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

United States Of Tara: "From This Day Forward"

Illustration for article titled United States Of Tara: "From This Day Forward"

Once again I'll reiterate how differently I feel about United States of Tara now compared to last season. I had dropped it, as a critic and viewer, but then Todd VanDerWerff promised me that Season 2 looked different, better, more relaxed, and he was right. Now as we see this season off, maybe it's time to talk more about why more people aren't talking about this show, because this series has gotten too good to fly under the radar. 

In many ways a scenarios a wedding is a trite and stereotypical way to end a TV season but with USoT there was so much going on, and the potential wedding so fraught anyway, that Charmaine's wedding wasn't nearly the gimmick (or even Story A) an event like that would be in most shows (this is a good thing).  That's where we opened tonight, with Charmaine, all dolled up in 21st century pre-bride gear (rollers, pink robe, "Bride" t-shirt) dancing around as Tara and Max set up for her marriage to Nick.  Tara is repulsed that Charmaine wants their parents at the wedding: "You're going to let the man who gave us away give you away?" she asks, and Charmaine replies that the whole giving-away thing is "just a symbol" and "doesn't mean anything to me," two statements I found a somewhat antithetical.  Charmaine and Tara bicker and I sensed for a minute that perhaps T. was about to show up as Tara grew more petulant.  Tara later tells Max that she just wants to hide when her parents arrive and we got two excellent lines back to back. When Max asks Tara where she's going to hide, she says "Maybe right here behind my face," and then when her parents pull up, she prepares Max for "The world's bullshittiest hello." 

In the meantime Kate's packing up her childhood things as she prepares to move into the condo Zach will pick out and buy for her.  They start making out as they discuss all the pretend-sophisticated-adult things they will do in the condo, like sit on white furniture naked (ew) and Max walks in, an awkward way to meet her daughter's boyfriend.  Interesting how Kate on the one hand cares so much about her parents that she defends them against Zach, who still thinks they're abusive and insane, yet she is ready to move out without first telling her parents or even introducing them to her boyfriend/landlord.

In a much more normal-seeming relationship, Lionel asks Marshall to boycott the wedding, equating straight people who get married to Holocaust deniers, which Marshall thinks is a bit much.  Their give and take has been great all season, with Marshall tempering Lionel's anger yet being strong and sticking up for himself when he has to.  Marshall confesses that he wants to be around to support his mother: "My mom went on a trip to meet her molester and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt." Lionel gives his sweetie a smooch and agrees to come to the wedding in non-protest.

Tara, dissatisfied with the way things were left with Mimi and Duane, leaves a voicemail for Mimi apologizing for the way she behaved. As she's standing in the bathroom leaving the message her father Frank bursts in, babbling about St. Luis Obispo and confesses, in a potentially demented way, about having so many regrets in his life, including the fact that "we should have had your brother here for Charmaine's graduation." Tara points out that it's Charmaine's wedding, not graduation day, and that they don't have a brother, but her dad insists that there is a son from his first marriage, who like Tara has mental health issues.

In the kitchen, Kate introduces Lionel to Zach as Marshall's boyfriend and they get to talking gay rights and it emerges that Zach voted for Ron Paul, which horrifies Kate.  Lionel and Zach argue a little bit and Lionel storms out in protest after all. "Well Lionel's in quite a mood!" Kate says in what could almost be an Alice way.

Tara finds Charmaine and tells her about what their father said and Charmaine tells Tara that this is the day where she can escape the insanity of their family and join a new, normal family so today she just doesn't want to hear it.  So of course, Tara transitions into Chicken.

Zach and Kate go hang out alone and as he runs his hands up and down her arm she admits that he's bugging her: "Can you do that harder or not at all?"  Zach coos to her how great it is that she'll be getting her boundaries up when she leaves and Kate says she doesn't want to leave, just get away a little bit. Zach says he wants to protect her; she says she doesn't want protection. He tells her her instincts are off and Kate finally tells him off, saying that she didn't appreciate him saying that her brother's not good enough to get married and that the only person who is allowed to call her mom crazy is her (we've all been there, right?). So she gives Zach the heave-ho, finally, in order to spend some time with her fucked-up family.

