Abby Elliott, Jill Kargman (Bravo)

The season finale of Odd Mom Out has arrived, and the major arcs of these ten half-hour episodes of television have been resolved. Brooke finds out that Lex has been cheating on her and lashes out at Jill for knowing without informing her. The ensuing fight results in Jill finally deciding that keeping the peace with Andy’s family isn’t worth her dignity; she abandons the N.A.C.H.O. event and arrives fashionably late at Vanessa’s fortieth birthday party. A lot of planning went into the plotting of the season so that the finale would feature these inevitable conclusions, and that sense of purpose is appreciated. Still, there are drawbacks to such streamlined, tidy storytelling. There are few surprises here; news of Lex’s affair gets out because punishing an adulterer and seeing Brooke squirm are narrative possibilities too tempting to avoid. Most importantly, the entire season has symbolically consisted of Brooke and Vanessa battling for Jill’s soul, so it’s no great shock to find that this war comes to a head in the finale, and that good ultimately triumphs over evil. An emphasis on serialization primes an audience for a show that prioritizes storytelling and character development over comedy, and that’s a promise that Odd Mom Out doesn’t always keep. The logical story beats are there and the narrative breadcrumbs have been dropped, but the series’ strong narrative structure is somewhat wasted when the dramatic side of this dramedy hasn’t been realized to its fullest potential.

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When it comes to comedy, some episodes of Odd Mom Out are funnier than others, but the show has demonstrated it can wring laughs out of an audience. In the finale alone, the show taught us many things. Grown-up dirty talk involves getting off on real estate amenities. Palm readers exist on the UES just like they do everywhere else; there, they just tend to apply hand sanitizer before fleecing the naĂŻve. Someone alert Michelle Obama that, according to Brooke, the best physical fitness for children is ribbon dancing. Did you know that so many UES families abandon New York for vacation homes in the summer that tumbleweeds appear throughout the abandoned city streets? Now you know, thanks to Odd Mom Out.

This specific satire of UES culture transcends the clichéd traps that so often impede the show’s character development, or lack thereof. In retrospect, the season comes across as slight, and it isn’t because Odd Mom Out concerns itself with the day-to-day problems of the upper class. Many of these problems are either funny or universal, and the show is sophisticated enough to have identified some promising themes. The problem is that it’s difficult to create higher stakes for a season finale when so many of the characters involved are no more well-developed than cardboard cutouts. The fight among Andy’s family members involving Lex’s affair and Candace’s new man-friend has no weight, since these characters rarely transcend rich white-people stereotypes. At one point, a parallel actually emerges between Lex and Brooke, wherein both fight dirty and take out their problems on others when confronted with the truth. Andy accuses Lex of having an affair, so Lex responds by belittling him, saying that he only hired his brother because he felt sorry for him. News of Lex’s affair hurts and embarrasses Brooke, so she lashes out at Jill, bragging that she made her sister-in-law into the Momzilla-in-training that she is today. It would be nice if this parallel gave some explicit insight into the way in which the siblings were raised or the way this family thinks, but the similar reactions are more than likely coincidental given the extent of their development thus far.

When the television marketplace is as crowded as it is these days, memorable characters and character relationships are essential for viewer retention. At the end of “Wheels Out,” the show alludes to the fact that Jill will loathe the summer because all of the UES will leave town, despite her constant criticism of them. She likes to stir up trouble and grows bored quickly in the absence of people and drama. Many might consider these characteristics to be nothing more than additional flaws exhibited by an already-flawed character, but these little consistent details are also what make Jill a more well-rounded character than her in-laws. Furthermore, if these are flaws, then audience members share them, because they will soon grow bored of a show lacking in complex characters and real drama if Odd Mom Out doesn’t address these problems should it get a second season.

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Considering the show’s typical handling of Jill’s in-laws, it’s fairly expected that their storylines don’t break any particularly compelling ground in the finale. The real disappointment occurs when a central, relatively complex character like Vanessa doesn’t get the closure she deserves. She does have a few wins, including a foxy birthday sombrero and a new East Village apartment. In the case of her new digs, Vanessa has proven herself capable of taking advantage of the opportunities that her dating life provides, but in the end, it seems like she’s the one who’s been used. The tug-of-war between Brooke and Vanessa for Jill’s friendship—and very soul, in a way—is the major thrust of the season. For evidence, look no further than Jill’s nightmare concerning this very conflict; those who know television know that dream sequences are basically CliffsNotes for series’ themes. Despite the arc’s importance, the resolution of the season-long tension between Jill and Vanessa is rushed and heavily skewed in the protagonist’s favor. Family responsibilities are important, but Jill only recognizes Vanessa as a better influence than Brooke when her sister-in-law shows her true nature—well, Brooke’s dark side has been fairly evident all season, but Jill turned a blind eye until she was directly attacked.

As with serialization, there are pros and cons of crafting an intelligent, well-rounded character like Vanessa, and a con is that viewers will come to expect rational behavior from her. Maybe it was all the margaritas she had that night, but Vanessa didn’t call Jill out for treating her best friend like Miss Congeniality, only crawling back to her side once the real party went south. Instead, all is easily forgiven and forgotten in the interest of a tidy resolution, and this arc concludes with what may be the pair’s last cozy, familiar lunch at the beloved Friendship Diner (patent pending).

In fact, many of the scenes in “Wheels Up” feel very final. Jill and Andy burn many family bridges without a sense of great consequence or concern, and nary a loose thread dangles in anticipation of season two. Jill Kargman and company must’ve wanted to leave their viewers satisfied in case a second season isn’t ordered, and the jury remains out on the show’s future. Regardless, season one boasted witty writing, a great central friendship, and some unique, interesting themes to ponder. If those involved double down on the show’s strengths and address its weaknesses, they could build on what they’ve achieved so far and deliver an even better season two. They’d have a lot of work ahead of them, but there’s no shame in learning from one’s mistakes when the show’s very existence has pointed Bravo in a better direction.

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Stray observations

  • “You are Frank Lloyd Wrong.” This is a classy joke and I appreciated it. Bravo indeed.
  • “Since when did you care about what’s appropriate? You wore black to all of my kids’ christenings!”
  • This is it for both season one of Odd Mom Out and these accompanying reviews. This run was short but sweet. Thanks for reading!

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