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Frances is in a bleak but hopeful space as Divorce kicks off its 3rd and final season

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)
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This third and final season of Divorce is kicking off on a bit of a downer, and I welcome it. I’m close to the Frances/Diane/Dallas age bracket (Gen-Xer, pre-millennial) and so can completely relate to all three women being at a bit of a crossroads. When you’re a kid, or even in college, you have an image of what your life will be like near the milestone age of 50. Super-successful, right? At the top of your field. Probably have your own office and an assistant. Settled down, big house, nice family. Well, a setup like your parents might have had once upon a time.

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Instead, I know so many people in similar downer crossroads right now. People looking for jobs who haven’t been on an interview in years, or dating for the very first time in the online era. For myself, I have pluses (job, family) and minuses (my house was last renovated in 1988, and it shows). When Frances stands in front of her scorched gallery with her friends and ponders how everything wound up this way, I actually cheered this show for depicting the realistic middle-aged crises of the women. Sometimes, you have to start all over, no matter what age you are. Once your dream dies, where do you find a new dream?

Our three main characters have different issues, also: professional, marital, maternal. Frances is finding it difficult to get a job as a professional woman over 50 now that her gallery has literally gone up in smoke. We’ve always seen evidence that Dallas is too attached to her son, and now he’s cut off contact for good. And Diane is now the second HBO wife we’ve seen this season visit her husband in prison post-securities fraud (after Big Little Lies’ Renata), and she’s just as furious, smashing Nick’s meager tokens to try to get her back (the pouch of tuna had me howling). Diane’s a shopgirl again, Frances is back in a small city apartment, and no one is where they thought they’d be. Of course, that can happen at any time. But things seem more critical after a certain age, without decades stretching out ahead of you to make things right.

That sounds dire, but that’s what’s so impressive about this Divorce season: It’s able to find the humor as these women realize what they need to do to survive. Frances needs to just take any job she can get, as the gobsmacked reaction she receives from the young people at the gallery when she tries to get a job off the street is both humorous and telling. Dallas needs to let her son go and focus on her own life. Diane needs to get Nick out of her life, even though that means she’s essentially homeless, couch-surfing between her two friends’ homes.

At the other end of the spectrum is Robert, the yin to Frances’ yang, who is suddenly swamped with too much in his life. Robert will be a senior citizen by the time his new kid is in college. Once you’ve reached a point where you can finally calm down over the offspring a bit, it has to be a daunting prospect to, again, start all over; it explains Robert’s silent “god damn it” at the end of the episode, even as his business is going well and he does seem to be devoted to Jackie. For Robert, things haven’t turned out exactly the way he thought they would either.

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Thomas Haden Church’s laid-back humor always has been a Divorce highlight and he has a great foil in Dominic Fumusa, as his super-aggressive coach counterpart (“Hey, Bobby Knight, before you start throwing chairs around…”). Robert and Jackie’s announcement is bound to have major repercussions for Tom and Lila, and you could tell as Frances fumbled toward her car that she was thrown as well. Robert and Frances have definitely had their ups and downs, but Jackie’s pregnancy places them the farthest apart they’ve been since they split up, even as Frances kindly tried to summon some enthusiasm for her kids’ future half-sibling.

Like Robert, like Frances, there’s nothing to do but go forward. So far, the theme of Divorce season three is that your gallery is going to catch on fire due to an artist working with neon, and your dreams are burned to the ground. Your girlfriend is going to get pregnant and you try your hardest to get on board with it. You can go from rich to poor, from having a relationship with your son to not having one, in a moment.

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Clearly, these characters have come a long way since season one, when Robert and Frances were barely speaking and Diane shot Nick at a party. Because stopping is not an option. So you find a new boyfriend, you make the best out of your tiny new apartment, you take a job with the weird bird-obsessed siblings. Actually, Frances spying the bird mural was one of the best shots of the premiere: It proved that there’s beauty, and hope, just around the corner. And until you find your bright new path, hopefully you can laugh about your efforts to get there.

Stray observations

  • Welcome to the third and, as announced today, final season of Divorce! Watch this space for the last five episodes of the show. While I thought the second season finale would have made a fine wrapup, I enjoyed this episode enough that I’m really looking forward to these final episodes.
  • Love Nick’s figurine efforts, but why is there eyeliner and rouge in prison?
  • Robert really is funny, I don’t blame Jackie for cracking up all the time. “I’m going to punch this to-do list in the dick.”
  • I was on bedrest with my twins, and while it seems like a dream, it’s not really that fun because you’re just terrified the whole time, so you can’t even enjoy all the constant napping.
  • That was Russian Dolls Greta Lee as the realtor for Frances’ charred gallery space. I think every time I see her now I’m just going to be disappointed when she doesn’t say this:

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.