S03E12 That was fun, United States of Tara. Sure, our time with you was perhaps a season or so shorter than we would have liked, but it was a good run. We had some laughs, some confused looks, some shocking endings, and some Brie Larson. Let us not mourn what could have been but instead celebrate what was (I’m so ready for eulogies).
Part of the problem with reviewing this episode is that it wasn’t intended to be a series finale, it was only a season finale with the fourth season coming next year. These moments were only supposed to be pauses not full on stops and as such we watch this episode now knowing that these moments are conclusive. This is it. So how does it work as a series finale? A season finale? Amazingly enough, pretty well for both. The writers made one extremely smart move that manages to not only save the show, but give it the ending it deserves - Tara is present for the whole episode. No alters, no transitions, just Tara.
So Tara manages to escape the jumping over the bridge in probably the easiest way possible (Max jumps in after here) but we’re not worried about the literal stuff here, as Diddy always says, it’s all about the metaphors baby. We go into Tara’s mind where she has turned the tables on Bryce and is torturing him. Why Tara knows how to use a water boarding mechanism professionally is a question that I really shouldn’t ask, but it was funny. It was good to see her strength come out and demand to be left alone, this is a comedy after all and most comedies tend to have happier endings. Had Tara given up, well, that’d just be really fucking depressing. Speaking of depressing, Max jumps into Tara’s head through some bad green screens and they rescue themselves.
Cut to: family meeting! Tara announces that she and Max are going to go to Boston and this starts off the main conflict for the rest of the characters. For the rest of the family, the whole season has been dealing with getting out and now the one thing keeping them tied down to Kansas is fleeing to Boston. It’s a great opportunity for them all to flee but as we’ll see later they all realize that no matter how shitty things can get with Tara, there is always something greater and more significant keeping them there. Tara’s final wish, however, is to have a family dinner but Marshall doesn’t really think that will solve everything. He was pretty right when he reminded Tara that less than a day ago she struck him. It’s not exactly something that’s easy to forget.
'Put the pancakes closer to your body' - Neil
But what does Neil think of all this? Well he wants Marshall to come to Houston with him and Char. Not a bad idea. A great idea is the strip club pancake house combo Neil and Max dreamed up. A super awesome idea is taking pictures of Rosemary DeWitt in lingerie holding a plate of pancakes. After modeling the delicious flapjacks, Char admits she doesn’t want to go to Texas and says as much to her sister. Tara then finally says what Char needed to hear, even though it comes as a little hypocritical coming from Tara, that she needed to man up and take control of her life. Which means asking Neil to marry her. Awwwww, so they get their happy ending.
Char was easy to take care of, how about something a little more difficult? Kate’s big thing this season was escaping away with Evan. He’s invited to the dinner (but not Monty THANK GOD) and after every boyfriends nightmare of being grilled by not only the mother but the aunt too, he makes it out alive. Barely. Tara was withholding judgement on him but after Evan talks some sense into Marshall (more on that later) she decides she likes him. Evan asks Kate to go back to St. Louis with him but she couldn’t. Kate feels some maternal instinct to help watch over Marshall and can’t abandon him like that. Again, someone tries to take the family away but they stay.
Not too complicated with Kate, but Marshall? Oh boy was that a doozy. Everyone has been through hell in this family, probably none more so than Max, but Marshall’s is especially potent because he’s so young and most of it has happened to him recently. He can’t just up and forgive his mother after he needed her so greatly after Lionel died. He can’t and he shouldn’t but this isn’t normal. Tara only has a few hours left there and as she says there is some good to her. After Evan’s little talk with him, he realizes his feelings for Lionel and his mom need to be said so he goes with Tara to Lionel’s memorial. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. I’m not usually into all this emotional crap, but Marshall’s story this season was so well executed that I fell for it hard.
'WHAT I WANT IS TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!' - Max
Now we get to the really complicated stuff: Max. One interesting thing that happened in this episode that hasn’t happened before was we went into another character’s head, specifically Max’s. We got to see exactly what he wished he could do that he suppressed and the writer’s used this trick to it’s maximum potential. The first two times we saw the joke and was shocked that he would do something like that but a quick cut back a few seconds show that’s just what he was thinking. No he didn’t storm out, no he didn’t choke the gay neighbor that talked over the football game. But then at the dinner table, when everyone was cheering and being merry, he snapped. At first we thought it would cut back and he would smile and toast, but no. It was amazing to want this edit to happen, but it never did, and when that realization finally hit that Max ACTUALLY did this and is ACTUALLY yelling at everyone? Ah, it was amazing. Honestly, I’m almost glad Tara is ending with this episode for Max’s story alone. It was brilliant.
But what about Tara? Interestingly enough, for an episode where Tara was herself the entire time we focused more on the other characters. Why? Well for once Tara was actually able to deal with other people’s problems because she didn’t have her own to deal with first. Her story is unresolved, as we can see with the final scenes, but we had to have some resolution for everyone else first. So for Tara to step back in her final episode, it cemented everyone else around her. And I know Tara isn’t real, but I think she would have wanted it that way too. And holy hell was that sweet when Marshall told her not to let them take out all the good parts and Tara replied that they are her good parts. That goes back to her dealing with other people first for a change. Tara is indeed crazy. There’s no denying that but for the first time she’s dealing with herself so the other people, her family, her good parts, wouldn’t be burdened by her. Cry? Maybe a little.
Tara did have two big metaphorical scenes though. The first was when she was looking in the mirror, expecting someone to pop out. I know I kept leaning forward, expecting someone to show up but no one did. That was really weird because those moments felt like it was time for someone to show up. But no one did. I’m pretty sure the viewer felt just as unusual as Tara did since this is the first time she’s ever really been alone inside her head too. The second big scene was when Max pulled up with his truck and her alters were in the bed of the truck. This was the only problem left open ended but the final scene of Tara sticking her head out the window shows that she’s at least on the right track. We can’t know for sure if Tara would have been cured or not, but at least we know she is at least getting better. It’s just the nature of the television beast to keep conflict continuing, so had the show been renewed Tara honestly wouldn’t have been cured for a while. But with this early cancellation we can at least draw some comfort from this ending. The family, for the most part, reached a happy ending and Tara and Max, our two star crossed crazy lovers, are on their way to get help.
Perfect ending? No. But it worked and that’s all we can really ask for. Well, that, and more pictures of Char in a lingerie holding pancakes.