Living With Yourself
One of the conceptual hallmarks of Living With Yourself is its eagerness to circle back and consider past events from different perspectives, completing the picture through distinct points of view. Until now, however, it’s been toggling back and forth between Miles and Miles 2.0, mostly as a means to understand how a man and his clone can veer away from each other, even though they share the same DNA and the same memories. Yet the third major character on the show, Kate, hasn’t gotten the same treatment through the first half of the season, leaving her merely to react to the confusing and upsetting situation that Miles’s actions have wrought in her life.
“Va Bene” adds that missing dimension, and it’s the strongest episode of the show so far. For one, we see that Aisling Bea has a comic voice of her own, much saltier and leveling than Paul Rudd’s ingratiating silliness. But more than that, we get an idea of how Kate feels about her marriage, her life in the suburbs, and the quiet desperation that grips her just as surely as it does her husband, even if she doesn’t get herself cloned because of it. In fact, we learn that both she and Miles both attempted to draw from the same special account on the same day, each privately trying to improve their lives without the other. Miles gets there first with the $50,000 spa fee, so Kate can’t put down money on fertility treatment — which she’s ready to make regardless of whether he’s the donor or not. They are simultaneous responses to a mutual longing for change.
We’ve understood by implication that Miles’s dissatisfaction with his life has something to do with the cookie-cutter dimensions of his suburban home and a marketing job that’s sucking the life out of him. But “Va Bene” flashes back to a time when he and Kate approached this phase with hope and happiness, a long 1,837 Days B.C. (Before Cloning). The episode begins with Kate waking up in a hospital after a failed fertilization treatment, which she’s told isn’t technically a miscarriage but seems like one anyway. Their hilariously callous doctor offers an analogy: “I know this feels like a tragedy, but it’s not the Hindenburg. It’s more like whatever the first plane Orville and Wilbur crashed. We don’t even know the name. And they eventually flew just fine.”
But Miles and Kate’s plane never did get off the ground, and 1,800-plus days later, he’s long since abandoned the process — and, by extension, the marital plan as they understood it. “Va Bene” does an excellent job giving context to the entire show while finally allowing us to see Kate’s own struggles up close. As we discover, the failed fertilization had only deepened her resolve to have children and the Miles of five years earlier was excited to accommodate her. He drives her from their home in the city to the suburbs, a place that she never imagined living before. (“I smell something not entirely terrible.” “They call it ‘grass.’” “Grass? Like in the movies?”) When touring the McTwoStory they eventually buy, Kate’s reservations about the homogeneity and chintziness of the ’burbs is borne out, but she’s seduced anyway. There’s a lot of space, the schools are good, and there’s a nice corner bedroom for the baby.
Miles and Kate are making the most common decision here — even diehard city folk, who love the restaurants and culture and liveliness that go along with it, are wooed by considerations like living space and quality schooling. But what happens when the kid doesn’t materialize? It’s not entirely clear that Miles and Kate’s marriage would be in trouble even if they’d become parents, because it’s also common that children expose the problems in a relationship more than they solve them. Yet they move to the suburbs out of a nesting instinct and without a child, they’re … well … just living in the suburbs. Even the one household item meant to give specific life to a generic place, a credenza, has become a glorified junk drawer that Miles bangs into at night.
All of these events lead up to the revelation at the end of the last episode, when Miles 2.0 logged onto the Da8er-dot-com website and discovered Kate’s profile as the perfect match. In a serendipitous twist, Kate had the unctuous CEO of Da8er as a client for her interior-architecture business and that experience inspired her to post her profile the night before Miles cloned himself. Whereas the Kate we saw before “Va Bene” didn’t seem like the type of person to look for romance outside her marriage, the episode makes a persuasive case for why she would. After getting kicked out of the house, Miles 2.0 has moved back to the city, a place where Kate had once known happiness before Miles turned into an ornery shit.
So now, Kate is stepping out on Miles with Miles 2.0, which in effect is stepping out on current Miles to date the Miles from five years ago. It would be a fascinating experiment to see if Kate and this Miles learned from their mistakes and set their life together on a different course, but there are still two Mileses and now the wacky screwball scenario of a woman having an affair with her husband’s clone. Wherever things go from here, it’s good for the show to know where she’s coming from.
• Kate’s filthy line readings, starting with “It’s like my granny used to always say, ‘When life gives you lemons, try anal’” recall Sharon Horgan on Catastrophe. Horgan and Rob Delaney were similarly frank in that regard, but there’s something to be said for the contrast in tone between Aisling Bea and Paul Rudd. They have their own unique spark.
• Nice detail: The long-ago flashbacks show Miles painting an elephant in a hot-air balloon in the baby’s room. In a quick shot five years later, the same room is a space for boxes and other random junk, like a larger version of the credenza.
• “How am I supposed to host micro-dose mixers with fat veins?” Kate’s horrible client is perhaps a little overwritten, but credit to Timothy Greenberg for dreaming up the most awful-sounding soirée imaginable.
• If you’re looking for that catchy Celtic number that closes the episode, there’s a recording of middling quality up on YouTube.