‘Hart of Dixie’ Midseason Review: Small Town Glories and Frustrations

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Mike Yarish/The CW

After only eight episodes, we’re not quite at the midseason point, but since Hart of Dixie is on hiatus until January, we’re going to go ahead and treat it like one anyway. The third season of the show has had its ups and downs, but it remains one of the highlights of my TV viewing schedule.

This show is always best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously like when a grown man is held hostage because three other men don’t want to pay their bar tab or a man is chaining himself to a gazebo to get a kiss from a woman. These are the kind of scenes that give the show character and make us feel like we’re part of the kooky small town. It doesn’t matter that not much happens there in the grand scheme of things.

But one thing the show consistently needs to work on is character development, specifically for Zoe. Rachel Bilson is too adorable for words and she is the saving grace for Zoe and the reason it’s impossible to write off the character completely even though I constantly want to knock some sense into her. It’s mindboggling that she continues to be so unlikable more often than not, especially when the show has made so much progress with some of the other characters.

Season three introduced us to a handful of new characters, but none of them got as much screen time as Zoe’s new boyfriend Joel. While he did become more tolerable as the episodes went on, it still feels like way too much time was devoted to him instead of established characters that ended up lingering in the background (Wade). Balance and lack of interactions have been major issues with this season so far. Let’s talk about the good and the bad.

Overall Midseason Grade: B+

Best Storyline: Lemon Trying to Find Herself

Since Jaime King will be missing four episodes due to her maternity leave, the first part of the season has focused a lot on Lemon and I love it. Things have been rough for the former Queen Belle, but they were looking up when she settled into her partnership with Wade. Their friendship has been one of my favorite things about this season and I loved their pretend romance that ended when Meatball spilled the beans about his secret affair with Lemon in front of the whole town.

But Lemon bounced back from being blacklisted by the Belles with an adorable one night romance and she realized that Wade was right and the Rammer Jammer wasn’t her dream. She missed out on being able to buy Fancy’s, but after meddling in her father’s life, she ended up having to leave town to take care of her grandmother when she broke her hip. It was a plausible excuse for an exit and I’m looking forward to Lemon coming back recharged and ready to take on everyone and everything.

Worst Storyline: Lack of Interactions between the Main Characters

Bluebell is a small town. We hear this mantra a lot on the show and it’s one of the reasons it’s so much fun to watch because everyone is always in everyone else’s business. Except this season it seems like our main characters are existing in parallel versions of the same small town. We might get a Zoe/Lavon scene in the same episode as a Lemon/George scene and the next episode there will be Zoe/Wade and Lemon/AnnaBeth, but that’s about it. There were a lot of new characters on the scene, but it was frustrating how few and far between the shared moments have been between the characters we’ve been invested in since day one. Here’s hoping the second part of the season remedies that.

Best Episode: “I Run to You”

Call it shipper bias if you want to, but this was my favorite episode because Zoe and Wade spent most of it together. Joel was having problems writing and Wade’s invitation to use his house (and his videogames) led to Joel (or Joe-el) being hilariously kidnapped and held for ransom by Tansy’s brothers. Bluebell hostage crises are always the best, but this one had the added bonus of giving us a lot of Zoe and Wade time and another reminder that Wade was just patiently waiting for Zoe to wake up and realize that she’s still in love with him. Other highlights of the episode included Lemon discovering Shelby was back in town and pregnant and Lavon and AnnaBeth reaching an understanding after their relationship drama (see below).

Worst Episode: “Family Tradition”

This episode could be the poster child for everything that is wrong with Zoe. While she and Joel were searching for a place to live, it turned out that the house she wanted to rent was owned by members of the Wilkes family. It was also revealed that they’d tried to get in touch with Zoe since she’d been in town and invited her to parties and events and she’d ignored them. So Zoe decided to crash a child’s birthday party, pretend to be part of a magic act and secretly get to know her family. Once Zoe realized they were cool people, she revealed the truth and expected everything to be fine. Seriously Zoe, you are the worst. The other lowlight of the episode was Annabeth and Lavon fighting because she wanted to get married and he wasn’t ready for that yet.

Best Character: Lemon Breeland

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a time that I thought Lemon was terrible (see early season one). She has grown and changed so much over the course of the series, but in so many ways, she’s still the same (basically judging everyone). I love that they gave her a vulnerable side and made her worth rooting for and still managed to keep her snarky tongue. I do wish that she’d be given more than a moment (or a night) of happiness, but her scenes never disappoint. I’m going to miss her over the course of the next few episodes.

Worst Character: Zoe Hart

I hate naming the lead character the worst character, but it is what it is. While Lemon (and Wade) has been allowed to grow and change, Zoe continually makes the same mistakes and bad choices and she never, ever learns from them. That is the most frustrating part about watching this show. Flawed characters are a million times more interesting than perfect ones, but the point of having flaws is to give the character room to grow. Zoe never does. She keeps doing the same selfish things and putting her own wants and needs above everyone else’s. As much as I love Zoe and Wade together, sometimes I think he deserves better.

Most Underused Character: Wade Kinsella

Speaking of deserving better, one of my issues with this season is how Wade felt like a background character. I loved his partnership with Lemon, but that was more her story than his. Wade’s friendship with Joel was amusing because it made Zoe mad, but other than a quick bromance moment with George, he’s had very little storyline outside of waiting for Zoe to snap out of her false happiness. Don’t get me wrong – I love that they’re portraying Wade as the more mature one in the relationship. He ruined things so he knows he’s got to wait until Zoe is ready to forgive him. But there are other things he could be doing besides standing behind the bar and bonding with Joel. Wilson Bethel is too good to be wasted, show.

Looking Ahead to 2014

What’s next for our favorite small town? If The CW preview is anything to go by, it looks like there will be a lot of relationship drama. Tansy’s return causes issues for George and Lynly (Team Tansy, obvs), Zoe isn’t thrilled that Wade has asked out her cousin and is AnnaBeth really kissing Joel? What?

My wish list is pretty simple: more character interaction, more town events, more Wade (although I’m side eyeing the idea of him dating one of Zoe’s family members) and maybe some self-awareness for Zoe. It would be a nice change.

Now it’s your turn. We want to know which stories, characters and episodes you loved and hated. What grade would you give the first eight episodes? What’s on your wish list for the rest of the season? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!

Hart of Dixie returns Monday, Jan. 13 at 8/7c on The CW.

About The Author

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Editorial Director since 2012. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.