Post-America Ferrera, NBC’s ‘Superstore’ Struggles to Move On

Superstore cast for final season

Since its debut in 2015, Superstore has been one of my favorite workplace comedies, often described as Parks and Recreation or The Office set in a Walmart-esque store called Cloud 9. Few other shows today openly address issues imperative to retail workers, such as union-busting, lack of access to affordable health care, and class divisions between them and corporate employees. Few other shows feature such a diverse ensemble cast and address serious issues of racism and sexism without pretending to offer solutions. And with Amy Sosa, a Latina woman played by America Ferrera at its center, Superstore has been a personal source of inspiration and pride.

I watched Amy earn promotions at work, climbing up the ladder from a floor supervisor to the store manager to a corporate employee at Cloud 9’s parent company in California. But her Latina identity is never exploited or made cartoonish or named her one defining trait. As the lead, she is the most complex, flawed, and grounded, her realistic character complementing the quirks and absurdity of the rest of the cast. With her increasingly demanding job, a divorce, two still-growing children, and a new relationship she has doubts about, she feels the most messy and real.

Which made Ferrera’s exit that much more disappointing, not only to me but to the entire show.

I’ve been invested in Amy’s romantic relationship with Jonah, a floor worker at Cloud 9, since he first laid eyes on her in the pilot episode — the beginning of the perfect “will they or won’t they” couple. Losing that story and watching their romance crumble after five seasons of love triangles, wrong timings, and misunderstandings feels like a betrayal to everything they and the viewer have endured.

Additionally, Amy’s close friendship with Dina, the assistant store manager, is a rare portrayal of female solidarity and teamwork in the workplace, especially knowing that they began as enemies and competitors for Jonah’s romantic interest. It was extraordinary watching them move forward from such a toxic relationship into more complex characters as women, co-workers, and friends.

The sixth season has been confirmed as its last, and for good reason, what with the show struggling to move on from the legacy Ferrera left behind. On one hand, her absence allows for the show’s supporting characters to grow into better versions of themselves. But where it begins to go sideways is that the show cannot decide who the new main character is.

Jonah seems the most obvious choice. Similar to Amy, he brought hilarity as the “straight man” character reacting to the chaos always happening around him. With him working at the store for five years with no hope of being promoted, it is exciting to see him consider the possibility of a life outside of Cloud 9. I would love to see him finally move forward with his own ambitions that have been on the back burner since he dropped out of law school and met Amy. Yet without her, Jonah’s story arcs do not possess the same urgency or energy they once did. He has no one to impress or support, and up until this point, he has been the most interesting when romantically involved or recovering from a break-up.

Which of course begs the question: is Jonah enough of an independent person to successfully carry the show to its finale? Maybe not.

Luckily, there’s hope for Dina and co-worker Cheyenne to keep viewers invested as they step into their own leadership positions at the store. Following Amy’s move to California for her corporate position, Dina was promoted to co-manager with Glenn and Cheyenne to floor supervisor. As a result, they are both confronting issues that Amy was also battling — receiving respect as women in positions of power, fearing they will be perceived as too bossy or too passive, and effectively balancing work with home life and romantic relationships.

As much as Amy’s exit hurts, it is opening other avenues of possibilities for such endearing characters. Still, there’s hope for Ferrera’s return in the series finale and subsequent reconciliation and reunion with Jonah. But with only a handful of episodes remaining and so much story still left to tell, I’m more wary than excited of how Superstore will end.

The next episode of Superstore will air on February 4th, 2021.

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