The Big C Returns With Not-So-Good Good News

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The Big C S03E01: “Thin Ice”

Raise your hand if you thought Paul was a goner at the end of last season's finale.

Yeah, me too, and The Big C took its sweet time letting us know that the great death fake-out was just that. In the time since (almost two months, according to the Jameson’s calendar), Cathy has taken up residence at a pub near the hospital, fabricating an entire life that is very much not her own: Her name is Alexis and she’s a recently widowed flight attendant. The bartender has even named a drink after her: the “Thirsty Widow.”

And yet, when Cathy returned home, there was Paul, tapping away at a laptop in the living room. For a minute there I thought he was a ghost.

Not so. That was the point in which The Big C turned to its audience and screamed “PSYCH!” before running off to cultivate more shenanigans...and I’m not sure how I feel about it. The final moments of Season 2 were soul-crushing in the best way, and I say this as someone who enjoys crying over fictional characters. It's cathartic, man. CATHARTIC.

Now, I’m not saying that I was hoping for Paul’s demise to be permanent because in many ways, I wasn’t. In the real world, I love Oliver Platt’s work, and the man-child with the heart of gold, Paul, endeared himself to me over the course of two seasons. But in the TV world, I can’t help but think that we’re starting to stretch credulity just a bit, first with Cathy and now with Paul.

After all, we are three seasons into a series that is supposed to be about the final year(ish) of a terminal cancer patient’s life and I’ve had the thought on numerous occasions debating, well, when will this stop being funny? It’s easy to laugh at Cathy’s exploits at the moment, but she isn’t openly sick at the moment. How much humor will be palpable when she’s laid up in a hospital bed? The Big C tends to gloss over these aspects, like when it conveniently cut to hiatus at the end of the first season, as Cathy reluctantly agreed to try the “nuclear” treatment.

Paul miraculously survived his brush with death at the end of last season and is now the not-so-proud owner of his very own Inplantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD). The part of me who cares about the fictional characters on The Big C is certainly happy for them—particularly poor Adam, who since Season 1 has grown on me like a pesky dandelion in the middle of a flawless lawn—but Paul’s survival has definitely taken some of the oomph out of last season’s emotional finale and lowered the sense of danger for the surrounding characters.

The Big C, however, seems to understand this, at least a little bit. In a scene between Cathy and Sean at Sean’s frozen house, she asked him if, in the event that both she and Paul succumbed to their health problems, he would agree to be Adam’s guardian. Their conversation was the sobering moment that “Thin Ice” needed, particularly as the big action sequence at the end, during which Cathy fell through the ice of Adam’s makeshift rink, played like a Keystone Kops slapstick with everyone tripping over themselves to a David Bowie soundtrack.


Questions:

1. We got the good news from Alan Alda that Cathy’s tumors are responding well to the treatment and some of them are even shrinking. Do we think this good fortune is here to stay?

2. I’m not wild about Cathy’s pretend life as Alexis. What are your thoughts?

3. Sean decided to get a “real” job after agreeing to be Adam’s guardian. Cathy said she’d keep an eye out at the school. Am I the only one who thinks this will lead to a lunchtime revolt over the contents of the mystery meat?

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