In the canon of short-lived TV shows, Togetherness was only with us for a mere 16 half-hour episodes. The show mined impressive depths of emotionality and feeling in the small time period, only to wrap up with a plot reminiscent of a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musical. In a highly, highly improbable twist of fate, our foursome comes together to pull off an entire school curriculum, complete with script, sets, and costuming, in 24 hours, ultimately winning the charter school for Michelle.
As I mentioned last week, the charter school thing was problematic to begin with. We could talk about charter schools all day, but there was an unintentional hilarious moment last week when Michelle panics over losing the school, because she and Brett would never be able to afford Anna’s version or private school, and then they’d have to move. The fact that there are, y’know, regular public schools available, is not even brought up as a possibility, although surely they exist in Eagle Rock, the tony L.A. neighborhood where the show is filmed. Let’s also try to move past the fact that Michelle has nothing but this puppet presentation to offer the board, not a curriculum, or a list of teachers hired, or even as much as an outline. Say what you will about Anna, but at least she had some reading materials. Toss in Anna’s cartoonization as a villain, creating “Le Petit Village,” literally penning in the children behind white picket fences so that the parents can drink white wine out of plastic cups, and the finale falls victim to predictable cliches that this show was usually better at dodging.
These eight second-season Togetherness episodes were wrapped up before HBO announced that the show was cancelled. Still, I suspect that Mark and Jay Duplass must have had an idea that they would not be back for a season three, as this season wraps up so nicely (unlike season one, which ended on a complete cliffhanger). With all the emotional highs and lows the show has explored, it feels pretty anti-climactic to hang the finale on this charter school.
But hang it does, as Brett and Alex’s Dune production turns out to be an absolute, hilarious flop (and in a final heartwarming moment of Brett and Alex’s devotion, Alex is fully aware of this suckiness, but never lets on because Brett loves the project so much). Tina’s wisecracks about it are pretty awesome as well (“stupid fucking guy shit”), but all of that concern is thrown out the window when Sophie falls off the monkey-bars at school and winds up at the hospital. This is of course a shortcut to remind everyone involved what’s really important: their family and the people they love, and who the school as supposed to be for in the first place. So the school transformation, cutely, gets to be all about Sophie, who then dictates colors and plans the dragon pens.
The presentation is so awesome—with hydraulic irrigation yet!—that of course it defeats the wicked Anna forevermore. (The allegory of the school as a new planet was admittedly pretty clever, as was Amanda Peet’s depiction of Anna as an evil butterfly.) As we could have predicted, Brett and Michele reunite, and Alex and Tina, still in costume, finally start making out and hopefully get pregnant.
It’s nice to see everything get wrapped up the way it should, but what ultimately resonates are those small moments that Togetherness did so well. Brett choking up when he tells Michelle he wants to come home qualifies, as does Tina’s assurance to Michelle that being a working mom is okay, and that’s not the reason why she wasn’t at the hospital with Sophie. At least we can go off knowing that our foursome is probably still getting together for barbecues and talking about old rock music and hopefully now all employed at this school they fought so hard for.
I’m going to miss Togetherness a lot more than this look at the finale would suggest. It’s not easy to create three-dimensional two-dimensional characters, and the Duplasses created four. Alex’s projection from donut-eating guy to more confident TV star, Michelle as a stay-at-home mom venturing into various unexplored areas, Brett as a fenced-in person who found his own way to break free (even as long ago as the Kick The Can game, that freedom was going to involve Dune). Best of all was the revelation of Amanda Peet as Tina. Although always enjoyable in previous roles (I particularly liked her as the girl who doesn’t get the guy in Sleeping With Other People), here she was achingly vulnerable, ferocious, and fearless. When we met Tina she was aimless and didn’t know what she wanted, but by the end of the series, she’s triumphantly figured it out. It’s kind of nice, actually, that she and Alex didn’t have a big speech leading up into their first actual romantic moment: They’d already said everything they needed, and that moment on the porch last week proved that they both knew exactly how they felt about each other.
These tiny explorations, not in leaps and bounds but fits and starts, were enjoyable and valuable to witness from week to week. Togetherness was a great reminder that growing up doesn’t stop just because you’re grown up. I just wish we could have enjoyed it for a while longer.
Series finale: B
Series grade overall: A-
- Brett was never more Brett than when he locked up his smashed car.
- Guy in audience, the reveal of that lame, lowercase “Le Petit Village” sign did not deserve your nod.
- Togetherness should release an iTunes playlist or something of all the amazing and spot-on music used in each episode. They could call it: Today’s Tom Sawyer.
- My grief over the end of this show lessened a little by the Duplasses’ appearance in the new episode of The Mindy Project, streaming April 12! (I watched the screener.)
- Final power rankings: Hey, everyone’s good. It was really fun to watch this show along with you guys, thanks for reading!
- Just leaving this here: