With the premiere of season three of The Big C only a day away, it seems appropriate to look back at the season two finale. “Crossing the Line” aired in the middle of the fall network TV premiere season, meaning that it may have been overlooked amid the many other offerings, and this particular reviewer sadly did not watch it until this morning. This also means that The Big C has one of the shortest hiatuses between seasons in premium cable history, as usually HBO and Showtime shows air for two or three months, then take the next nine to twelve months off.
In “Crossing the Line,” Cathy (Laura Linney) decides she will run a marathon, inspired by Lee (Hugh Dancy), who recently died. Her son, Adam (Gabriel Basso), and brother, Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), are supportive and cheer her on. Even Dr. Todd (Reid Scott) gets on board, though he thinks it’s a bad idea, given Cathy’s ill health. But Paul (Oliver Platt), struggling with a cocaine addiction and frustration at life in general, is late. And when he appears to her at the finish lane with the ghosts of Lee and Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), Cathy collapses, fearing the worst.
Though The Big C is a dramedy, meaning that humor is a major element, dark themes of death pervade the series. The passing of Marlene in season one and Lee in season two reinforce that everyone dies, and one’s time can come at any age. The message is to live on, inspired by the memories of those who have gone, and make the best of the time one has left.
But Paul’s croaking in “Crossing the Line” comes as a total shock. He isn’t exactly fit, but he’s not old or inform, either. The drugs he takes aggravate his heart, and it looks like curtains for him. Coming so close on the heel’s of Lee’s passing, viewers are not looking for someone else to go. It’s also a hell of a depressing way to end a season, where one assumes they will be uplifted by Cathy’s triumphant finishing of the race, but finds they are completely wrong.
Will Paul’s death stick? His appearance at the finish line implies that he is dead, but the audience is also shown medical professionals working on his body. It is not inconceivable that they will revive him, and that his demise is not permanent. This would not cheapen the moment, by any means, because Paul is integral to the show.
Plus, Cathy has suffered enough, and does not need to loose her husband, too. After everything, that might just take the will to live out of her. It would soon leave Adam an orphan, though, realistically, that probably will not happen until the series finale. His passing would provide a nice counterpoint to dealing with expected death versus the unexpected death. And season three would be about building Cathy’s fighting spirit back up. If Paul does dies, which one hopes is not the case.
Because of this inspiring story, there is no point in getting into the question of how Cathy sees ghosts, even the one of someone she isn’t aware is dead, yet. Nor should one wonder why it takes Cathy until well after dark to finish her run. Instead, just enjoy the emotional heart of the story.
Anticipation is high for the season three premiere, which airs tomorrow night (Sunday) at 9:30 p.m. ET on Showtime. In Lexington, Showtime can be found on channel 537 (satellite), 750 (digital cable), or 954 (high definition), if you subscribe. Or, for those who like to watch TV on their computers, the episode is already streaming live on the series’ website.
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