilla luddington , Ellen Pompeo , Chyler Leigh , Eric Dane , Caterina Scorsone , Giacomo Gianniotti , Anthony Hill , Kate Walsh , Justin Chambers , Sarah Drew , Greg Germann , Martin Henderson , Katherine Heigl , T.R. Knight , Sara Ramirez , Jerrika Hinton , Richard Flood , Sandra Oh , Kim Raver , Jason George , Tessa Ferrer , Isaiah Washington , James Pickens Jr. , Gaius Charles , Chris Carmack , Brooke Smith , Jessica Capshaw

Seasons
19

Writers
Shonda Rhimes , Julie Wong , Jen Klein , Tameson Duffy , Meg Marinis

Directors
Rob Corn , Kevin McKidd , Debbie Allen , Chandra Wilson , Allison Liddi-Brown , Jeannot Szwarc , Tony Phelan

Showrunner
Meg Marinis

With nineteen seasons to choose from, it’s difficult to narrow down the best season of Grey’s Anatomy. Though some of the most iconic characters have not been introduced yet, season 3 is the strongest in terms of consistency of episodes and excellent wrap-ups of conflicts introduced in the first and second seasons. It’s time for the interns to graduate to residency, and that can be a tricky change.

Each of the core characters goes through considerable growth and must evolve to make it to the next phase of the show. Most notably, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) faces challenges in her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and her relationship trouble with Derek (Patrick Dempsey). All of this comes to a head in one of the best episodes of the series, “Drowning on Dry Land”.

12 Sex And The City (1998 – 2004)

Aidan, the affair with Big, and Trey

Carrie and Aidan Smiling in Sex and the City Season 3

Sex and the City

Release Date
June 6, 1998

Cast
Kim Cattrall , Cynthia Nixon , Sarah Jessica Parker , Kristin Davis

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
6

Writers
Darren Star

Network
HBO Max

Streaming Service(s)
Max

Showrunner
Darren Star

Season 3 of Sex and the City is when the show truly becomes itself. A strong season-long arc is introduced in the love triangle between Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Aidan (John Corbett), and Big (Chris Noth). Carrie has always made questionable decisions, but when she has an affair with Big, she becomes something of an anti-hero. Additionally, it’s in season 3 that Charlotte (Kristin Davis) meets Trey (Kyle MacLachlan), which sets her on a course of self-discovery for the rest of the series.

11 Game Of Thrones (2011 – 2019)

Jon & Ygritte, Daenerys becomes a liberator, and the Red Wedding

Game Of Thrones

Release Date
April 11, 2011

Seasons
8

Directors
David Nutter , Alan Taylor , D.B. Weiss , David Benioff

Showrunner
David Benioff , D.B. Weiss

It’s universally agreed upon that the final season of Game of Thrones was the weakest, and the strongest seasons were those that sourced their plots from the books. Of these seasons, season 3 of Game of Thrones has the most iconic moments. It has “The Rains of Castamere”, in which the Red Wedding takes place, which is a famously bloody and defining moment in the series. Additionally, season 3 sees Dany (Emilia Clarke) begin to define what kind of leader she wants to be, as she recruits the army, the Unsullied, to help her quest to free the people of Essos and retake the Iron Throne.

10 Broad City (2014 – 2019)

Ilana and Abbi have relationship troubles and Blake Griffin guest-stars

Abbi & Ilana Broad City Season 3 Episode 5

Broad City

Release Date
January 22, 2014

Cast
Abbi Jacobson , Ilana Glazer , Hannibal Buress , Paul Downs , John Gemberling , Arturo Castro , Stephen Schneider , Chris Gethard , D’Arcy Carden , Susie Essman , Bob Balaban

Genres
Sitcom

Seasons
5

Writers
Ilana Glazer

Directors
Ilana Glazer

Showrunner
Ilana Glazer

Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as Ilana and Abbi, two young women who are best friends in New York City. In the third season, Broad City maintains the humor that defined the show for the first two seasons but introduces some serious emotional plot lines. Both Ilana and Abbi are broken up with by their partners in “Burning Bridges”, and this leads to the pair growing closer as friends. In equal moments of levity, season 3 also boasts guest star Blake Griffin, whom Ilana meets at a club and spends the night with.

