Togetherness, Season 1, Episode 8, “Party Time”
Sunday, March 8, 2015, 9:30 PM (EST), HBO
Season one of Togetherness has been simultaneously drawn out and rushed, and the finale punctuates that trend. Heading into this episode, there weren’t a lot of options for the characters to move forward. The decisions made were all romantic comedy clichés. It was painful. There were a couple of bright spots, though. Michelle had a triumphant moment during her trip to Sacramento, pushing forward her career with an impassioned speech about why she wants the charter school. Brett and Alex, the real emotional core of the show, had some touching best friend goodbye-for-now moments. The short season ends on a cliffhanger that I have little interest in following through to its conclusion. Not So Together is a weak, predictable ending to an unpredictably mediocre season.
Tina’s final dinner at the house before moving out has zero emotional impact because the show didn’t really establish that she was truly a vital part of the household. One of the many improvements the show could’ve made was making this new family unit the foundation of the show by showing them all together more often at the house. Right before Michelle sends her off, Tina comments on her sexual tension with David. She’s joking on the surface, but underneath she seems resigned to the fact that Michelle is going to cheat. However, due to the terrible dialogue, it’s unclear what she means by “I think it’s really cool, what you’re doing. It’s about time.” At first, I thought she was talking about her relationship with David, but after the episode it seems she was foreshadowing Michelle’s charter school victory.
The Tina and Alex non-thing has just gotten tired at this point, which is impressive for such a short season. Alex’s feelings for her haven’t changed, but he’s tried many times to win her heart. Tina obviously cares deeply for him, but she’s rejected him several times. What makes this time different? It’s the grand gesture designed to sweep her off her feet. On a whim, he decides to tell her how he feels by buying flowers and biking all the way out to Santa Monica where she’s hanging out with Larry. I really enjoy Steve Zissis, but he couldn’t manufacture enough charm to cover up how stupid this scene was. I’m happy for him that he got the Vlad part in the movie, but his storyline never really seemed to be about whether or not he’d achieve success because that’s the most simplistic version of his journey. That’s what the show went with, though.
Michelle is excited for her trip with David and the other charter school people. She wakes Brett up but they don’t share much of a goodbye. It’s clear that on this trip, she’ll contemplate having sex with David because this is the only meat left in this storyline. First, they achieve a victory for the charter school after Michelle steps up and agrees to run the school if David wins his city council election. After they get a bit drunk, they finally get honest about their “energy” in front of their adjoining hotel rooms. Even though they don’t escalate things right then, there’s a long drawn out sequence bathed in romantic light and sad music in which both of them seem restless, staring at the door between their rooms. Michelle breaks first, writing a note that she passes under the door to see if he’s awake. After some playful banter back and forth, she gets serious, writing that David helped her feel alive. She opens the door, they start to make out, and then there’s a cut.
What Michelle doesn’t know is that Brett has had a relaxing day as an unemployed stay-at-home dad. He took his kids to the beach, which he used to hate, but now enjoys because of his newfound joie-de-vivre or something. Linda, his spiritual guide, isn’t even in this episode. However, Alex is there to notice his transformation and suggests he direct this positive energy toward Michelle. So he takes off toward Sacramento where she’s currently making out with David.
Michelle and David have chemistry, and the way the build-up is filmed and constructed works well after all their sexual tension. When they finally make their emotional connection physical, it’s a relief. I don’t feel happy for her, or bad for Brett, it’s just all the show has really presented as an option. She doesn’t really seem that torn or unsure. Being with David is what she wants. What doesn’t work is how we’re supposed to feel about Brett surprising her in Sacramento. All we know is that he wasn’t being honest with himself about what he wanted, but he was capable of growth as long as Linda was there to wake him up. The fact that the credits roll over silence suggests that this decision Michelle made is supposed to be an emotional gut punch, but the moment we’re watching Brett’s car drive toward her falls extremely flat. The small amount of story and character development in these eight episodes could have comfortably fit in a single movie. Such great acting talent deserved better material. At best, Togetherness presents like a first draft of something much more compelling.
Not So Together is a weak, predictable ending to an unpredictably mediocre season.