This week’s episode of Showtime’s The Big C is called “The Last Thanksgiving.” Who’s last Thanksgiving will it be? Cathy’s (Laura Linney)? Because her cancer treatment seems to be working. Lee’s (Hugh Dancy)? He isn’t getting the same results as Cathy. Mykailo’s (Boyd Holbrook), at least to spend with Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe)? Nah, they work out their romantic issues before the closing credits.
Turns out there are not one, but two deaths before the end of the episode. The first is the turkey that Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) brings home, but only Cathy can bring herself to slaughter. The second is newly engaged couple Sean and Rebecca’s (Cynthia Nixon) unborn child.
For a series about death, The Big C tries to avoid getting too gloomy too often. There is a major death at the end of season one, but mostly, the series focuses on survival. Not so in “The Last Thanksgiving.” This may be because Cathy and / or Lee might be dead by next year. OK, so only Lee might be dead, as Cathy is the main character. But also because of two departed souls who aren’t even part of the cast, but make a real impact. The baby’s effects are obvious, of course, and Adam (Gabriel Basso) humanizes the turkey by naming it. Sean claims this is why he won’t kill the bird, but does anyone really believe Sean would manage to go through with it?
“The Last Thanksgiving” is also about love. Cathy and her family are closer than ever. Mykailo and Andrea are only just blossoming romantically, but already show a lot of potential, and are quickly becoming a more important part of the cast. Rebecca and Sean deciding to tie the knot cinches the argument. But all of this love is likely fleeting. Can Rebecca and Sean stay together after losing their child? Will Andrea keep dating Mykailo when it comes out that he is a petty thief? And how happy will everyone be once Cathy passes away, which seems an inevitable move for The Big C, even if it is postponed until the series finale.
This episode is strong compared to some of the others. Any series with a good enough cast can do a great “box” episode, one in which the major players are confined in a relatively small space, in this case the Jamison house, for almost the entire half hour. It’s a popular sitcom trope, and is usually welcome when done well. The Big C proves they can handle it this week. Sure, there are a few scenes outside of the main setting, but not many.
The only weak point of “The Last Thanksgiving” is Paul’s (Oliver Platt) decision to be cut in on Mykailo’s illegal scheme. With the success of Weeds and Breaking Bad, perhaps criminals have become glamorized. But The Big C has enough going for it on its own without resorting to such tactics. It’s been done. Stick with what works for your show; no need to borrow from others.
The Big C airs Monday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.