9 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013 – 2020)

Simmons’ battle to survive, the search for Inhumans, and Daisy’s betrayal

Agents of SHIELD Season 3 Cast Poster

Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. successfully opened the world of the series. It takes riskier choices with pacing and plots that ultimately pay off very well. One of the best examples of this is in the episode “4,722 Hours”. It is a bottle episode in which it’s revealed what Simmons had to do to survive when she was separated from the team.

All of this is set against the growing war with HYDRA, and the team’s continued search for Inhumans, individuals with special powers. One of the most shocking twists of the season is when Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) betrays her team in a serious blow to S.H.I.E.L.D. The remaining characters must heal from this betrayal and move forward in their quest to stop HYDRA.

8 The Other Two (2019 – 2023)

Brooke hates nurses, Cary loses his soul, and Pat dates Simu Liu

The Other Two

Release Date
January 24, 2019

Cast
Heléne Yorke , Drew Tarver , Case Walker , Ken Marino , Molly Shannon , Brandon Scott Jones , Josh Segarra

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
3

Writers
Chris Kelly , Sarah Schneider

Streaming Service(s)
Max

Directors
Chris Kelly

Although season 3 was ultimately the final season of The Other Two, it’s a shame because the show had hit a high in season 3, and could have continued on this upward trajectory. Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) Dubek continue to chase fame and find self-fulfillment as their younger brother’s star only grows. The critiques of the entertainment industry are at their sharpest in season 3, and the show ends on a sweet and funny note. The characters come out of their haze of fame and recognize the importance of family.

7 Veep (2012 – 2019)

Selina on the campaign trail

Selina meets Richard Splett at a book signing in Veep season 3.

Veep

Release Date
April 22, 2012

Cast
Anna Chlumsky , Timothy Simons , Julia Louis-Dreyfus , Reid Scott , Tony Hale , Matt Walsh , Kevin Dunn , Sufe Bradshaw

Seasons
7

Writers
Armando Iannucci

Network
HBO Max

Directors
Armando Iannucci

Showrunner
Armando Iannucci

The entirety of season 3 of Veep revolves around Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) traveling around the country courting voters in her bid for the presidency. Every character is at their best in the third season and the campaign trail serves as an excellent tool to get Selina and her staff into new and hilarious situations. Season 3 was an important reset for the series. The first two seasons primarily took place in Washington D.C., and revolved around her duties as the Vice President. Season 3 shakes up that formula and delivers some of the funniest moments of the series.

6 Reservation Dogs (2021 – 2023)

Bear’s journey, and growing up

Reservation Dogs season 3 finale

Reservation Dogs

Release Date
August 9, 2021

Cast
Zahn McClarnon , Bobby Lee

Seasons
2

Streaming Service(s)
Disney+ , Hulu

The final season of the well-loved series, season 3 of Reservation Dogs, wraps up the show beautifully, even if it’s difficult to say goodbye to the series. There are many amazing quotes from Reservation Dogs, but season 3 has an amazing story. The season picks back up where the last season left off, and the group continues to grapple with the loss of Daniel (Dalton Cramer).

Additionally, they are growing up and discovering what they want for their futures. One of the best episodes of the season, “Deer Lady” departs from the traditional format of the show and deals directly with the devastation of the boarding schools that Indigenous children were forcibly taken to. After such a strong final season, it’s hard to imagine TV without Reservation Dogs.

5 Seinfeld (1989 – 1998)

Jerry takes back his keys, “The Pen”, “The Letter”

Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George on the subway in Seinfeld Season 3

Seinfeld

Release Date
July 5, 1989

Cast
Jerry Seinfeld , Julia Louis-Dreyfus , Jason Alexander , Michael Richards

Seasons
9

Directors
Jason Alexander

As with most seasons of Seinfeld, a lot happens, but also nothing at all. However, season 3 is noted as the season when Seinfeld comes into its own and begins experimenting with multiple storylines per episode, as well as making all the characters even more ridiculous. The season was universally praised, receiving multiple award nominations for both writing and performance. Many of the episodes in the season are some of the best in the series, including “The Pen” and “The Letter”.

