Last night I stayed up late to see the season finale of the Big C. For the first time in watching this series about a 42 year old woman with advanced melanoma, in a near-final scene involving the protagonist Cathy’s teenage son, I cried.
The storyline is moving, finally, in a real and not necessarily happy direction. I must admit I was disappointed overall with the program overall until lately. That’s not because Cathy behaved recklessly and irresponsibly upon receiving her Stage IV cancer diagnosis – her decisions are her personal business and a plus for my engagement. At least the program’s not too preachy.
My gripes are with the show’s other confused characters: her homeless brother, in a TV relationship with Cynthia Nixon’s spent, post-Sex in the City character, is so extreme in his strangeness, choosing not to shower for instance, he distracts from the narrative; her obese student, played by Gabourey Sidibe, seems like she’s stuck in the wrong program; her “oncologist” is so free with his time, and apparently has so little else to do (how about studying for his boards, if he still hasn’t any other patients besides Cathy?), he comes across as a joke instead of as a credible and sensitive physician who’s completed his training.
The good news of course is Cathy, played fantastically well by Laura Linney. She’s amazing, perhaps more than ever, a good example of how women don’t have to be knock-out gorgeous to shine. Phyllis Somerville, as Cathy’s crotchety old neighbor Marlene, offers a revealing image of loneliness and dementia, with a bit of paranoia thrown in her mix. The two men in Cathy’s life – her husband and recent lover – provide a strange balance that somehow works around her: the lover is nice, supportive and easy-going; her husband is intense and devoted; his uber-love is persuasive. As for Cathy’s son, well, he’s grown on me over the past few months.
My favorite scene, easily, is Cathy dancing with a way-alternative cancer treatment provider, the Canadian “bee man” portrayed by actor Liam Neeson. How sad he must have felt, on the set, holding close a middle-aged woman in the role of someone facing death in slow-motion.
I don’t want to give the plot away, so I’ll just say that I will definitely keep watching the Big C. I can’t wait to see what happens with Cathy, if she’ll make it to the clinical trial that opens in six months and if she’ll be eligible for experimental therapy. This is no ordinary TV show.