Togetherness: A Journey Toward Personal Fulfillment Cut Short

TV Features Togetherness
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<i>Togetherness</i>: A Journey Toward Personal Fulfillment Cut Short

I was genuinely nervous about tuning into the premature finale of Togetherness. After last week’s “The Sand Situation” and the brilliant display of seemingly untainted team efforts, I was concerned as to whether the finale could be wrapped up in a satisfactory manner. In its penultimate episode, Togetherness seemed to set us up for another season, as two important storylines finally moved into new realms: the relationship between Alex and Tina morphs into what it should always have been, and Michelle and her charter school finally get some oomph. Michelle may have had to wing it in order to lure her sponsors out of Anna’s French-manicured claws but, in doing so, an actual idea started taking shape. Alex and Tina’s soul-stirring moment on the porch was symbolic of their growing pains; the familiarity of their second-home backdrop in eerie, awaiting silence made way for the future. The final ending of Togetherness wrapped up on an uplifting, warm-hearted note—in stark contrast to the season one finale—and technically, sloppily, it could even make sense as an actual, intended ending; albeit a rushed one. But I honestly feel that Michelle and Tina’s futures are plenty worth exploring and “For the Kids” only confirmed this for me.

It felt good seeing Brett and Michelle pull together through “The Sand Situation.” They still weren’t on the best of terms but managed to fall into a comfortable banter throughout an evening of sand stealing and beach aerobics. There it was again, softly looming out of the clouds that have cast a shadow over their relationship, a quietly comforting bind: history and a questionable future. Until, of course, she realizes that one of their friendly helpers has in fact helped Brett out of his pants on occasion too. Natalie’s presence and shameless flirting give Michelle the chance to finally dump a whole lot of unspoken anger and frustration on Brett. She may have been the one to send this rocky relationship tumbling with one last push, but Brett’s silent punishment surely wasn’t fair either. Her outburst emitted such an air of resolution, I felt sure that she really was done—at least for the moment. Ultimately they may belong together but, for now, I had hoped for Michelle to explore her new role as semi-independent working mom a little longer. With a solid support system backing her, she is well on her way to becoming her own person again and establishing a sense of self outside of her marriage and her responsibilities as a mother. She may be a tad flaky in her business approach, but she has proven that she can think on her feet when push comes to shove—and creatively so.

Watching Michelle’s educational, interactive theatre show come to fruition was not only inspiring but incredibly magical, in that it drew them all back together. Unfortunately, it was also magical in the Disney sense; it all happened a little too fast. After all that restlessness and thriving for her own personal designation in life, I felt she deserved to really go her own way for a while. She’ll always have Brett, Alex and Tina to fall back on; they wouldn’t cease to play an important role in her life. But it would have been interesting to see her actually taking the lead, without jumping back into her comfort zone upon becoming overwhelmed. Though it has been clear throughout the season that she is not ready to give up on Brett, I’m not sure she is one hundred percent committed to their getting back together either. Even though the episode title (“For the Kids”) heavily hinted at a reunion, I honestly didn’t think it would arrive at that conclusion. I understand how their daughter’s broken arms, typical L.A. traffic stand-still and a car crash may have rattled them enough to question their paths. But shouldn’t it take longer than a day to work through these questions in an honest and healthy manner? The reunion was sweet, but I recognized a flutter of doubt in Michelle’s eyes. Again, I’m happy for their togetherness, but the timing is off, which leads me to wonder if the Duplass brothers predicted this would be their final season. The ending is so well-rounded, yet ambiguously open-ended, it feels like a safety episode: it works either way, renewal or cancellation.

For Tina, to go about her baby wish with anything other than irrationally would have been unrealistic. Her desperation is pathetically obvious and, once her motives are made clear to Alex, he chivalrously steps in, offering his seed. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the friendly thing to do. Much like his crazy performance rescuing Tina from an uncomfortable public scene back in Season One, Alex is now ready to sign up for a life-time show; partially to stop her from doing something regrettable, mainly because he’s madly in love with her. I think the majority of us have always felt that Alex and Tina are secretly good for each other, beneath all their (AKA her) bullshit. Is it her time-sensitive Ger-Ina that has helped Alex break through her self-sabotaging facade? Maybe, but even if that’s the case, I am certain that it’s her first step towards experiencing real love. Their timing in taking this next step is another moment emblematic of their relationship. Stuck in her handmade costume, Tina is incapable of escaping Alex’s loving arms, offering her everything she’s ever wished for. Her uncertainty is fleeting; one last look into his sincere eyes is what it takes for her to understand that he’s all in. Apparently, fantastical stage designs and stunningly awkward costumes functioned as the aphrodisiac Alex and Tina had always needed to kick start their relationship.

Having watched Tina grow from an insecure teen-woman, seeking validation in men, into a childless mother has been a captivating journey. I would have loved to see Alex and Tina’s relationship unfold, with Alex focusing his paternal skills on someone other than Brett.

Speaking of Brett, Dune wasn’t quite the success he had hoped for but it was awesome seeing him get passionate about something, penis suits and all. Brett went about the entire production with strict regard to his own vision; Alex had little to say in what would turn out to be an appalling performance. But it was the process that was important, not the quality of the piece. As long as Brett has an outlet for his creative energy, I honestly believe he can remain outside of his restricted turtle-shell for good. Brett is a man of structure and security, two facets that are essential to his survival as a family man. And yet, it is this need for predictability and routine that keeps him from truly stepping outside of himself. This season has shown that with the right balance between structure and playtime, he is capable of embracing his hidden, freewheeling spirit, as well as his emotional responsibility towards himself and his family. Brett is sensitive and has yet to overcome the hurt and anger Michelle’s night with David has caused him. Therefore, their reconciliation in the grand finale leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Most importantly—how are they going to make it through it all? And why the hell aren’t we allowed to watch their new dynamic pan out?

“For the Kids” would have worked perfectly, had it been a season finale and not the actual end of the show. It did indeed end on a high; we got a glimpse of what is to become of Michelle’s charter school in all its crazily creative and educational glory, and we saw them all find togetherness with one another. But what is going to happen to their individual journeys towards contented beings? For each and every one of them, there is still a long road ahead in terms of finding personal fulfillment, and I for one would have loved traveling with them.

Togetherness, you will be sorely missed.

Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.