4 Gilmore Girls (2000 – 2007)

The Dean, Jess, and Rory love triangle, graduation, and first steps towards The Dragonfly Inn

Gilmore Girls

Release Date
October 5, 2000

Cast
Lauren Graham , Scott Patterson , Sean Gunn , Keiko Agena , Matt Czuchry , Alexis Bledel , Yanic Truesdale , Kelly Bishop , Melissa McCarthy , Edward Herrmann , Liza Weil , Jared Padalecki , Milo Ventimiglia

Seasons
7

Writers
Amy Sherman-Palladino

Season 3 of Gilmore Girls provides some of the best moments between Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) and sees the love triangle between them and Dean (Jared Padalecki) come to a head. Additionally, Rory completes her final year of high school and decides to go to Yale instead of Harvard, which sets her on a new life path. For Lorelai, season 3 is packed with more career trouble than romantic intrigue. The Independence Inn burns down, which is devastating at first, but also opens the opportunity for Lorelai to open her inn. All of this comes together to make season 3 the most defining of the show.

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3 M*A*S*H (1972 – 1983)

Henry Blake says goodbye

The cast of MASH from season 3 smiling and huddling for a photo in uniform

M*A*S*H stars Alan Alda as Hawkeye, a doctor stationed in Korea during the Korean War. A charming and rebellious character, he and the other members of his unit get up to some memorable antics in season 3 of the show. The episode, “Alcoholics Unanimous” was nominated for both a Primetime Emmy and a Directors Guild Award. In one of the most emotional episodes of the series, the season finale sees Lt. Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) leave the show and say goodbye to the characters.

2 Cheers (1982 -1993)

Sam and Diane’s breakup, and Frasier is introduced

Diane looking at Frasier in the bar in Cheers

Cheers

Release Date
September 30, 1982

Cast
Ted Danson , Shelley Long , Nicholas Colasanto , Rhea Perlman , George Wendt , John Ratzenberger , Kelsey Grammer , Woody Harrelson , Kirstie Alley , Bebe Neuwirth

Genres
Sitcom

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
11

Writers
James Burrows , Glen Charles , Les Charles

Directors
James Burrows , Andy Ackerman

Showrunner
James Burrows , Glen Charles , Les Charles , Ken Estin , Sam Simon , David Angell , Peter Casey , David Lee , Bill Steinkellner , Cheri Steinkellner , Phoef Sutton , Tom Anderson , Dan O’Shannon

Cheers was revolutionary in the realm of sitcoms and has inspired many shows that have followed. The relationship dynamic of will-they-won’t-they between Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) is a popular formula for couples on TV to this day. In season 3, however, their relationship changes following their breakup in season 2. The pair must learn to coexist after they have tried and failed at a romantic connection. This makes season 3 very engaging and spurs the introduction of Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who dates Diane. Frasier would become a popular character and go on to have his spin-off, Frasier.

1 Psych (2006 – 2014)

Shawn’s high school reunion, Lassie gets accused of murder, and the return of Shawn’s mother

James Roday and Dulé Hill in Psych season 3

Psych

Release Date
July 7, 2006

Cast
Dule Hill , Kirsten Nelson , Corbin Bernsen , James Roday , Maggie Lawson , Anne Dudek , Timothy Omundson

Seasons
8

Writers
Andy Berman , Steve Franks

Network
USA

Directors
Mel Damski , Steve Franks

Showrunner
Steve Franks

Psych is a cult classic, and more than one season of the show has received nearly universal critical acclaim. However, season 3 rises to the top because of strong consistency, and the writer’s dedication to highlighting the stories of each of the characters. Some of the best episodes of the season include the premiere, “Ghosts”, and the finale, “An Evening With Mr. Yang”. Overall, Psych enters season 3 with its formula perfect through seasons 1 and 2, and can mix it up and experiment in season 3 with great results.



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