The Big C's Season 2 Finale: Life, Sadly, Isn't Fair

I was hard on The Big C over the course of its first season, because I saw so much unrealized potential. The series I wanted to see didn’t show up until Season 2, which—despite some late-in-the-game fumbles—was a massive improvement over the first. Cathy became a compelling, realistic, not wacky-for-the-sake-of-being-wacky character. Not to mention the fact that all of the supporting characters, who were unsympathetic drags for most of the first season, finally began to develop relatable traits. We might not always agree with their choices, but at least we can see where they’re coming from.

Monday night’s finale was a bittersweet ending to a season filled with ups and downs. And what else can you expect from The Big C? This is a dramedy in the truest sense: a series about cancer that finds the humor in dying without diminishing the feeling of loss. What’s interesting, and something that Cathy likely never imagined, is that she continues to soldier on. It’s her friends and family who keep dropping like flies.

Season 1 killed off Marlene in an abrupt way that was likely meant to shock us but really felt half-assed. This season, the loss was well earned. First there was Rebecca’s miscarriage, made all the more poignant by the fact that Rebecca was planning to name her daughter Cathy. It was a nice contrast to Cathy’s struggle: Some people die too young, but some would-be people don’t get to live at all. And then there was Lee, the best supporting character The Big C has incorporated to date. He showed Cathy that life's not just about living the way you want to live—it’s also about dying on your own terms.

It was clear something was going to go terribly wrong in the season finale, as Cathy went against doctor’s orders and decided to run a marathon. (I know very few people who could do this without extensive training, cancer or not.) But the last-minute reveal, the slow realization—it cut deep. It hit me suddenly, as soon as I saw it on Cathy’s face: She is going to outlive her husband.

I suppose Paul might be resuscitated. For Adam’s sake, I hope he is—God, doesn’t this kid have enough on his plate already? But there was a finality to Paul standing there with his fellow spirits, Marlene and Lee. Beginning the next season with his miraculous recovery would make the gut-punch of this season’s finale little more than a cheap trick. And as much as I’ll miss Oliver Platt on the series, I am curious to see what’s next for a newly widowed Cathy.

Where does The Big C go from here? Can Cathy handle her treatment without the support of her husband? How is she supposed to earn the money to pay for it? Will Adam slip back into rebellious teen mode in his grief? It almost seems like too much—I’m anxious just thinking about it. But maybe that’s the point. There is nothing easy about dealing with cancer, a diagnosis that affects not just the victim but also everyone around her.

None of this is fair, but it wasn’t fair that Rebecca and Sean lost their baby, or that Paul’s feelings of inadequacy at work drove him to an ill-advised coke habit. The “life’s not fair” sentiment may be trite, but it’s true as it ever was. And The Big C has done a great job of finding the humor in that. Things fall apart, and sometimes your only option is to laugh.


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why all the talk of ghosts!!!when the episode ended the docters were still working on paul,nobody said he was dead,cathy may have seen him between life and death.anyway just get this excellent series back foe a 3rd time
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when does season 3 start plz
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I am very selective about what I watch on TV and very rarely am interested in American dramas as they tend to be so over the top. But I am totally addicted to the Big C - the characters, those gone and those still with us, are so real and believable. I am a mental health nurse and recognise some of my patients in Sean. Cathy is wonderful and the finale ending of this series.....well it blew me away. I was in awe of it, the look on her face, the realisation of it all, the meaning of it, heartbreakingly sad - but as echoed in other posts, despite wondering how she will manage without Paul, I hope the ending remains. But wow.....
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Loved this season and loved the ending. Still can't speak after watching it, it left me shaking, very well written and superbly acted. Fell in love with Laura Linney in Tales Of The City and to some degree, the storyline with Lee (especially with Parkey Posey in this season) was a weird alternative universe of some of those plots, which was incredibly sweet, touching and moving.



I won't spoil it for anyone but I hope they keep the story as it has finished and not cop out at the start of next season. The faces of the actors involved were amazing and just goes to show that less truly is more.



For those who have commented that her doctor would never fall for her - why not? Love is love, its not something that is predictable, pre-arranged or fits into neat little boxes, it's wild, funny, upsetting, tragic, amazing, life affirming, shitty and charming all in one. If it wasn't then why are most books, tv shows, movies and plays obsessed with it. Course the doctor could fall in love with her, why wouldn't he, after all, I have!
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Great comments, you really capture the heart of the show. I nearly jumped into my TV to hug her because if he doesn't fade and come back to reality....AH! I do not know how the writers will develop the story. Her friend would have to move back maybe another character will arise??? Maybe the sexy African-American actor that she had an affair with???? Too many thoughts...again great job!
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Brilliant writing and acting. Finale broke my heart. The actors were perfection. Paul and Cathy's final facial expressions went to the core. Laura Linney ROCKS. And, no, I don't think they should bring Paul back. No more ghosts. Was happy to see Dr. Todd again. He and Cathy are soul-mates like loving friends. Not lovers. I miss Lee. Season 3 scripts will have to be flawlessly written. I can't imagine laughing after this finale. Andrea will likely play a bigger role. Every life will change. I LOVE LOVE LOVE grown-up TV.
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I'd heard that season 3 was renewed for only 6 episodes, but that seems to be false, as others report that The Big C was renewed for 10 more episodes.

