Screen: FX

It's A Wonderful Life (Unless You're Julia)

In Season 2, Sean's still a punk, but Julia's the one who has to spend an episode in purgatory with Famke Janssen.

I intended to finish all of Season 2 of Nip/Tuck for this Marathon Diary entry but fell two episodes short, possibly because the writers have tried my patience by making this season almost entirely about the crises of the McNamaras, with the show yet to devolve into the full-blown lunacy about which I've been warned. Honestly, I would have preferred that to all the screen time devoted to Sean trying to tap into his inner Christian.

Sean is basically unbearable: he may be in the running for my least favorite TV character of all time. His perpetual midlife crisis has progressed from forcing his son to eat blowfish to fucking Kimber's RealDoll while pretending to rape his wife. Every Sean plot involves him, in one way or another, trying to prove to his children/Julia/Christian/himself that he's not a pussy. The episode in which he makes Matt eat a blowfish and (almost) go shark diving with him makes this dynamic explicit by having Sean declare multiple times, "I am not a pussy." Yeah, you are.

Most of the season revolves around the secret that Christian is Matt's real father, and the fallout when that secret is busted open by Famke Janssen, child molester (more on her later). Sean, who carried on an affair for half of Season 1, takes the news that his wife slept with best friend one time seventeen years earlier as badly as possible. (And it is entirely about Julia sleeping with Christian and not the fact that Matt isn't his biological son. That aspect of Julia's secret is almost treated like an afterthought, perhaps because Matt spends so much of the season living with Famke Janssen that he never finds the time to have a heart-to-heart with either of his two daddies.) Sean kicks Julia out of their home and into the Punishment Apartment, where she's left to go crazy and infect her daughter with lice. He affects this haughty, cruel attitude towards her that never comes off as anything other than feeble dickery.

At first, I thought the show was going to let Sean spiral down a Don Draper toilet only to be fished out by Christian, but as the episodes progress, it becomes clearer and clearer that the audience is expected to be proud of Sean and his sad rebellion. Fucking Kimber (after doing it with her doll) is almost treated like a reward for a lifetime of monogamy and marital ennui.

Julia, on the other hand, after dealing with Sean and his inadequacies for almost two decades, spends the season being punished for her one infraction. The writers transform her into such a desperate loser that she has to pretend to need a waffle iron just to get back into her home and plead with Sean to take her back. After learning about Sean's dalliance with Kimber, it's Julia's turn for a midlife crisis; hers is given the pathetic misadventure treatment that Sean's deserved.

After Sean brags about Kimber's perky bosoms, Julia goes out and gets a boob job. In one of her more pitiful acts of desperation, she flashes Sean her new tits in an attempt to win him back, only to be cruelly rebuffed. Then she goes out on the town to land a one-night-stand and ends up almost getting raped by a man who mistook her for a hooker. ("Well, she was dressed like a hooker," the man helpfully explains later.) Then, locked in the man's bathroom, she has to call Sean to save her -- and give her a lecture about being responsible and not dressing up like a pathetic prostitutes. THEN she uses a bottle of wine to down a bottle of benzos and walks through a sliding glass door. THEN she wakes up in Sean's office only to be told once again what a failure she is.

All of this concludes with an anesthesia-induced It's A Wonderful Life fantasy -- with the guardian angel role played by Famke Janssen in a Hot Topic top hat -- the lesson of which is that Julia loves Sean and never should have betrayed him. That one time. Seventeen years ago. It's not a good season to be Julia. And I've hardly even mentioned Vanessa Redgrave, her pitiless mother and psychopathic psychiatrist.

Compared to the McNamaras, Christian doesn't have much of an arc this season. After losing custody of his not-son with Gina -- and almost conceiving a baby with Liz -- Christian is mostly treated like a second banana. He gets his requisite lays -- including my favorite, a woman who sneezes while sitting on his face and ends up breaking his nose -- and almost gets his face cut off by Merrill, now addicted to "the tank" and administering "bobatox" to unwitting maids. Christian's relative inconspicuousness can be attributed to the time devoted to Matt and his grown-up lover.

I haven't gotten to the reveal of Ava as a former man yet, but I know her secret thanks to the roommate who doesn't understand the concept of spoilers. Honestly, that twist seems like one too many ingredients in an already convoluted recipe. Famke Janssen as a life coach/lover of teen boys makes perfect sense. Famke Janssen having an Oedipal relationship with her son, a We Need To Talk About Kevin-level creep who tries to jack it in front of Matt at any given moment? I will gratefully accept that too. But the sex-change twist is too random and unnecessary and probably a little transphobic. Regardless, the Matt/Ava/Adrien triangle has been the campiest, most entertaining arc of the show so far. It certainly beats Matt's earlier storyline of covering up his hit-and-run of the Christian Scientist girl which seems to have been completely dropped once Ava entered the picture.

On a whole, the patients-of-the-week have been more interesting this season, and the guest-star game stepped it up. It's hard to beat J.K. Simmons as a hacky memoirist getting breast-implants for his new book. Perennial Ryan Murphy favorite Sarah Paulson wins the season for me as a down-on-her-luck prostitute with a Messiah complex and the stigmata to prove it. The shared themes between the principals and the patients-of-the-week is so overt that at times it becomes almost literal; I'm primarily thinking about the episode "Manya Mabika" in which Aisha Tyler gets a clitoral reconstruction and Julia can't cum because Sean's a shitty lover. See also: Sean and Christian considering breaking up their practice before operating on conjoined twins. Nose, consider this show's choices on you. (That episode also features a Sean/Christian threesome which I could have lived without.)

The surgery scene music has transitioned from Beethoven golden oldies to barefaced choices on theme with the patient ("Sympathy For The Devil" for a tail removal; "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for a guy who got frostbite while scaling Mt. Everest). I laugh every time Liz waves her hand in front of the CD Player From The Future. That, combined with the omnipresent wheatgrass-shot maker, is gold.

I end this entry as I probably will every entry from this point forward: more Liz, please. She's the only tolerable human being on this show (and Roma Maffia might be the show's best actress), and deserves a little more action than just serving side-eye. Although, her side-eye is top-notch.

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