UNITED STATES OF TARA “Crunchy Ice” Review


UNITED STATES OF TARA “Crunchy Ice” Season 3 Episode 11 – As far as penultimate episodes go, this was a pretty great setup for next week’s series finale. Frances Conroy returned as Max’s less than stable mother, bringing with her a pink Christmas tree and her own brand of crazy motherly love. Motherly love which, for this episode and much of the last half of the series, has been drastically missing thanks to Bryce Crane’s appearance.

And Bryce Crane continues on his alters-slaying rampage, not-so-neatly dispatching the three main alters (Buck, T and Alice) within this episode, along with submerging long enough for Tara to surface, realize the torment she’s caused her family, realize that Max, no matter how bad things get, will never leave her, even when she’s left him to be committed, and plunge from a bridge.

The main problem with using the protagonist’s name in the title of the show is that without them, there is no show. There is no Dexter without Dexter, no House without House, no United States of Tara without Tara. So I have no doubt that Tara will survive this latest (and real) suicide attempt. But that does not make the moment any less shocking or disturbing and it certainly does not make the situation any less complex. Her intention, I imagine, was sacrificial. It was to save her family years of disorder and chaos. But it was also selfish: not only did she decide to take the plunge in front of Max, giving him quite a few grey hairs I’m sure, but she must have jumped out of a selfish desire for the crazy to end. But, given her disorder, you can hardly call her out: is it selfish to try to permanently put an end to the shame of having a fourteen year old molester alter hit on her daughter, abuse her son, taunt her husband?

Neil even has the idea of selling his home and moving Charmaine and Wheels to Houston, “No, you’re right, it’s because of the child molester.”

Neil also (in a very funny, very sick scene) discovers that Bryce Crane killed himself in 2002. So Tara’s alter is a dead Bryce Crane, a memory of a fourteen year old tormenter. Charmaine had a freak out moment at the grave of her abuser which was perfectly balanced between dreadfully sad and hilarious, thanks mainly to Neil’s reaction and her “I can’t spit!” moment. But even confronting Bryce’s death did not change him back to Tara.

The week’s best scene though was a scene between Marshall and Kate when they barricaded themselves in Kate’s bedroom. I love these rare, quiet moments between the two siblings, and both Brie Larsson (who delivered some really funny lines this week) and Keir Gilchrist brought their all in this episode. In the scene they remember to back to when they were children and they thought their mother’s illness was a sort of game. Marshall and Kate realize that unlike their father, they are not rooted to their home. It’s a particularly sad moment.

This is without a doubt one of the darkest, twistiest yet heart warming shows on television. If you can think of another show which portrays mental illness in such a simultaneously somber and funny way, please let me know in the comments below. Also, any other thoughts related to this episode or this series as a whole would be much appreciated in the comments.


Bryce: “You smell good.”
Kate (wonderful delivery by Larsson!): “Fuck off!”

Max’s mother had some really good scenes, both when she really hit home the point that Max does not want to replicate his father’s mistake and abandon his wife just because she’s mentally unstable, and when she confronts Bryce/Tara – I think she was definitely talking to Tara in that scene where she told her “Everything that’s happened to your family, the kids, your husband, everything they are, everything they could have been and aren’t, is all your fault.”

Max’s mother to Bryce: “And if you touch my tree, I’ll break your fucking fingers.”

Anyone want to make a prediction on next week’s finale (the last episode ever!)

Follow me on Twitter @CiaraMoyna