“United States of Tara” offers a fond farewell

 
 

If you have any doubt about the awesomeness of Toni Collette, you obviously didn’t watch United States of Tara.

Collette, who won an Emmy for playing Tara Gregson, is what kept a “comedy” about mental illness from being insulting to those affected by Dissociative Identity Disorder. She also kept us believing in the truth of the story by realistically transitioning from one alter to another, giving each distinctive characteristics. By this season, we knew which alter was in control before anyone identified him/her.

But DID is a complex illness and its effects are beyond what most of us can imagine. TV audiences rarely have patience with issues they don’t understand — which is why Tara had to say goodbye this week.  

(Spoilers ahead.)

The end was not planned, but I have to say that I can’t imagine a better finale for the series. Fans of the show know that the Gregson family can’t expect Tara to be cured, so the best possible outcome is that the alters can be controlled. When Tara and Max decided to go to Boston for treatment from a DID expert, the series was at a crossroads: Either the treatment fails and the writers have to find a new way to add interest to the story or it succeeds and the story changes direction. Uncertainty seems a more fitting end.

Also fitting is that this season was one of the best, even though it was by far the most disturbing. The emergence of the “abuser alter,” Bryce, added an element of real danger that threw the series into high gear — and gave the cast a chance to do the same.

I never learned to love Max, even when he finally lost it at the family dinner. I suspect it has less to do with the character than with the fact that I am not a John Corbett fan. But I’ll certainly miss the rest of the family.

Marshall (Kier Gilchrist) did his best work of the series this season — and that’s saying a lot. AfterElton.com has covered Marshall’s realistic (for the most part) storyline, but the best part about him for me is that “gay” is just one side of him. His growth from caretaker to wounded warrior was just about perfect.

Kate (Brie Larson) may be the biggest surprise. The wild child found direction and maybe even love — and made a remarkably mature decision to forego moving to her boyfriend’s city in order to stay home with Marshall while Tara and Max are in Boston.

Even Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Neil (Patton Oswalt) have grown up (despite naming their baby “Wheels”) and are striking out on their own in a new city. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing these two in a spin-off – they are one of the best odd couples on television.

I think I’ll also miss Tara’s alters, especially the originals: Alice, T and Buck. I love that we got to say goodbye to them, too.


In the end, we saw that Marshall’s insight as he made his movie about the family was correct: “It’s not a monster movie, it’s not a dysfunctional family. It’s a love story.”

And so it was.

Will you miss United States of Tara? Was the finale a good sendoff? Which alter turned out to be your favorite?

 
 

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