Hit or Sh**: HBO’s DIVORCE

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.


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If you’ve heard anything about HBO’s DIVORCE, you’re more than likely aware that it is not SEX AND THE CITY.  Sarah Jessica Parker returns to television with a character that is likely to shock any of her fans, but it is likely to reel a good portion on them in for more.

DIVORCE is up-front starting with the first scene; a piece of marital bickering between Frances (SJP) and her husband, Robert (Thomas Haden Church). It is a scene filled more with lethal hatred than the typical endearing annoyance. And before the title card plays, Frances flips him off.

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True love

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So it is apparent that this show is going to be more than just two people fighting with each other one moment and making love the next. Frances’s friend Diane (Molly Shannon) nearly kills her husband just minutes into the pilot.

As Frances watches Diane and Nick from the outside, she sees herself and Robert. Watching everything in their relationship crashing down, catalyzes Frances to ask for a divorce. At first, Robert is shocked. He says he would do anything to save the marriage, yet there still feels like there’s lack of a drive. Thomas Haden Church loses his performance in this manner as it honestly looks like he couldn’t care less, and everything he is saying is coming straight from a table-read.

Initially, Frances’s breaking point seems to come out of nowhere. Even though she seems bewildered most of the time, there is a sureness in her voice that wants the divorce more than ever. It isn’t until midway into the pilot that it is revealed that she has been having an affair with a granola making man in the city named Julian.

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But Frances, a bespectacled man in a sweater who makes his own granola is everything you should leave your husband for!

Source: Screenshot from DIVORCE

Ah, so it all makes sense. A spur of wild nights with this dark-haired handsome man makes Frances lust for the passion she wants in a relationship. After he turns her down, Frances reverts back to Robert and apologizes. It seems like the first 15 minutes never even occured and we are left with watching a normal, struggling couple. And for a moment, everything is right. If the pilot stopped right then, there would be no need to watch anymore. Because that’s what marriage is, accepting each other’s differences and loving each other for the sake of lifelong partnership.

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Believe it or not, but he’s actually begging to go down on her, as if that will magically make her happy again

Source: Screenshot from DIVORCE

But it doesn’t end there. Robert finds out about the affair, and completely dismisses Frances, locking her out of the house and insulting her. He is fully enraged, and fully charged unlike the scenes before where he would remain motionless like a ghost, unsure of what to do next. It is almost like they switch places, leaving Frances alone at the end of the pilot standing amidst the cold icy backdrop of her front yard. Like waking up from a cruel dream, Frances is now the one that has to face reality. The switching of places is ironic and feels right, one can’t help but feel that Frances is finally getting what she deserves. Although the audience is supposed to sympathize with her, it is obvious that Frances is the one who got there.

I can even see myself in Frances; the part of anyone’s self that wants to follow through with their subconscious desires even though it gets them into plenty of trouble anyways. I’m sure that it’s what the writers are striving for their audience to feel: confused and lost, just like our protagonists. After all, Robert doesn’t feel like a bad guy, even though he abandons his wife in the freezing winter.

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I don’t want to make another SEX AND THE CITY joke here

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The pilot constantly treads on a line of whether or not the series is about falling in and out of love, or just out of it. Just when you think that all is ready to be sent down the drain, things clear up and brighten, like a ray of sunshine on a rainy day. It almost loses itself, where it masquerades for a moment as a dark comedy about a couple that will more than likely keep finding their way back together. Yet this ideology never lasts forever, as this show hits with the truth and bleakness about it. The characters are unlikeable, but it is not impossible to see oneself in Frances, who is eager to latch onto any bit of hope of seeing change in her life. There is only room to keep watching if one is truly curious about Frances’s next moves and the tension between her and Robert. If creator Sharon Horgan is able to continue this roller coaster she has manufactured, she will surely be able to keep viewers in the loop for a season.

Verdict: Sh** Probation

DIVORCE airs on Sundays on HBO

Michelle is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She self-published a book about fairies when she was eight. It sold two copies.

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