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The Divorce exes have more chemistry with each other than with anyone else

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)
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Divorce isn’t one of HBO’s showy, blockbuster hits like the also-currently-airing Euphoria and Big Little Lies—this year it even got booted to Monday nights from prestige Sundays. So it’s not too surprising that was announced last week that this season will be Divorce’s last, with only four more episodes after this one.

I’m hopeful that the Divorce creators (this series is now on its third showrunner in three seasons: Liz Tuccillo, who took over for Jenny Bicks, who took over for Paul Simms) will be able to wrap this series up in a tidy package. It really is a well-made show about a thorny topic, which somehow still manages to be quite funny even in the face of families falling apart.

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But Divorce had something going for it from its very first scene. Sarah Jessica Parker always said that Thomas Haden Church was her first choice to play her about-to-be ex-husband in the series, and their chemistry was undeniable from the first moments of the series. Sure, their relationship then was primarily based on hurt and hostility, but no one simultaneously flipped the bird at each other like these two. As Frances herself said, the mustache had a lot to do with their relationship problems, and even as the divorce proceedings went on, it was obvious that these two had a complicated relationship and weren’t really done with each other yet.

The series has been veering toward that relationship lately, even as Frances has a new fling and Robert gets ready to spend his life with someone else. An undeniable pull between the two remains, so much so that Robert essentially spends his bachelor-party evening having dinner with Frances. Her toast to his future wedded life—full of “love, good health, and trust”—is a generous admission of her own failings, since it was her infidelity that caused the first major rift in their marriage. After everything they’ve been through—the long series of lawyers, the custody battles, the real estate wars—they’re still a part of each other’s lives (due to the kids) and as shown in this episode, a major part.

After all, Frances is the only person who hears about Robert’s second marriage doubts—and she still cares enough about him that she’ll derail her own romantic weekend to make sure their sullen daughter gets to his wedding. The spark so obvious in that doorway scene is several volts brighter than the one Frances has with Henry or Robert has with bedridden Jackie. We also get glimpses of some future problems in these early-stage relationships: Jackie did ask Robert for about five million things in addition to getting her dress dry-cleaned, and Henry is being pretty cagey about the whole non-ex-wife thing. If Jackie is already nagging, and Henry is already evasive, what will things be like in a year or so? As Robert remembers at the bachelor party dinner, he never had any doubts about getting married to Frances. And even then, years later, problems still emerged eventually.

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Dallas is going through a bit of a divorce herself—although with her own son, as her distraction is even affecting her career. Granted, no mother wants to think that their relationship with their child is over, but Dallas’ obsession with Cole’s absence means that she needs to move on as well. Even Diane still has a few fond memories of Nick this episode, before she’s cruelly reminded by one of his former clients that he’s ruined everything, Madoff-style.

Dallas and Diane are in more dire straits than Frances is, but they’re a stark reminder: Life is fucking hard. If you have someone in your life who totally gets you—who you can’t even lie to , who understands your fear of strippers—don’t you still need them around, no matter what stage your marriage or divorce is in at the time? I don’t know where Frances and Robert are headed (although with a baby on the way, it looks like Robert will be tied up for a while). But now that some time has passed and the divorce anger has subsided, both of them realize that their lives are better with their ex-spouse in it than out of it.

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Stray observations

  • “Curtail the bird humor. I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”
  • I really love Robert’s over-the-top coaching partner who’s scared of getting blackmailed by strippers.
  • Legit LOLed at Robert having to sign for a delivery mid-fight with Jackie.
  • That’s Wet Hot American Summers Abby Bernstein, Marisa Ryan, as Henry’s still-wife Ursula. We love you Abby Bernstein!
  • And Diane’s rogue shopper is Julie Halston, who played socialite Bitsy Von Muffling on Parker’s old series Sex And The City.
  • Speaking of season one, I miss how the show used to end with the easy-listening/ hits of my youth. Maybe we’ll get some more soft rock soundtrack nods as the series draws to a close?
  • Next week: Amy Sedaris as Robert’s sister is a pretty vile character (who helped steer Frances and Robert into their last hookup), but I always love seeing her regardless.
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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

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