Throughout its run, One Mississippi has shared its protagonist’s forthrightness, and yet the season two finale has more than a few feints in it. But the rug isn’t pulled out from under the viewer—it’s yanked from below Tig, who gradually realizes she isn’t quite as far along in her trauma recovery as she thought. There are similar surprises in store for Bill and Remy, though in their cases, they first have to acknowledge what happened to their stepdaughter and sister.
Still, “Alive” doesn’t tear down what’s come before it to deliver these gut punches. Rather, the episode takes previous events and shines a new light on them, tracing its way back to season one’s “Effects” and the season two premiere. After Tig tells Kate she was molested by her stepgrandfather in “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” she reflexively shrugs off her friend’s concern, preferring to focus on getting Kate to acknowledge what she’s been through. But it turns out Kate’s far from the only one in denial.
Well, maybe denial is too strong of a term here—no one on One Mississippi moves blithely through life, not even Desiree, as we’ve seen. I’m reluctant to say that it’s a matter of perception, given Ezra Weiss’ equivocating when Kate reports her sexual assault to him (“Maybe he was making a move?”). But sometimes, what a character is responding to in the moment isn’t the actual impetus for their actions, or at least, not the only one. When Tig insists that there be some consequences for Jack’s assault of Kate, she’s also railing against the relative who sexually abused and gaslit her.
Kate Robin’s script is similarly marked by ambiguity, full of statements that are poignant or damning, starting with Bill’s observation that “This is going to be an emotional day.” He’s referring to Felicia’s daughter Allison’s (Nakina Eugene) wedding, which is where he sheds his first tears of the day. But his prediction also applies to his stepchildren’s revelations, as well as what might be the end of his budding relationship with Felicia. I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her, not least of which because she proved to be a complementary and challenging partner. Sheryl Lee Ralph gives such a layered performance, one that’s brimming with intelligence, humor, and soulfulness. She’s more than John Rothman’s match, just as Felicia is more than just Bill’s rebound. In the words of Tig and Kate “it’s really something we have.”
As one romance stalls, another comes to well-deserved fruition: Although she’s thwarted a couple of times, Kate admits her feelings for Tig. Notaro and Stephanie Allynne have great chemistry that goes beyond their real-life relationship; they’ve really taken us through the paces of a complicated courtship. (And, not to belabor the point, is another sign of just how efficient the storytelling has been on this show, even as it grows more ambitious.) There’s no musical number—the finale is decidedly grounded—but the moment they finally get together is joyous. It’s not the only moment of catharsis for them: Tig speaks publicly for the first time about her molestation, and Kate is not only there for her, but she’s also able to more fully process what Jack did.
Given what they’ve been through and what they mean to each other, it makes sense for Kate and Tig to work through these painful events together and inspire others to help. After her insistence that Kate confront the abuse in her past, Tig turns out to be the one protesting too much. “I’m a little more in touch with my emotions than you are,” she haughtily tells Kate time and again, and not just in this episode. But though her protests grow louder, culminating in telling Ezra that they’ll go to the police rather than let HR handle Jack, they don’t ring any truer. It’s the rare instance in which Tig doesn’t really mean what she’s saying.
It’s a small but significant development, and when she realizes that Kate is right about her being in denial, Tig does push through and tell all on the air. Light is a disinfectant, the truth shall set you free, whatever aphorism you prefer—talking about the abuse, not joking about it like she did in “Effects,” is the next step in Tig’s recovery. The relief is almost immediate, and we see the way forward for Tig, which she promptly tries to show Bill. He’s far more resistant to change, though, so we’ll see if he takes Felicia or Tig’s advice and goes to therapy (for this and many other things).
Bill’s father’s actions have hung over the household like a storm cloud, and while there’s a breakthrough of sunshine here, One Mississippi doesn’t just wave off the harmful effects. But the ending is undeniably happy, as Kate and Tig are now truly able to connect. Director Minkie Spiro provides a lovely visual in the moving together of the two beds in Tig’s room; but the symbolism goes further, as we see Kate travel a greater distance to get the frames together.
There’s a similar moment of emotional release for Remy, who we learn was forced to watch or at least be in the room while Tig was sexually abused. It’s absolutely horrifying to hear, and he breaks down in front of Desiree and, later, Tig. This is the backstory for Remy’s aversion (or hesitation) to sex the series has been teasing all season, as Tig tells him he was abused in a way, too. This is the one point in the finale in which One Mississippi falters a bit; Tig’s reveal comes less than halfway through the show, and we learn soon enough what the implications are for Bill. But this moment between Remy and Tig feels a bit rushed, as if the show needed to address how Remy was affected before it could move on to Tig and Kate’s big moment.
But overall, the finale is both a button for a great second season, as well as a map for future episodes (though Amazon’s remained mum on a third season). Tig and Kate are now together, but, as they’ve noted throughout the season, they’re not living in the most hospitable place for LGBTQ folks. Remy might have opened up to Desiree about his past, but as we saw with Tig, that’s just one step in a process. And Bill—he can’t seem to summon the words for any of this, so who knows if he’ll actually seek out help? There is a strong current of optimism, though. One Mississippi has shown us how easy it is to stumble in the recovery process, whether it’s following an ailment, death, or some other tragedy. Notaro et. al. never fell back on the maudlin, though, instead transcending these setbacks so that they’re threads woven into the story, but not defining characteristics. Tig may be just a person, but she’s more than a survivor. They all are, really.
- “No ‘but,’ just ‘and’” is such a simple and yet incredibly romantic way for Kate to declare her intentions.
- “Alive” is also just a really funny episode of One Mississippi, from Felicia’s firm but not malicious “good” upon learning that Bill’s “highly problematic” relative has already died, to Tig and Kate breaking down which artistic enclaves have the fewest predators. But the wedding scenes take the cake—I couldn’t find any other credits for Beverly Frank, who plays Felicia’s mother Rose, but her increasing bewilderment at the cross-faith wedding ceremony her granddaughter was having was a treat. And the way she shuts down Bill’s white guilt is the work of a pro.
- Although, Bill’s explanation of how karma works is also a treat to watch; of course his mind is able to quickly parse how this cosmic honor system works.
- I’m not a Sia fan, but “Alive” feels like an appropriate anthem there.
- There really is more to see and hear from Tig, Kate, Remy, and Bill, so here’s hoping One Mississippi gets picked up again. But if not, Notaro, Kate Robin, and Diablo Cody have told a nuanced and poignant story about abuse and grief, of love and acceptance, that is a great example of how smaller shows can flourish in the corners of the ever-widening TV landscape.
- And finally, thanks for reading!