I thought I had it figured out with that bit of info, I figured there would be half a season where Cathy starts to die now that she isn't fearful of it anymore. The only thing I can assume, is that Shawn will be helping with Adam a lot in Paul's absence, and may wind up with custody of him should Cathy die at the end of season 3. Paul was a great character, but honestly, Shawn is being a much more successful father figure to Adam than Paul has been. And now that Shawn has wrapped his head around the idea of being a parent, I can see him being a more responsible role model for Adam as well.

I hope they don't bring Paul back, because it would seriously ruin the fabulous season finale they created. I'm not one that cries over TV a lot, but I sat there watching Cathy's revelation of what was happening to Paul and I cried.

I can see Paul popping in on occasion like Marlene, but he shouldn't be a constant fixture with his own storyline anymore.
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I honestly think Paul will return as a ghost....Thats how they do it now....They kill off actors when they still are on contract....So they bring them back as ghost or spirits....Cheap!
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I sat there for a full five minutes trying to find my breath, it was difficult. The impact is stunning and like taking a rocket propelled grenade to the face. Academy award winning writers and directors could only wish that they were given the opportunity to present something like this. Even in the wake of such stunning projects as the Sopranos, Rome, Boardwalk Empire - etc, this is TV come of age
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Wow!!! Definitely didn't see the ending coming! I was so shocked and very sad. I really liked Paul's character. I had totally forgotten about Dr. Todd and I didn't know who he was at first when he returned. Oh well. We will see what happens in S3, but this season was GREAT anyway!!
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please don't kill off Paul!! It would just be too sad for Adam-having a sick mother is enough of a downer- I don't want to watch this kid facing orphanhood. Bring Paul back from flat-lining!!! I'll feel more cheated without him. This Dr. Todd business is totally ridiculous. What idiot oncologist is going to fall for a patient w/ stage 4 melanoma who also happens to be 10 yrs older?
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Definitely one of the least expected twists I've had the pleasure to watch! By Dr. Todd making an appearance after missing for so many episodes. I wonder if the writers are setting up an actual romance between Cathy and the hot doc.... If Paul is truly gone. Personally, I hope to see them revive Paul - I love the characters of both Cathy & Paul and love them as a couple especially after the separation of the first season. As a relatively young widow myself, hope he pulls thru (even if he is just a character)!
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Great season, great finale. I'm gonna miss Lee the most. But it's good to see dr.Todd again.
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A really good finale, one I really didn't see coming...
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Oliver Platt was the reason I was watching this show. It won't be the same without him.
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i like this show. it show the meaning of life and death
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I'm sure we'll see plenty of Oliver Platt even if Paul dies. And to bring him back would be a total cop out. I agree, this was a great season. Looking forward to the next.
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Although I thought this was one of the greatest cliffhangers I've seen, I wouldn't be upset to see Paul survive. Oliver Platt was the reason I started watching the show in the first place. But either way, next season should be a good one.
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I think both the finale and episode before that were quite amazing. Lee's death was very touching. And you could see the hart attack was on its way when Paul was gripping his chest after his rant at the insurance company.
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shocking ending, didn't see it coming at all.. and that's a big thing for me, i watch so much tv that i'm pretty jaded and can guess about 98% of what's going to happen a little less than half into the episodes.. they had a big red herron in there, making it seem like Cathy would be the one to collapse out of medical stuff (as per the preview from last week) with her heart or something and then the Marlene and Lee spirits coming in and Paul walking up like he was just late getting there from the insurance place and then Adam saying his dad wasn't there. sad stuff.
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I hope Paul does not die I think he is my favorite person on it. I do hope Nancy on Weeds is dead
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I know this sounds so weird and horrible but I really want Laura to shag someone better looking than Oliver Pratt. Ehhhhh we'll see how much he's missed if he is in fact dead.
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oh man, thank so you much for spoiling! i deliberatly didn`t read the weeds article and now this.
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ps- probably wouldn't read a article titled " episode of show you haven't watched yet but want to, season finale article".
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No, he meant the Weed's spoiler.
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The finale was great, totally surprised about Paul. Im going to miss him. What happened to Andrea though? She was such a big part of this season so where was she in the finale? I was hoping to see her and Cathy have a heart to heart or her to speak to Paul, especially after what happened to him. This finale would have benefited from an hour show, everything seemed so rushed.
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Yeah I was hoping to see Andrea too.
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She said she was with he parents at the beginning
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Great finale I have high hopes for season 3
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