Divorce Season-Finale Recap: A Complicated Life


Season 1 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
Thomas Haden Church as Robert. Photo: HBO

We open the Divorce season finale at a Fun Space investors meeting. Despite everything we’ve heard about the project, it seems to be … going well? It might end up being a success? Nick is surprised, and he speaks for us all when he says, “I keep looking for a way that this doesn’t make sense, but I can’t find any.” Looks like Robert is finally getting his shit together.

Meanwhile, Frances chides her new lawyer for serving Robert divorce papers in public, but Elaine brushes off her pleas for civility. After all, Frances isn’t technically the one getting her hands dirty. That’s what the client pays her lawyer to do! As usual, after a weak protest that’s meant to make herself feel like a good person, Frances lets herself off the hook way too easily and agrees to let SSL financially hammer Robert. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being “giving blow jobs for beer money,” Elaine defines what’s about to happen to Robert as “a hard eight.” Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on whether you — like I — have been increasingly less on Team Frances as the season progresses), Frances agrees.

Both the Dufresnes are ignoring calls from Tom, who’s outside the school with Lila, waiting for Frances to pick them up. They’re confused by the convoluted schedule. Tom decides to walk the mile-long route back to their mom’s house, and Lila reluctantly trails behind him. A while later, though, Lila slows down to complain — and gets hit by a car in the parking lot they’re walking through. Cut to the Dufresne family waiting anxiously at the hospital. Fortunately, Lila’s just got a few scratches, but Tom feels terrible (he shouldn’t), which makes Frances and Robert feel terrible (they should). The parents regroup in the hospital hallway. Frances, guilty, can’t stop thinking about Lila lying there, feeling unimportant, and they both agree to do better for the kids. At this point, we’ve learned not to believe them.

Over at the supermarket, Diane is very much off the wagon again. She throws some Stellas and wine in her cart, tossing out a few bottles of Vita Coco to make room. But a lost child catches her in the act. “Where’s my mommy?” he asks. “Uhhh, I dunno,” Diane replies awkwardly. “I’m just buying craft ales.” Trying to help, she asks what his mommy looks like. “Like you,” he replies. The two wander around the supermarket until they find his mom — who, to Diane’s horror, is disheveled, overweight, and exasperated. As Diane watches the mom yank the kid away by the arm, she’s surprised by her own innate response to the (admittedly adorable) little boy.

At the Dufresne residence, Robert’s wearing a bandage in solidarity with a recovering Lila and explaining the dysfunctional dynamics of the prog-rock band Yes: “It was really Jon Anderson’s dream project, but Rick Wakeman thought it was a little pretentious.” Frances peers in and smiles fondly. So, hey, maybe this would be a good time to stop your lawyer from ruining his life? No? Oh, okay. Cool.

Robert’s about to finalize his Fun Space deal, which is painful to watch. Sure enough, the bank calls just when they’re about to sign the papers — and he learns that his assets were frozen by Frances’s lawyer. Yet again, he’s totally blindsided.

As Robert’s post-split venture fails, Frances’s plans take off. At the opening of her gallery, Hudson River Contemporary (not the Frances Dufresne Gallery, as she’s called it in earlier episodes — maybe the Sotheby’s incident took some of the wind out of her sails?), Dallas toasts Frances and congratulates her on the gallery’s (very, very fine print) mention in the New York Times. A tipsy Diane tells Nick that the supermarket incident actually reaffirmed her decision to definitely, definitely not have kids. “That mom was a fuckin’ mess! You could see it in her eyes, she would have killed to be me,” she explains. “Is it possible to slow down on the wine, or are we way beyond that now?” Nick snarks in reply. Anyone else feel like there’s an oddly conservative undertone to this show’s opinion of childless couples?

Anyway. Frances admits to her dad that she’s the one who had the affair, not Robert. Although he’s clearly disappointed, he agrees to let Frances tell her mom herself — but he adds that she shouldn’t let her mom criticize her too harshly: “She’s had something of a … complicated life herself.” Which leads us to assume that the affair that Frances’s mom alluded to in the Christmas episode was on her end as well.

Amid the wreckage of his Fun Space deal, Robert understandably fumes on the phone to Tony, who tries to talk him out of doing anything rash over the weekend and let him handle it Monday. Not a chance, brah.

Frances is surprised — and vaguely disgusted — when Julian appears at her gallery opening. He tries to play it off like he was casually skimming the Times, but Frances calls him out. He confesses he still has some lingering feelings for her. “I Google you every night,” he says solemnly, and asks if he can call her sometime. She bursts out laughing. The sexual spell he once had over her (which was clearly nothing more than her unhappy marriage) is very much broken now. As he slinks off into the night, Dallas and Diane are both underwhelmed. “I thought he was French,” Diane remarks.

As Julian heads out, he spots Robert walking toward him and hilariously runs away. But Robert isn’t coming for him; he’s coming for Frances. His tactic isn’t yelling at her, like it would have been at the start of the season. This time, it’s much more nuanced: He provides her ample opportunity to confess that the frozen assets were her call, and gives her a belated kudos for supporting him and the kids for so long. Of course, no confession comes. “I’ve waited a long time to hear you say that,” she says simply. Then they kiss, somewhere in that hazy space between romantic and not. Over the course of the season, Robert’s matured at a level that almost feels implausible.

Late that night, Robert calls Frances to give her one last opportunity to fess up. Instead, she pours more salt in the wound by asking him if she can take the kids this weekend, which is technically his weekend. She hasn’t spent enough time with them lately, and it’d be nice if she could take them skiing. He says that’s fine (although his passive-aggression has reached the level of Frances in the first episode — and it’s telling that she doesn’t seem to notice), then hangs up and smashes a bunch of stuff in his squatter house.

The next morning, Frances and the kids hit the road. Lying in bed and looking devastated, Robert makes a call. In no time at all, Frances is pulled over by a cop. It turns out that Robert called 9-1-1 to report Frances for taking the kids without authorization. Verbal, yes, but not official. He’s made it look like she’s gone behind his back and kidnapped her own children. Is it a dirty move? Of course. But so was Frances telling Robert she’d keep things as civil as possible in order to keep a clean conscience, then allowing Elaine to go HAM and ruin his business deal anyway. Also, let’s not forget that happened after she acted so guilty about serving Robert with papers at Lila’s basketball game — which, by the way, was also immensely traumatic for their kids. People in glass houses, etcetera. Frances seems to have forgotten that while she has nothing to gain from her ex-husband’s financial success, her kids certainly do. If Fun Space took off, Tom and Lila’s college funds (something the Dufresnes have argued about before) would certainly benefit.

All in all, the final three episodes of Divorce were a huge improvement over the first half of the season. When the show first began, the Dufresnes’ failing marriage was painted in a disappointingly simplistic way. Frances had clear reasons to be desperately unhappy — she was married to such an idiot! — and we sympathized only with her, which doesn’t take advantage of all the drama-friendly nuances and gray areas that are nearly always present in real-life divorce. In these closing episodes, though, it’s become increasingly less obvious which Dufresne we should be rooting for, which calls into question the very idea of one person being the “good one” versus the “bad one” in such a complex situation. The show is much better for it, and I hope we’ll see more of that next season. See you then!

Divorce Season-Finale Recap: A Complicated Life