The Big C s4 ep 3; s4 ep 4

Well, we got there.¬†Weirdly, for most of its life The Big C was regarded as a comedy for Emmy and Globe purposes (Laura Linney won the Emmy for her season 4 performance, but this time it was in the “best miniseries” category); weirdly, because it was never that funny, even at its best. The Good Wife and Scandal, for example, both “dramas”, are much funnier. And there wasn’t much to laugh about here, either; any humour was very much of the gallows variety, as we moved towards Cathy’s death.

Episode 3 was, for my money, the better of the two: after Cathy failing to recognise Paul at the end of episode 2, we jump forward a couple of months, with Cathy deciding that it was time to go into a hospice. There’s a bit of heavy-handed moralising at the expense of a young nurse, and Paul is so flat-out useless that Adam resorts to physical violence. Cathy then absconds from the hospice for long enough to wear, to a fashion show, the dress that Andrea designed for her, and on one view this might have been the ideal place to end the series.

On we went, though, into the finale, which jumps forward another four months. I actually thought that Cathy was looking a little healthier at the start, but perhaps not; her insurance only covered four months of hospice stay, so by outliving expectations she was giving herself an unexpected problem. Thus Cathy moves back home to die, giving everyone the opportunity to rally round one last time.

The show has not, however, always known what to do with its cast, and this continued to the end: John Benjamin Hickey as Sean, for instance, spent most of seasons 3 and 4 pursuing storylines which were at best irrelevant (the kidney) and at worst downright irritating (the “thrupple”) and Andrea was just there. On the other hand Gabriel Basso’s value to the show increased over time, and by season 4 he was quite possibly The Big C’s male MVP. It’s no coincidence that the most affecting moments of these episodes – the relocated collage in episode 3 and the graduation in episode 4 – belonged to Basso, who might well go far.

By the end, though, we’re given a suitably downbeat passing for Cathy, a tantalising glimpse of the afterlife that we’d probably wish for ourselves – are we supposed to conclude, I wonder, that her therapist was also a hallucination? On reflection, I can’t recall her interacting with anyone apart from Cathy – ¬†and a feeling that, after the desperately poor season 3, the show pulled itself together and gave us a moving and dignified finale. Together with the patchy but interesting season 1 and the decent season 2, then, the show probably ended up in credit. Apart from Linney’s performance, what I might remember most is that clock on the hospice wall in the final two episodes measuring Cathy’s life away, second by second, tick by tick; we’ll all hear it soon enough.

The Big C s3 ep 2

Paul has been blogging about his near-death experience, but has started to include some information which Cathy might reasonably have regarded as private, such as her affair with Idris Elba. Adam, in consequence, finds out, and isn’t talking to his mother. During the ensuing argument Paul finds out that his wife doesn’t read his blog, something with which I am not entirely unfamiliar myself. Adam, in search of support, tentatively gives his school’s Bible study group a go; imagining them to be pious and intolerant, they are, instead, cool and friendly. And there are chicks.

On the downside this week, Cathy’s reverted to being unlikeable Cathy of season 1 and decides that the people at her school, who as far as I can recall have treated her pretty well, are all totally lame and deserve her turning up drunk (drinks at the “London pub”) and abusing them. Sean is now working as a janitor at the school, which gives him a whole new group of people to be snarky towards, while providing a gay sex chatline from home. And Andrea/Ababu is trying to start a group for black students. I said last week that I found it difficult to predict whether an episode of The Big C was going to be good or not. I liked this one a little more, but I can’t really explain why.