Divorce: “Détente” Season 1 Finale Review

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The final episode of Divorce‘s first season starts out quietly and ends with a bang.

The title of this week’s episode would suggest that Divorce‘s first season ends on a positive note, with Frances and Robert coming to some sort of mutual agreement or higher ground. Indeed the episode seemed to veer that way with an early scene of the two of them in the hospital after their daughter Lila gets hit by a car. The two share a sweetly earnest scene—with both Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church emoting wonderfully—in which they promise to work harder at not letting their marital failings affect their children’s wellbeing.

A moment like this—and the fact that this is the season finale of a show called Divorce, but no actual divorce papers have been filed—might make you think that things will turn around for Robert and Frances. That they’ll realize what’s most important and perhaps go back to mediation, or even couple’s counseling.

This move would be the predictable one, but also unfortunate, because you know that since the show has already been picked up for season 2, they would just go right back to fighting with each other next year. Like I said, this show is called Divorce, so any positive upswing in Robert and Frances’ relationship is likely just a curveball being thrown at us to delay the inevitable.

Luckily, there’s another narrative underfoot that makes the episode take a much more unexpected, but ultimately more interesting, route. Frances’ new shark of a lawyer puts a freeze on all of Robert’s finances so that he’s unable to take the next steps toward opening Fun Space, which as gained some serious traction—and investors—since he first came up with the idea. It’s very disheartening to see Robert so crushed in his stalled, and possibly even failed, dream, especially after last week’s disastrous moment at Lila’s basketball game where he was served with papers.

This decision fuels the rest of Robert’s actions throughout “Détente,” but episode co-writers Hayes Davenport and Sharon Horgan are smart to wait until the end for things to really explode. In fact, When Robert goes to the openings of Frances’ art gallery, he’s surprisingly calm and respectful. It’s clear that he’s trying to gauge how much involvement Frances had in holding up his Fun Space plans, and when she asks how “his thing” is going, it’s clear that she isn’t aware of the ramifications of her lawyer’s actions.

This is another moment that seems like a turning point for Robert and Frances. Robert tells Frances what she’s always been waiting to here—that she’s the one who’s been keeping a roof over their heads for the past few years. Then she kisses him. Still, a scene of Robert alone in his rental property reveals that his wounds have been far from healed. In his mind, Frances killed his dream, and now he needs to make her pay.

The moment arrives after Frances asks if she can trade weekends with him so she can take the kids skiing. On the highway up to the mountain, she gets pulled over by the police, whom Robert has called to report her taking the kids without having custody of them. The scene of a shocked Frances having to wait outside the car with the cop, while her children look through the windows with worry, is jarring to say the least. This is certainly the lowest blow that has been delivered on either side yet, and it’s a nice sucker punch to anyone who thought that these two crazy kids were going to get back together. They are actually far from it, as Frances indicates with an emotional message left on Robert’s voicemail. She berates him for his “irreparable” mistake and tells him simply that he’s lost. There’s no turning back from here.

This is a rather dark way to end your first season, but I think it’s a fitting punctuation mark on Divorce. As I said in my review of last week’s episode, the gloves have officially come off. This season has definitely had it’s share of interesting moments, but I think it’s laid the groundwork for an even more determined season 2. Finale Grade: A- / Season 1 Grade: B


Some Other Notes:

  • There’s also a brief subplot this week involving Diane helping a lost boy in the grocery store find his mother. It’s immensely entertaining, mainly because of Molly Shannon’s excellent performance. It’s also hilarious that this incident only goes to reinforce her standing on never wanting to have kids. Basically, my notes for season 2 are: more Molly Shannon.
  • Robert’s commercial for Fun Space in the beginning is amusingly upbeat, as expected.
  • Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Robert should have followed Tony’s advice and not gone to the gallery at all.
  • Um, serious LOL to the fact that Frances’ totally unheard of art gallery upstate—that hasn’t been mentioned for weeks—randomly got a shout-out in The New York Times before opening. Did she hire Samantha Jones to be her publicist?
  • Frances also tells her dad that she’s the one who had the affair at her art gallery opening which, at this point, just seems selfish.
  • Thank you for sticking with me through the first season of Divorce! Like an actual divorce, this show was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I think my biggest issue with it was the tonal dissonance between each episodes. Basically, this show did not handle being a “dramedy” all too well. Luckily, things were often saved by compelling performances from the entire cast. “Christmas” is easily the best episode of the season, while “Church” is the worst. Overall, while this show had it’s flaws, it was a mostly entertaining and original look at the end of a marriage. I will definitely be tuning back in for season 2.

By Mike Papirmeister

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