Divorce: “Gustav” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

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Frances and Robert lawyer up and attempt to move on.

On a show called Divorce, it was only a matter of time before lawyers got involved. Mediation is a fine tool for a separation, but let’s be honest—it doesn’t make for great TV. The pieces are falling into place for Frances and Robert to go head-to-head, and luckily the glimpses that we get in this episode indicate that an even more engrossing story is right around the corner.

From the outset, it seems like Frances has the upper hand. She hires a fancy, and expensive, Manhattan divorce lawyer after discovering Robert has hired a very low-rent lawyer behind her back. Sarah Jessica Parker is bitingly funny in a great sequence when she starts to list out all of the things Robert might use against her in court. Divorce isn’t afraid to expose Frances’ flaws and insecurities, and what’s so interesting about her character is that she was fully aware of how terrible she was being and yet kept at it. At the end of the meeting, Frances is shocked to hear from her lawyer that she deserves happiness. She clearly was just hoping to get out of this alive.

“Gustav” was written by former Sex and the City scribe Cindy Chupack. I bring this up because the episode is as close in terms of plot  to SATC as this show has gotten so far. Both Frances and Robert attempt to step out on their own this week, giving us a glimpse at what they hope their lives will be like once they’re single again. For Frances, this means attending a posh gallery opening party in the hopes of luring some of the artists to feature their pieces in her new space. Of course, things turn to shit when a fight between two of the artists turns physical, and she realizes that everyone there was only interested in her because they thought she had money.

Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, Frances doesn’t seem to have a solid group of friends to hold on to. Dallas, who initially seemed levelheaded in the pilot, is somewhat unhinged, and Diane is incredibly selfish and oblivious (though there’s no one better to hilariously embody these traits than Molly Shannon). The gallery party scene works well to highlight that the world outside of Frances’ martial woes isn’t necessarily better than the life she has now, but a part of that could be the people she chooses to use as a support system. Really, I can’t see why she’s friends with either of them. Divorcing her husband looks like it will be a long and arduous process, but she could easily drop these two in an instant.

Robert’s version of stepping out on his own also goes awry as he continues to try to get Nick to invest in his Fun Space idea. Even with an amusing PowerPoint presentation—”no matter how bad the economy gets, children always want to jump on trampolines.”—he isn’t able to sell him on it. What’s interesting here is that Nick turns the tables on Robert and tells him he needs to focus on saving his marriage with his wife. It’s understandable coming from Nick, as an almost-shooting and a heart attack have brought him and Diane closer together. Still, Robert doesn’t agree that his marriage his salvageable. If Nick’s pep talk is effective at anything, it’s getting Robert to get his head out of his ass and get a better lawyer.

This brings us to a scene in which he meets with said lawyer, Tony Silvercreek (a perfectly cast Dean Winters) after uproariously firing his old lawyer and his terrible business manager. Tony is a jarring change of pace right out of the gate, referring to Frances as a “cock-sucking cunt” and later calling her at night to scare her. It’s here where the ugliness of the divorce will likely get underway and it’s something that Frances and Robert are probably not ready for. Things are about to get a whole lot worse for both of them, which means it would be quite a thrill ride for us. Grade: B+



By Mike Papirmeister

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