Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)

As I fear this may turn out to be Divorce’s final episode, let’s look back at season two. With a new showrunner, Jenny Bicks—who Sarah Jessica Parker worked with on Sex And The City, taking over for Paul Simms—the show sped past all the bitterness (It started out with a fake deuce in a coffee can and a wife’s murder attempt on her husband, after all) to offer a fun, funny look at how people regroup their lives after they’ve been torn apart. Remember how annoying Parker’s Frances was last year, whining at her lawyers and fucking up job offers? She was much more winning this season, a calm, focused Frances who was set on getting her life back on track. Yes, she had some stumbles (that screaming match with her daughter in front of the whole school, and dating a nice guy who turned out be not so nice), but season two’s Frances was a much more appealing character to hook an HBO sitcom onto.

At the end of season two, now it’s Frances, not Robert, who seems reluctant to let go completely. Y’know how after a couple is married for 50 years and the wife dies and the husband gets remarried within a year? The cynical people among us would have you believe, especially in prior generations, these guys need someone to cook and do their laundry. But I believe that some men honestly like being married more than women do, and get remarried before they ever get used to being bachelors again. Robert seems like one of those people: Uncomfortable with being single, he quickly found Jackie, who’s basically a revamped version of his ex-wife.

So Robert appears to have arrived at his new beginning before Frances has; as he puts it, he wants his future to start today, with Jackie. He recognizes the sentiment as corny, and I thought of a similarly sentimental but spot-on line: That every new beginning is some other beginning’s end, as Semisonic’s Dan Wilson would tell you. He wrote “Closing Time” about the impending birth of his child, but the motto still applies here. There’s a lot in what Diane says in the gallery about how you never know what lies ahead, about how your life can change in an instant. She was once a cheerful single girl in her little Manhattan apartment, selling gloves at the glove counter. Then Nick gets arrested (I do love how every single one of Diane and Nick’s parties ends in disaster) and Diane is back at that glove counter overnight. But we (and she) are hopeful, because she was happy there once. When the bottom drops out, all you can do is start over.

It’s why Frances, after running into Robert, goes to the student art show and hands out her card, even after getting dumped by Sylvia. As Skip points out, she has the eye, and he does not. I suspect that if we are lucky enough to get a season three of Divorce, it will feature Frances working with Skip, but in the meantime, Frances can build up her gallery again. In the meantime, she has to let go of her family; Robert is gone, as that painful last kiss proves, but Frances also has to let her kids go to Italy because she knows ultimately that two months in an Italian villa will be a more valuable life experience than another summer spent with her in Hastings. Everyone has to move on and let go. As much as I like Frances and Robert together, their inclination (and ours) is to keep moving forward and not look back.

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So if the last we see of Frances is her bouncing on that trampoline, wholly alone, I’m okay with that, even as I hope we’ll get more of Divorce. It is/was a fascinating exploration of the different kinds of ties that can bind people, no matter what their legal status says. It also is/was a thoughtful little sitcom about the growing up and evolving that people (hopefully) continue to do even after they’re grown. And sometimes, as Frances, Robert, Diane, and even Dallas (at the beginning of a new relationship) discover this episode, sometimes, even after all your efforts, you wind up back where you started, and have to start all over again.

Finale grade: A-

Season grade: B+

Stray observations

  • As much as I appreciate the 1971 Gilbert O’Sullivan hit that this episode is named after, I’m glad the season ended with the much more joyous “Shambala” by Three Dog Night for Frances’ trampoline soundtrack.
  • It’s kind of nice to see SJP in comfy sweatpants.
  • Can’t help but imagine the awkwardness of Tom and Ella spending the summer in the same Italian villa.
  • Robert’s spot-on summation of Andrew: “In his soul, he was wearing a sweater vest.”
  • I feel like Diane’s tennis dress is a nod to her conforming to her young beau’s country club lifestyle and I am not a fan.
  • And that’s a wrap on Divorce season two. Thanks for watching along and reading! And tune in tomorrow for episode two of the third season of UnREAL.

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