After a two-year wait, Hulu’s Ramy has finally returned with its third season. Starting season three, one wonders how (or if) co-creator/writer/director/actor Ramy Youssef will redeem the character of Ramy Hassan (also played by Youssef), whose constant bad choices caused him to lose everything in season two. Season three opens a year after Ramy’s last bad decision led him to lose his marriage to Zeinab (MaameYaa Boafo) and spiritual connection to Sheikh Ali Malik (Mahershala Ali). Hassan now tries to rebuild his life by working with his Uncle Naseem (Laith Nakli) on the Diamond District. He seems to be on the right path to a better, more stable life while still figuring out who he is and what he wants to do with his life.
There are plenty of episodes where the titular character is its main protagonist, as he tries to grapple with his life and make a name for himself away from Naseem’s business, but with that comes consequences. His friends, Mo (Mohammed Amer), Ahmed (Dave Merheje), and Steve Russo (Steve Way), barely see him and are worried that the path Ramy is taking isn’t the right one. He’s also in debt to Zeinab, who doesn’t want to talk to him. As a result, he’s essentially distancing himself further from the ones he is closest to by making more bad decisions. Those parts are strong, and Youssef plays the character with such earnestness that it’s hard not to ultimately root for his success, even if he keeps embarrassing himself, exasperating his friends, and saying things he shouldn’t be saying.
However, they’re not as strong as when Ramy veers off from the main character and centers on Maysa (Hiam Abbass), Farouk (Amr Waked), Dena (May Calamawy), Mo and Ahmed, and Uncle Naseem. These episodes are far more interesting to watch than Ramy’s quest and explore a new side of each character that wasn’t previously developed in past seasons. May Calamawy and Laith Nakli are major highlights and share the season’s best scene. The two open up to themselves in ways they previously wouldn’t, as Dena has always been critical of Naseem’s behavior in past seasons. However, her uncle’s anguish is powerful enough for her to start caring about him.
There hasn’t been a better choice to play Uncle Naseem than Laith Nakli. Not only does he have impeccable comedic timing, but his portrayal of the character is filled with intense emotional power in sequences that require massive dramatic impact. The more we learn about him, the more we start to feel emotionally for everything he goes through, even if he’s inflicting more pain upon himself (and his family) by not accepting his sexuality as a part of him. Nakli’s portrayal of Naseem is ultimately devastating, and the final scenes involving his character hit much more profound than anticipated solely because of his versatility as a highly talented actor.
Calamawy also gets a chance to show her comedic skills in multiple sequences. One scene involving her character is hands down the funniest thing I’ve seen all year in a film and TV series combined (you’ll know it when you see it) and is a brilliant showcase to her singular talent as an actor. It’s a shame that she isn’t in the show as much as she was in the second season, but she more than makes the most of her screen time and has an indelible impact on the story and characters. In the past two seasons, Dena’s arc was linear. We knew what path she wanted to undertake as an aspiring lawyer while Ramy searched for his direction in life. But this is the first time Dena starts questioning herself and the path she wants to undertake, leading to the best scene of the season with Naseem. Every decision the characters make in previous seasons, or this one, impacts how they currently are and feel.
It’s an ingenious way to show how skillful a writer Youssef is, intricately developing characters we care about and who have a clear emotional progression from the show’s beginning to now. As a result, moments that occurred in past seasons start to affect the characters. For instance, Maysa speaks French more often this season than in previous ones because it’s a language Farouk doesn’t understand. Is their marriage falling apart? Is she using the language purposefully to distance herself from her husband and longs for a better relationship, like the time she shared with a French Lyft passenger in season one? One individual episode in the first season (“Ne Me Quitte Pas”) has deeply affected Maysa, and we’re finally seeing how it continues to affect her. It also helps that Abbass and Waked deliver deeply moving performances as a drifting couple who desperately try to pull themselves together, even though they are in two different states of mind.
As deeply emotional as Ramy‘s third season is, which sees its characters at their most broken and vulnerable, Youssef doesn’t forget to infuse a good dose of laughter in between its most dramatic moments. For those who thought that Ramy‘s second season was dark (and it certainly was), which was a jarring shift in tone from the first, season three picks the comedy back up and has its fair share of side-splitting moments involving its main characters. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the show can’t deal with complex subjects and challenge audiences seriously (which it does exceptionally well), but season three’s comedy is funnier than the last two. The performances undoubtedly elevate the material, but Youssef’s writing is the sharpest he’s been. He doesn’t force his characters into comedic situations for comedy (which is why most studio comedies fail nowadays) but instead explores how embarrassment, failure, and misconceptions are often very funny.
Comedy is hard to do. It takes a specific skill set to be funny and consistently reinvent yourself as a comedian and come up with new jokes for your fans to want to continue listening to your specials or watch your content. Few comedians can do what Ramy Youssef accomplishes in the third season of Ramy. Not only is the season the best comedy of the year, but it’s also the most impactful and emotionally devastating television series I’ve seen all year. Every actor is at the top of their game, particularly May Calamawy and Laith Nakli. They all give passionate performances and continuously prove themselves as some of the best performers working today.
There are a few appearances from well-known stars in the season, including Bella Hadid, who makes her acting debut as Lena. Of course, the less said about her character (and other surprises that Youssef successfully hid from its promotional materials), the better. However, if she wants to pursue her acting career further than her recurring appearance in Ramy, she would do a great job.
If you’re not watching Ramy, what are you waiting for? With May Calamawy blowing everyone away as the Scarlet Scarab in Marvel’s Moon Knight, I convinced many of my friends (and family members) to tune in and watch the previous two seasons. They were all blown away by its masterful writing, performances, fantastic score from Dan Romer & Mike Tuccillo (alongside pitch-perfect needle drops), and genuinely funny comedy.
Season three of Ramy has all of those things and more. What Youssef accomplishes in this season alone is comedy television at its best and most poignant. There hasn’t been a show quite like Ramy. We should all be eternally grateful for its existence and for Ramy Youssef, May Calamawy, Hiam Abbass, Laith Nakli, Mohammed Amer, Amr Waked, Dave Merheje, and Steve Way for sharing their talents on screen. They deserve the world and our appreciation.
All episodes were screened for review. Season three of Ramy premieres September 30 on Hulu.