Photos: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Any other parents of younger children getting the night terrors from the adolescent figures depicted in Divorce? Tom seems all right, I guess, although he could use some driving practice, but Lila is straight-up demon hellfire this episode. Well, her parents just split, her mom’s changing her name, and her school throws cultural heritage parties. Still, you have to wonder what would have to be in play for the girl to crack a smile at this point.

Lila’s so miserable that I could’t help but wonder (find myself wanting to pull that Carrie Bradshaw line at least once a review, apologies): Is divorce a selfish action? If there’s just the two of you, I guess not, not even more so than any other breakup would be, although you have to deal more with ex in-laws and whatnot. But I feel like a lot of parents still ascribe to the “stay together for the kids” faction, even as they are not really holding up the best example of relationship role models for their offspring. I’ve absolutely have friends tell me that they were relieved when their parents finally split, as all the constant tension in the house finally just dissipated. But those are grownups talking; it’s hard to believe that a youngster could go through such a domestic upheaval without at least a little trauma, adding a heaping load of guilt onto the rest of the emotionally toxic sundae that is divorcing someone.

If parents are staying together for the kids, they’re doing it to avoid ending up with a kid that swears at them like Lila attacking Frances this episode. They want to maintain the semblance of stability and have their kids grow up in a happy home. Frances is frantically trying to bring positivity back into her beautiful house with a view. But she is facing such an uphill climb of hostility, it’s hard to know where to start.

Maybe here, if I can be judgmental of fictional characters: Perhaps Lila has a point when she says Frances is full of shit and always making it about her? Instead of defiling her child’s heritage project, maybe ask Lila why she left her own mother off of her family tree? I have to re-read How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen And Listen So Your Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber again (quickly, as adolescence rapidly approaches my house), but I seem to remember that chattering at the kids only makes them clam up, but giving them a chance to talk leads them to open up. Frances obviously has a problem with Lila, and instead of bitching to her friend about it or ignoring Lila when she says she doesn’t want to go to the culture event, she just needs to sit her down and talk to her. Much better that then getting caught swearing back at her daughter in front of the whole school: It’s so difficult in the heat of that moment to remember that you’re the parent and the authority figure, when another, larger part of you longs to lash back because you’re hurt.

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It makes for a fascinating domestic interplay, anyway, as the divorce reality has left the four family members in a bit of a crisis, with a number of ways to see how they will work things out among themselves. Relieved to see that Robert is no longer sleeping in an unfinished house, instead in an undecorated apartment. Also relieved to see him in scenes and storylines of his own, without Frances: Only Thomas Haden Church could pull off a hearty “no thank you” to someone offering to pee on him. Also loved his nanosecond consideration of the “devil’s threeway.”

Divorce’s sublime supporting cast offers some other angles into this fascinating social unravel. Diane and Nick, again, look like they could be at the beginning of their own breakup. And Dallas might have hooked up with Tony Silvercreek out of availability and convenience but I felt surprisingly sympathetic toward him as he lashed out after acting like such a gentleman, helping Diane get to the hospital. Of course, then he screwed it all up in typical Silvercreek fashion, but I swear, there was a moment, probably due to the charm of Dean Winters more than anything else (or residual “Beeper King” feelings), but I’m guessing that’s not the end of that character. Love how Dallas then just gave directions to the cab driver without even blinking an eye afterward, though.

I will try to give Steven Pasquale a chance as Frances’ possible love interest even though I will likely never get over that horrible Do No Harm poster. Their scene on the deck once again points to why Sarah Jessica Parker was such an inspired choice for this series. SATC focused on how and why people get together. Divorce explores the ramifications of people splitting apart. As Frances tells the stoic office worker, it’s not easy to get your old self back. But then, no one gets divorced because they think they’re going to be less happy afterward. For Frances, the biggest problem is that her actions have definitely made her daughter unhappy. Although there’s no quick fix for that, it should be enjoyable for us (although painful for her) to watch these resentful feelings unwrap further over the next several weeks.

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Stray observations

  • Duck’s not red meat, is it?
  • I don’t get that punishment from the school that the parents can’t be on school grounds after blowing up at their kid on school grounds. How does this help anyone? Seems arbitrary.
  • That’s some Beatles-sounding Badfinger to send us off until next week, with “No Matter What.” I like the choice as an optimistic message that no matter how shitty things may get with our teenagers, or got with our parents when we were teenagers (if my parents were alive, I am sure they would be cackling at some of my parenting dilemmas right now), we are always tied together somehow. I understand that this is a less-than-comforting message for someone who had really heinous parents, but hopefully when my daughter is telling me that I’m full of shit one day not too far off in the future, I will remember this song.

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