Photo: HBO

A lot of things are working in Divorce’s first season, but the role of Frances, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, does not appear to be one of them. Last episode was marred by her insane bid to get her salary deferred during her divorce battle. This episode she desperately tries to enter the event committee at her kids’ school, which any parent can tell you is not unlike being the new kid on the sixth-grade playground yourself. I guess her flat jokes about dark turkey meat are supposed to be funny delivered in SJP’s smiley manner, but just come off as painful and awkward.

Frances has apparently been so focused on working that she has lost touch with the school, so much so that she can’t even recall the theme for the previous year’s school carnival. But as she rightly points out, she does this to keep her family going, so why is she being punished for it? School volunteering can easily turn into a full-time job in and of itself, a part-time one at the very least, so it’s unfair to pile that on top of everything else for Frances. But she should know better than to pull out the “I work full-time” excuse in front of a mom who does not, which will win her no favors. It’s an odd scene overall.

[About that mom: There was no real reason for Frances to confront Janice, except to keep her painful theme of awkward social interactions going. It almost seemed like Frances wanted to let Janice know that she knew about her hookup with Robert, in kind of a proprietary way. But, I could be hoping for too much here.]

Fortunately, there are other characters on this show. Frances’ finest moment this episode is when she’s watching an admirably game Robert dance with their kids. And a few other couples are around to offer some departures and parallels. Nick snapping at Diane leads her to take her first (but not her last) drink since the shooting party. It also reveals how few of their conflicts have really been resolved since his heart attack: disagreements about having children, flirting with other people, and an unhealthy undercurrent of hostility overall.

Advertisement

Can anyone work it out? On the other end of the spectrum, we have the surprising pairing of Dallas and Tony Silvercreek, which I have to say I’m enjoying more than I’d like to admit. There’s just something so full-on about Dean Winters’ complete embrace of his portrayal of this douchebag, and the sparring between the two is the most spirited of the series so far: “What color panties are you wearing? Oh, and what’s your favorite movie?” “I’m not wearing any panties… and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.” It’s a funny answer that also points to Dallas as a survivor, and it’s a relief to get her focused on someone who isn’t her son. Unfortunately, that someone is also a person who uses words like “twat” and is unbelievably rude to valet parkers, so looking forward to seeing how Dallas balances this out. But even that brief tryst gives her enough momentum to out-and-out refuse to engage with her dinner party seatmate, who she’s been introduced to any number of times before.

I like Divorce when it is somehow grouped around a theme, the way Frances and Robert both reveal secrets in “Weekend Plans,” or both find life outside the marriage difficult in “Gustav.” Earlier episodes when the two were still trying to work things out together had the advantage of just portraying how the marriage was falling apart. This episode merely just seems to point out what an awful person Frances is. Has she really forgotten how to talk to humans? To read social cues, when it is so obvious that the last thing in the world Janice wants to do is talk to her? Even her doddering old lawyer, Max, finds her difficult. So Frances finds a Tony Silvercreek equivalent in a female shark lawyer, and the first thing she does is embarrass Robert in front of the kids’ entire school. Frances, ineffectually, goes after him, and falls, failing once again. I know that Divorce isn’t focused on being a feel-good show (kind of the opposite), and the characters are all showing their good and bad (in some cases, mostly bad) sides. But unlike someone like Larry David, who pulls the cringe comedy off, Parker’s Frances in this episode only brings the cringe. With only one episode left to go in the season, ”Another Party” doesn’t leave us with much.

Stray observations

  • No ’70s music this episode that I could discern. The sound of the basketball bouncing over the credits was downright painful.
  • “It’s a snake.”
  • I don’t know how serving a summons works: Would Frances’ lawyer know that Robert was coaching a basketball game for his daughter, or was that just a really unfortunate piece of timing?
  • Divorce has been renewed for season two, and next week is the first season finale. So here’s my prediction: Robert and Frances are going to come to some understanding, maybe even a kiss or something, which will cause them to reexamine whether they want this divorce at all, leading to a whole new season of complications. Let’s see what happens!

Advertisement