UNITED STATES OF TARA “Bryce Will Play” Review

UNITED STATES OF TARA "Bryce Will Play" (6)

UNITED STATES OF TARA “Bryce Will Play” Season 3 Episode 9 – The news that Showtime cancelled United States of Tara and renewed Nurse Jackie does not come as much of a surprise: the numbers for United States of Tara have been pretty abysmal this year. But the news came just as this episode aired, and I’m filled with conflicting emotions.

United States of Tara is one of the best television shows on right now: sure, it misfires bigger and more often than other, safer shows, but that’s because it takes enormous risks. It does not coward out of anything. And unlike most other shows, its rarely dull.

So while things like Charmaine going drinking with the mommies or Kate wandering around a baseball bat museum with her new boyfriend and his crazy kid seem weirdly stilted, the other material: Marshall and Max and, especially Tara and Dr Hattaras, the show flies off the television screen, grabs your eyes and heart and forces you to watch this compelling, insane, totally original drama unfold.

Of course we’ve all seen shows that last too long, that reach spectacular heights and nose dive within a season. It’s so rare for a show to be cancelled when its at the top of its game, and rarer still when it feel, liked United States of Tara feels, that it is actually ripping through its potential to become this small, rarely seen little gem of a show. So in a way, I’m kind of glad that United States of Tara will be going out on such a high.

Marshall’s movie finally premiered, and Max was stunned by what he saw-and not in a good way. His love towards his wife, crazy as she may be, has always been one of the centerpoints of the show. In a way, it has also blinded him. Marshall rightly points out that “there’s a cost” to treating their mother not as the crazy person she is, but for her “eccentricities”. Too right he is.

Thank you Emmy Awards, for your Oscar inferiority complex. Toni Collette will always have that Emmy for United States of Tara. Her performance has been outstanding and to see her take something which could have so easily been grating and gimmicky and turn it into a tour de force performance, unmatched by any other actress on television right now-perhaps with the sole exception of Elisabeth Moss on Mad Men-has been a pleasure to watch.

With only four episodes left, Bryce Crane got rid of two Tara’s alters in one fell swoop: he burned Shoshanna, he strapped Gimme to a board and stabbed it to death. Watching Bryce, pumpkin on head, knife in hand, stabbing at Gimme’s poncho, was one of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen on television. It was the payoff of so many seasons. Collette even managed to get the wiry physicality of a fourteen year old boy down. And later on Bryce humped a freakin’ pumpkin. What?

I loved that Dr Hattaras’ superior advised him to back off the case, and not because it was too dangerous but simply because Hattaras hadn’t the know-how, and would likely hinder both her progress and hurt himself. He was dead right on the latter. Bryce’s ploy of putting crab in the dinner, knowing Hattaras is seriously allergic to it, was chilling, almost as much as his dangerous flirting with Charmaine, whom he had not seen since she was a child. I hate the phrase because it’s used too often, but that scene literally sent shivers down my spine.

This is one of the bravest shows on television. It presents a loving family with a terrible conflict. Like an alcoholic or a gambler or a drug addict, Tara’s DID is poisonous. Yet the show is not afraid to be entertaining, to be light hearted and witty and then turn on a dime to a place so sinister and dark that it actually makes me afraid to watch it. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but man, these writers and actors are wicked.

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