The Pfeffermans, those endearingly flawed Californians whose lives are chronicled on Amazon's Transparent, are returning for a third season on Sept. 23.
When we last saw the family at the end of Season 2, they were all grappling with major developments in their lives: Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) forged and then consummated a relationship with Vicki (Anjelica Huston) and finally came out to her mother; Sarah (Amy Landecker) turned to BDSM to deal with her depression and resolved to explore her Jewish roots; Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) experienced a sexual awakening with Leslie (Cherry Jones); and Shelly (Judith Light) found new love in Buzzy (Richard Masur), whom Josh (Jay Duplass) embraced as a new father figure after breaking up with Raquel (Kathryn Hahn) and realizing he needed to confront his childhood abuse.
So, what's ahead for the gang in Season 3? We turned to the cast and creator Jill Soloway to find out.
"I think they're all starting to address their narcissism a little bit," Soloway tells TVGuide.com. "I think this season has a lot of moments where our characters are confronted with their own privilege. Not so much that they become good people. [Laughs] I mean, I think they're great people, but I think their lack of ability to do the right thing is what makes them lovable and what makes them watchable. So, they keep screwing up, but I think at this point, some of their privilege starts to bounce up and fly in their faces a little bit."
The journey that began with Maura's coming out in Season 1 continues with her adjusting to her new self this year. "Maura's, for all intents and purposes, a teenager," Tambor says. "She doesn't know quite what to do or how to express her freedom. She makes huge mistakes."
Adds Soloway: "She's really becoming. I think a lot of us experienced the feeling over the past few years of, what happens when you get everything you want? And Maura pretty much says that in the first scene. She goes, 'My kids love me. I have a great job. I have everything I want. How come I'm still not happy?' I think the dream of becoming, the dream of coming out, is kind of an antidepressant for people as they start to think, I'm going to name myself. I'm going to come out to everybody. Then you come out and then you're kind of back to square one. You have your new self, but now you have to actually deal with yourself. And I think that could be a name for Maura's story -- just, 'What now?'"
In the early part of the season, Maura will confront those questions as she embarks on a full-fledged relationship with Vicki. She also starts working at the LGBT Center fielding calls to a suicide prevention hotline -- which, according to Tambor, "begins a total learning experience for her. ... Her learning curve starts out with a real bang."
As the season progresses, Maura's decision to have gender confirmation surgery puts her at odds with Vicki, as well as members of her family, but those aren't the only obstacles she faces. "Because she's older and she has the real health challenges of somebody of that age, things get complicated for her, and it's not quite as simple as it seems," Soloway notes.
"She has no boundaries," Light says. "It's something that is infinitely frustrating about her, and also at another point, can be lovable. She goes too far. And she crosses lines. And if somebody were to say something to her about it, she wouldn't understand it. ... This is one of those stories where somebody is coming into their own and their own voice, and doing it very clumsily and very badly."
But even as she starts to author her own story, Shelly struggles to reconcile her lingering feelings for Maura and bristles at Maura's revelation that she wants to undergo gender confirmation surgery. We also get to see more of Maura and Shelly's history this season, including a "huge revelation" about their backstory, which Tambor promises is "gonna knock people on their keister." And Buzzy continues to be supportive of Shelly's exploits, even encouraging her to produce a one-woman show, until financial disagreements drive a wedge between them.
Ali and Leslie continue their sexual relationship when Season 3 picks up, though they keep their romance under wraps since Ali has also opted to be Leslie's TA. Despite their mutual strong feelings for each other, however, the honeymoon period doesn't last long when some of Leslie's true colors come to light. "Ali's just encountering the reality of what a real relationship means," Soloway says. "She, I think, idealizes love. I think they all idealize love. ... Ali's stories aren't these, like, fantastical, grandiose stories. But they're just these really subtle stories about how you do your day and how you do your love and how you are loved, and what it means to be tender with somebody, and what it means to give and receive sexual satisfaction."
Sarah continues to find an outlet in BDSM, and also runs for a board position at her temple. In the process of the latter (and over Josh's protests), she forms a close friendship with Raquel, and also continues to have a complicated co-parenting/co-habitating relationship with her ex-husband Len (Rob Huebel), who's dating a 22-year-old spin class instructor. When gossip about her sexual proclivities and living arrangement threaten her bid for the board, Sarah finds herself on a different path towards religious enlightenment.
Josh and Ali become closer than ever as roommates at the start of Season 3, even as Josh grows resentful of Sarah's friendship with Raquel. Between turmoil in his personal life and an influx of new, younger executives at his company, Josh is in a depressive funk when it comes to his job. Midway through the season, an unexpected loss prompts Josh to make some questionable decisions, and also spurs him into an unlikely romantic relationship with someone close to Maura. Josh and Maura also have a "real confrontation" this season, according to Tambor, before arriving at a mutual understanding.
Raquel still carries a torch for Josh when the season picks up, but quickly reunites with an old friend at her temple who's now a widowed father and clearly has his eye on her. Additionally, Raquel tries to balance her new friendship with Sarah with her spiritual obligations as she guides Sarah down a path of religious exploration (and manages temple politics along the way). For Raquel, Sarah represents her "id," according to Hahn. "[Raquel] needs Sarah as well," she says. "This friendship, there is something in it that feels a little dirty. ... I think Raquel just sees a woman that is hungry and has questions, and I respect that."
All 10 episodes of Transparent Season 3 will be available on Amazon Prime on Friday, Sept. 23.