The unique United States of Tara [Showtime, 10-9C] reaches its first season finale this weekend with an episode appropriately entitled Miracle. It’s an ambitious episode that attempts to both tie together a number plot and character arcs and create a fresh beginning leading into season two.
Since the series’ premiere, we’ve seen the Gillespie family pulled in different directions as Tara [Toni Collette] has slowly become disconnected from her family – husband Max [John Corbett], Daughter Kate [Brie Larson], son Marshall [Keir Gilchrist] and sister Charmaine [Rosemarie DeWitt] – have been subjected to increasingly odd situations, including the appearance of a new alter, Gimme. Gimme is an animalistic creature; pre-verbal and, apparently, governed solely by emotions.
Max has become frustrated by the actions of Buck, T and Alice; Marshall has had his dreams of a relationship with first love, Jason, thwarted by T, and Charmaine has slowly come to realize that the alters are not just Tara pretending to avoid stuff – and is more than a little freaked out by that until Buck becomes her “booby buddy.” Kate finally discovers that her boss is something more than just a creep – something that makes her more appreciative of her mother’s many, shall we say, facets.
Over the last few episodes, we’ve learned of a bad date that Tara went on in boarding school, and, in Miracle, she makes the call and faces the man responsible. The results are not what anyone is expecting. The ep also extols the use of bowling as family therapy – and the final scene of the ep is literally mind-expanding. I think I can guarantee you won’t see it coming.
Miracle was written by series creator Diablo Cody and features the kind of crackling dialogue and character insights for which she has become known. The direction, by Craig Gillespie, is as fractured as Tara’s personality – and that’s a good thing. The ep’s pacing is determined by the characters and Tara’s alters. Over the course of its first season, the characters of United States of Tara have really been developed – especially the kids, who were more a collection of sarcastic dialogue and costumes, but are now recognizable people.
As I mentioned above, one of the most important things about Miracle is that it has to provide a satisfying conclusion to the season while simultaneously setting the stage for season two. Somehow, with everything else it has to accomplish, it does this particularly well. Kudos to Ms Cody and Mr. Gillespie.
Final Grade: A