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TV Review: United States of Tara – “The Good Parts”

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Showtime’s United States of Tara ends after three seasons with “The Good Parts.” Not written as the series finale, the episode opens with Tara (Toni Collette) killing her newest alter, Bryce, who has already killed off the other personalities that live inside Tara’s head. One might think that would be a relief for Max (John Corbett), especially since Tara plans on seeing a specialist doctor in Boston, but instead, his frustration with the situation builds until he blows his top at dinner. As Max and Tara prepare to leave town, what will happen to suddenly emotionally distant Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) hangs in the air, and Kate (Brie Larson) considers Evan’s (Keir O’Donnell) invitation to move to St. Louis.

“The Good Parts” would serve as a fine season finale, but as a series ender, it leaves much to be desired. While this season, certainly the best of United States of Tara‘s three, has been an amazing discovery of the trauma behind what makes Tara the way she is, it also leaves things far from resolved. Bryce’s major disruption of the status quo shakes Tara into not only understanding her issues, but moving in new ways to finally solve them once and for all. Bryce’s murder of Tara’s alters is deeply disturbing, but it opens the door to something exciting and different for a fourth season. Definitely, progress will be made. Sadly, with Tara on her way to get help, the brief reappearance of the beat up, but somehow surviving, three main alters, T, Buck, and Alice, actually cheapens the moment. This seems like a turning point, but they reset her to square one.

Please, Showtime, isn’t there any way to reconsider? While United States of Tara may not carry the audience some other series on the network do, the writing is top notch, the acting is excellent, and the story is evolving in very interesting ways that will now never be played out. It seems a shame to cancel a show at its creative peak. Maybe allow a television movie or a few, or even a shortened fourth season to wrap things up?

Perhaps most disappointing, had a fourth season been ordered, would have been Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Neil’s (Patton Oswalt) move to Houston. They are enjoyable supporting players, and while they may need distance from Tara and her drama for a happy ending, including an upcoming (finally!) marriage, they would have been sorely missed. Of course, now I guess they don’t have to be, because the whole series will be missed. Had the series been picked up for another season, they may have moved back or taken frequent trips back and forth to keep them involved in the story. Guess that decision will never have to be faced.

Max gets some serious development right at the end. Being married to a woman like Tara must be a serious struggle for any man, but much of what Max goes through has been kept hidden. Marshall forces some hidden disappointments to the surface with his film. Even though Max doesn’t like it, much of what Marshall says rings true. Max’s pain could be because his son hits too close to home. Max’s dinnertime eruption in the series finale is a fine way to show how he is not as easy going as he often appears to be, and is struggling to hold it together. Further exploration of his psyche, and why he does what he does, would be welcome. If there were more episodes, which there will not be.

Marshall also gets some intriguing growth in season three, as the death of Lionel (Michael J. Willett) spurs him to also release pent up emotions. Faced with serious loss, Marshall gets a renewed sense of today, which could be construed as a commonly used device, but in the hands of Willett, opens up whole new areas of the character. Marshall is the steady rock of the household, and his losing it helps Tara and Max see how their lives affect their children. It’s a revelation that is obvious in retrospect, and worth talking about. Marshall needing some distance makes sense, and it a logical, good storytelling move. He will be available to love and help them, but he is not a care taker, and he should not be, as Max and Tara agree.

Kate struggles with finding a place in the world throughout the series, bouncing between interests and careers. “The Good Parts” leaves her with a strong romantic bond, and a finding of responsibility. Being with Evan really seems to mature Kate, in ways she really needs to grow up. He’s a great influence on her in so many ways. It’s too bad there will not be a chance to explore her stephmotherhood.

Kate and Marshall’s relationship is one of the best sibling pairings on television, as they need each other more than most brothers and sisters. To see Kate step up to help Marshall the way she does is incredibly gratifying. The two are as co-dependent as Max and Tara in a totally different way that is healthy for them both. This is the factor done most correctly in the series finale.

Yes, this review is a little truncated. Just like United States of Tara. I did it on purpose, as a tribute.

It may be too little, too late, but if you are so inclined, I urge you to write to Showtime asking them to bring this brilliant series back. Click here for the Facebook page trying to do just that.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com