Final season, then, and Cathy’s dying. Unfortunately the episode got off to a less-than-propitious start, by throwing two of my pet hates into the mix.
Firstly, we learn that pretty much the whole of the final episode of the last season was a dream sequence of sorts; so no Angel, no net, no boat. And, secondly, Marlene is back. As I’ve said before, the reappearance of dead people is a device I particularly dislike, because it amounts to nothing more than writers having it both ways – look how courageous we are! We’ve killed off a major character! Yet here she is to dispense some grouchy wisdom! And this time she’s accompanied by her dog, who has also just died. Yes: the ghost of Marlene’s dog. Her effing dog.
The episode picked up a little from there, although Cathy remains a bewilderingly unsympathetic character for much of the time. Perhaps I’m at fault here for wanting to sentimentalise terminal illness. I don’t know. Anyway, she’s on chemo, which is affecting her life in any number of unpleasant ways; ultimately she gives up teaching, although of course she doesn’t go quietly.
Paul, meantime, is going from strength to strength, as his implausible career as an inspirational speaker seems to be taking off (aided by a sensationally unlikeable PA). He’s still living under the same roof as Cathy, although there appears to have been a rift in the marriage prompted by Paul’s outburst towards the end of season 3. It’s nothing she doesn’t deserve, frankly. And Andrea is finding it hard to settle into college life, but then she’s at least ten years older than her contemporaries, judging by appearances. Perhaps she’ll end up in Glee with the other thirtysomething teenagers.
On the plus side, the relationship between Cathy and Adam seems to have eased a little, which is good. And – without wanting to make too much of my personal life – Adam is 16, watching his mother die of cancer; I was 17 when my father died of cancer. So I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find some of the scenes between Cathy and Adam rather affecting; Laura Linney and Gabriel Basso have a relaxed, charming chemistry. Linney, of course, is excellent (and Emmy-winning) throughout. By no means, then, the worst episode of The Big C, despite the beginning.