Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big C: “The Darkest Day”

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I think since The Big C has been on, there have been very few episodes that made its audience really think about death in a serious way. Cancer is part of the show's title, so obviously there are always references to it, but perhaps in a bid to keep the show a comedy and not the most depressing show of all time, we’re not asked really to think about death too often. I’m glad the writers so far have had a (somewhat) light touch when it comes to death, because when they do visit the topic, it seems much more meaningful. I felt it during the finale of season one, when Adam finally grasped that his mom could really not be there anymore. And I felt it tonight too, on several occasions. It was a pretty heavy episode.

I was actually glad that there were so many Big Serious Scenes tonight, because I didn’t think they were equally successful. At one point, Cathy addresses Dr. Sherman’s robotic med students, and she delivers an impassioned speech about being empathetic to scared and dying people. This is a very valid topic, of course, but the speech itself, while inspired by Cathy’s fears that Lee is alone and forgotten, was a tiny bit cliche to me, just because I think we’ve seen “I’m going to make you robots pay attention to me with my emotional outbreak!” before. Fortunately, Laura Linney sold it well, because she’s Laura Linney.

Poppy and Adam also had a Big Dramatic Scene. Adam finds out that Poppy’s lying about her dying father: Her father passed away two years ago, but she’s had a hard time finding anyone who understands how she feels besides Adam. Adam accuses her of being nuts, and she tells him, “When your mom goes, she’ll go so fast your head will spin." Poppy tells him that when that time comes, she hopes he has a friend who will let him be as fucked up as he needs to be. It was a good point of view in terms of the needs of a grieving family member.

Of course, the biggest scene and the scariest and the saddest, was Lee’s death. He invites Cathy over, despite Paul’s worries that she’ll be late to go to the airport for their trip to Italy. Cathy discovers that Lee is actually dying, propped up and looking quite Christlike against his bare white wall. “We should call someone, Dr. Sherman’s office, 911,” she says, and he says “I did call someone.” Finally, Lee’s picture of how he wants to die is clear, and from my perspective, it’s not pretty, but it doesn’t seem too bad.

Fortunately, Lee is somehow able to hold onto his sense of humor when he’s dying, saying, “Awkward” after Cathy gives him his Christmas present: a runner’s watch. It made Lee’s death sadder yet also more understandable that Cathy stayed throughout the entire thing, blowing off the trip to Italy in the process. I liked the timing of the episode: Lee dies on the darkest day of the year, with the promise that the next day would be brighter. Lee's death scenes were frightening but well-done: It was emotional, but I didn’t feel that “Mark Greene is dead; you will cry now,” manipulation you sometimes get with TV deaths.

The scenes after Lee dies and Cathy steps out onto the sidewalk, looking at the city, were gorgeously shot, dark and gold and shiny. I presume she goes home from Lee's place, where Paul is now facing a drug test at work and Andrea is newly single, having found out that Myk was just marrying her for his green card and then reporting him. Oh, and Sean is there, too.


Stray observations:

  • So what was the meaning behind Poppy’s present to Adam?
  • Did Andrea do the right thing? (I don’t know, but I don’t blame her at all.)
  • I’m glad Cathy was able to laugh about getting slapped in the face by a dead body. I might have wet my pants.