As much as I like One Mississippi, I keep finding myself coming back to this quote from another streaming show, Hulu’s Difficult People: “When did comedies become half-hour dramas?” Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of half-hour shows that question what it means to be a comedy — I literally wrote the article on this very phenomenon. But One Mississippi doesn’t just feel like a half-hour drama; it feels like a coming-of-age Oscar movie condensed into short intervals.
Given the tone it is trying to set and the messages it is trying to convey, One Mississippi hits every emotional beat, every time. It isn’t a pleasant watch, and it doesn’t aspire to be. But it does occur to me that this is a strange choice to release as a binge show. It’s not only profoundly sad, it also lacks the direct humor and/or suspense which often turns a show into something you’d want to binge. At the end of each episode, I don’t find myself particularly excited to revisit the world of One Mississippi, if only because I get the sense that the characters don’t particularly want to be a part of their own world, either. Maybe it would have been better served as a film. Or maybe every show isn’t meant to be swallowed in one gulp. One Mississippi is something to sip.
In a dream sequence, Tig wakes up from her double mastectomy, bleeding, only to be wrapped mummy-tight in gauze by her mother. When Tig wakes up, she goes to take a bath, pointedly avoiding any glance at her real-life mastectomy scars. Even though she’s feeling better since the fecal transplant, she’s in no mood to hear from Bill about his Roth IRA. Ever the pragmatic secret softie, Bill is worried about Tig’s financial well-being after he’s gone, since she has no property or savings.
A package arrives for Caroline, and Tig opens it against Bill’s wishes. It contains bras, something which Tig is, obviously, unable to use. She goes on Amazon to return them, and in doing so, she discovers some other purchases Caroline had made, including a watch sent to a man named Dalton Green, who lives just a few blocks away. Tig doesn’t tell Bill about her suspicions that his late wife was having an affair. It’s probably for the best, since Bill has a much bigger issue on his mind: He can’t find his cat, Bonkers.
And so, Tig and Remy head to the grocery store to post Bill’s homemade “Missing Cat” signs. Remy runs into one of the students he coaches, Jamie, and Jamie’s busty blonde mom, Bibby. There’s immediate chemistry between Bibby and Remy, but his elation over meeting the (potentially) perfect woman is cut short when Tig decides they should stop by Dalton Green’s house on their way home.
Meanwhile, Bill has reluctantly accepted the help of Mick, Remy, and Tig’s biological father in finding Bonkers. Mick brings along the “Dixie Mafia,” a group of his drinking buddies who basically terrify Bill. He’s so put off by this group that he’s willing to pay them just to leave his backyard. Mick tells Bill they’re not in it for the money, though: “It’s about friends helping friends.”
Tig meets Dalton Green, who turns out to be not her mother’s lover but her secret son, whom she gave up for adoption as a teenager. Dalton reveals that Caroline had started spending more time with his family in recent years, and with that revelation in mind, Tig pieces together the truth behind memories of her mother’s “business trips.” Caroline was actually vacationing with her other son. With bitter anger in her voice, Tig reveals that those were the times she was left alone with the uncle who molested her.
Tig tells Remy what’s going on and Remy responds with the same temperate shock that everyone on One Mississippi constantly expresses. It’s a curious reaction: Remy is less angry and more upset, as he considers how traumatic it must have been for Caroline to give up her son. They debate whether or not to tell Bill. Tig thinks he deserves the truth, while Remy thinks he’s better off with his nice memories.
Back at home, Bill finally gets Mick to leave, but not before Mick gives Bill a big hug and tells him, “I know there’s a big hole in your heart where Caroline used to be.” By the time Tig and Remy return, Bill is out by himself on the lawn, ringing a bell for Bonkers. Tig isn’t as sympathetic to Bonkers’ imagined, lonely plight as Bill is: “I guess she’ll have to learn to survive on her own, like the rest of us.”
Later that night, Tig goes to the local radio station to record the latest episode of her show. The sound engineer, Kate (played by Tig’s real-life wife, Stephanie Allynne), is a huge fan of hers, and there are immediate sparks between them. Tig tells a story about a pink sweatshirt she received from an aunt who didn’t understand her, and describes the importance of “taking the sweatshirt off.” Later, at home, Tig takes her own advice and finally looks at her mastectomy scars in the mirror.
In a show that goes to such painstaking, unpleasant lengths to maintain realism, I can’t help but feel like some of this feels … a little cartoonish. Everyone is Daria flat in “The Cat’s Out,” with the exception of enthusiastic side characters only exist to be lampooned for their overly expressed emotions. The circumstances are obviously drawn from Notaro’s own life, but the addition of the secret brother doesn’t feel particularly original to me. A small-town family uncovering secrets and learning about each other in the wake of the matriarch’s death is basically every play I read freshman year of college.
It’s not that One Mississippi isn’t a particularly sharp version of that story, but in “The Cat’s Out,” it forgets its own cardinal lesson: The most significant things are often the smallest. I am not sure if this show lends itself to such kitchen-sink drama. And unfortunately, I’m not sure if it’s presenting Tig’s story in a way that makes me want to find out.