And so, after 100 episodes, Nip/Tuck ended its run by trying to make us feel something for its characters, by insisting that the parting salvos between Dr. Sean McNamara and Dr. Christian Troy were worth our attention because their relationship was one of the all-time great TV pairings or something. And if this episode were airing somewhere at the end of season two, that wouldn't be true, but at least the series asking us to invest in these characters as being worthy of our emotions would make some sort of sense. Since that season, the show has mostly abandoned its initial mission of digging into America's obsession with beauty and ideals of changing the outside rather than the inside. Instead, it's embraced all of its worst impulses and just gradually become a show that was entirely about shocking you.
But we come to bury Nip/Tuck, not to dissect it. If you really want to think about where the show went wrong, you can check out my piece on this season's premiere from back in October or you can look at Tim Goodman's piece on why the show mattered, even if it was never very good, over at the San Francisco Chronicle. All I'm going to say is that dropping into the series finale after mostly abandoning the show over the last few seasons (outside of reading Wikipedia recaps and occasionally dropping in for big episodes) was a deeply disconcerting thing to do. The show was obviously sad it was leaving us, and it was obviously hoping we'd feel that way too. But did we?
I think all of this is best exemplified by where the series leaves Matt. After ditching a girl named Ramona at the altar so he can be with Ava (mostly because she's played by Famke Janssen), Matt spends much of the finale trying to figure out what he's going to do. First, Ava ditches him because she doesn't really love him. Then he tries to go and get Ramona back, and it doesn't work. Then he sits around and looks at his daughter (with Kimber, who's dead, I guess?). Then, finally, he goes to the airport and wins over Ava by telling her how much he adores her and letting her know that even if she doesn't actually love him, she can be a mother to his daughter, which is apparently something she really wants. Babies are now apparently the number one bargaining chip one can use when dealing with blatantly crazy post-op transsexuals.
So, yes, this is a completely crazy way to leave one of the series' most important characters. But the series seems to want us to think of this final moment for this character as some sort of triumph for him. Finally, he can be with the woman he's crazy about who's not crazy about him. And finally, his daughter will have the unstable mother she deserves! And since this is the series finale, the show is clearly inviting us to think that this will be the status quo for the rest of time. A series finale leaves all of the characters in a permanent state of amber, and this is where the show has chosen to leave Matt and Ava and, sadly, little Jenna.
And yet, I found myself liking parts of the finale - maudlin Art Garfunkel tunes and all - simply because I like the rigid format of the series finale. I like the way that most series finales seem to be starting out as just normal episodes of the series and then gradually begin to work in the big, life-changing events. Here, we've got the client of the week and the plot twists the characters are still dealing with and all of that. But we soon see just how different things are going to be, as Christian and Sean invite Liz to be a partner in their business. And from there, it's just a matter of guessing which character out of Christian or Sean is going to LEAVE FOREVER.
Actually, it's not really a big thing because anyone who's watched even just the pilot of this show could tell you that the arc of the series was going to be about the stable Sean gradually becoming the one who most needs an escape and crazy Christian gradually stepping into a position where he's far more stable and ready to do some maturing. The show tries to do that whole thing where the last scene of the finale mirrors the first scene of the pilot and to suggest just how much things have changed through roughly similar scenes (Christian meeting a girl in a bar in both), but, instead, the very final scene here strives for a transcendence that the series has never been capable of. Christian saying he's a "plastic surgeon" and smiling wanly at the camera doesn't offer the closure the show wants on any sort of level. It just feels like the show thinks far more of itself than it really should.
So, of course, Sean is the one who leaves, after Christian tells him to go and pursue his dream of healing orphans in Eastern Europe (no, really!). He takes along the little boy Ava had adopted - named Raphael - whom he'd just finished giving a whole new look, and he takes to the skies with his one-way ticket. I'm half tempted to read this ending as Sean ending up cruising the skies for the rest of time like George Clooney in Up in the Air, though I know we're meant to believe that Sean's going to find true meaning and purpose from his life for once and for all. Since the character finally parts on relatively good terms with ex-wife Julia, we're clearly meant to think that this is the start of a healing process for Sean.
Series finales are usually about suggesting closure without suggesting a definitive ending. The best series finales are ONE ending, but they're not the ending for all of the characters (with the exception of Six Feet Under). It's a tricky balance to maintain, but it tends to work much better if the series in question has managed to create a throughline that keeps its characters true to some sort of emotional core. I actually think that this episode managed to suggest closure without providing too much of it rather ably, but it fails at the other aspect, which is tying off the loose ends of a series that has earned having its loose ends tied up. Maybe if Nip/Tuck hadn't disappeared so thoroughly into the stratosphere so long ago, it would be much more depressing to see leave the air. Instead, when Sean chooses to head off to help orphans, it feels like a labored attempt at making sense of a series that long ago abandoned sense. It's a show frantically tap dancing so you don't notice how the set has completely crumbled around it.
- I'll give this episode credit, though. That shot of the Japanese porn star lying in bed, the smile on his face and the flower petals drifting down over his naked form, was damn gorgeous. Some good looking stuff.
- In general, babies were bargaining chips on Nip/Tuck. Come to think of it, the baby as bargaining chip ended up being the worst thing about creator Ryan Murphy's follow-up series, Glee. I'm the world's biggest Glee fan (roughly), but even I know it's going to go south once Murphy decides the only way to solve its problems is more threesomes.