Things get a little crazy there while for some reason Charmaine (not Max? or anyone else?) has to chase Chicken around. Nick starts unraveling, saying "How much am I supposed to put up with? I already agreed to raise your baby," which to me seemed a little out of step with his character who I thought had started thinking of the baby as his own, but maybe it was just him psyching himself up that whole time.  At the wedding, Chicken makes a little scene walking down the aisle and Charmaine reassures everyone with the ingenious excuse that it's all a joke, for Youtube.  Then her father starts to walk her down the aisle and says "Thank you for marrying me."  At the altar, Chicken creates another bit of a disturbance and Nick decides he's had it, saying that he always looks for signs in his life and that while Charmaine had brought a "boatload" of signs his way he only now figured out what they all meant. So he gets the hell outta Dodge.  I thought this was a little bit sudden, or perhaps rushed, since Nick didn't seem to waver that much prior to tonight's episode, but it ultimately makes sense.

Everyone starts putting the chairs away as Chicken starts poking at Charmaine. It dissolves into a slapfight until Chicken accidentally pokes Charmaine, which irritates Charmy. This upsets Chicken, who says, "I said I'd never let you get hurt. I said I'd always protect you," which means Chicken saw something in Charmaine's marriage to Nick she had to protect her against.  Tara transitions back to herself and tells her parents that she met up with Mimi. Her mother disputes the dates she was in the foster home (I like that this part of the story was still unsolved) but admits that the girls indeed stayed with Mimi, because their Frank's son, Bryce, was abusing them in some way. However, Frank promised to leave her if they kicked Bryce out of the house. Tara is enraged at her mother for not protecting her kids, calling back one of the themes of the season: it's the parents' job to protect the children.  Her mother, looking emotionally wasted, says, "I hope you'll forgive me," and they too pack it up.  Marshall and Kate reassure Tara that they love her, which was a smaller current that ran through the season but one I also liked—the ways in which Kate and Marshall are tied, voluntarily or not, to their parents. Despite their best efforts Max and Tara actually have a pretty happy family.

Outside, Charmaine picks at her wedding cake when Neil pulls up on his steed—I mean truck—and offers to take her out and get wasted.  She accepts the offer to go out (not get wasted) and opts to stay in her wedding dress, which is a nice ending for Charmy—she gets to feel like a princess but also rejects a sense of normalcy that she had been seeking with Nick. 

Tara and Max have their own happy ending as he tells her he's proud of her and that he'd marry her again.  When he said "If you're Buck I'll be your bike and I'd carry Chicken to the car even though she's pretending to be asleep," it sounded like wedding vows.  "When did you become so perfect?" Tara asks and Max jokes, or doesn't, about Shoshana putting him on Prozac.  Then the family all dances together in the back yard.

And Season 2 is in the can! I have to admit I was hoping for something a teensy bit more explosive, plot-wise, for the very end, I think because we've been so spoiled with crazy reveals this season (Neil is Charmaine's babydaddy! There's a new alter! And another!). I was hoping for something that would make me go "What the—oh my—holy—did you see that?" sort of like Dexter's season finale. While the reveal of Bryce is intriguing it doesn't feel like an extremely new plot-twist, plus I was also sort of hoping for something a little darker from Zach than the fact that he voted for Ron Paul. I also felt a little let down by the way things worked out so neatly in terms of Charmaine and Nick and Neil—I wish perhaps that Nick had had a nobler departure and maybe that Neil had had a few choice words for Charmaine.  But I am nitpicking, again only because my standards were raised so outrageously this season.

I already think this is a terrific show now and if somehow Season 3 is even better than Season 2, I won't just find it unusual that more people aren't talking about the show—I'll find it criminal. I almost said "insane" but that would just wrap everything up a little too neatly.

—I wonder if Mimi heard her father the whole time on Tara's voicemail.

—I'm green like dat.

—I missed the reference about pineapple and asparagus and pot: can someone hip clue me in?