I was under the mistaken impression that Julia was eight episodes and done, but there are so many unresolved plot points at the end! They can’t just fade out on that, and it’s since been announced that HBO Max is bringing Julia back for a season two. To fill the void until then, I’ve been watching interviews with the cast on YouTube. Now, I’ve seen Sarah Lancashire in all her Englishness before, but my mind is still blown by this video about her transformation into Julia Child. Truly amazing.
In this final episode of the season, Julia starts out in a terrible mood. Her conversation with Betty Friedan weighs on her, and when Paul walks in singing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” she finds it in poor taste (I’m going to be honest and say I’ve never been a fan of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; I don’t care if it’s Sondheim). Julia is worried that Betty Friedan is correct that she is spreading the wrong message to the cooks of America and keeping women from having careers, etc. It’s extremely weird that the show chooses to make Betty Friedan its villain, but okay! Paul tries to console her, but it’s clearly not working.
The new pairing of Alice and Isaac starts out great (I love them so much already), with them talking until three in the morning and flirting over the phone. Long-distance is so hard without a plan in place! But they basically just started going out, so it’s okay. Also, they’re obviously perfect for each other and should get married immediately. Hunter calls a meeting and says Alice is being bumped up to taking over The French Chef, and Russ gets to do his documentaries. Russ is unexpectedly saddened because Julia conquers all, but it’s still wonderful for all concerned. Hunter says not to thank him, just “go be amazing.” This sounds like it would be really annoying, like the guy in Office Space who tells Jennifer Aniston to wear more flair, but it is in fact very nice.
Maybe this is because I grew up on the internet among the fandom lesbians who constantly posted photos on LiveJournal of women in their 40s, but I cannot watch the Blanche-slash-Judith dynamic without shipping them. The show is already changing a fair amount about Judith Jones and Blanche Knopf, so these are now AU (alternate universe) versions of these women. Judith returns to Blanche’s office to tell her they are friends — “more than friends” (*eyebrow raise*) — and that Blanche stole her joy at the gala for being upset that Judith wants to work on cookbooks. Blanche is strangely disconnected and walks out.
Later, we see Blanche back in her office, editing pages that she is reading with a magnifying glass. When Judith comes in, Blanche hides the glass in her desk while Judith explains that she may have overstepped before, but she is trusting her gut like Blanche trusts hers. Blanche begins to cry and admits that she’s going blind, and it will happen quickly. Without her eyes, she says, she is nothing, and definitely not Blanche Knopf. We cut away for a bit, and when we come back, Judith returns and tells Blanche that she will be her eyes (gay) and help her do her work. When Blanche tries to half-heartedly say no, Judith takes her hand (gay) and says this is her inadequate thank you. It’s so nice! Let’s have some ahistorical homosexuality, please. We deserve it after this week.
Julia’s mood continues into rehearsals for the final season-one episode of The French Chef. After accidentally slamming the oven door on her soufflé, she says she needs a minute and walks off. Haven’t we all, in our time, metaphorically slammed an oven door on our soufflé? Alice checks on Julia, who knows she should apologize to the crew. When Alice mentions that there’s only one episode to go, Julia says that sounds like enough episodes. This is not the person she wants to be, and she is ready to move on with her life. On the surface, this is all valid! But we know this is not what happens with Julia Child, and therefore she is currently making the wrong decision.
At dinner, Alice and Russ commiserate over milkshakes. Russ refers to Alice as “Al,” and she says, “I hate when you call me Al.” Thank you! To quote my episode-five recap, “Russ calls her Al. As a fellow Alice, might I say, I hate being called Al.” “You cannot call us Al” solidarity! Later, she is on the phone with Isaac (yay) and she is bummed about the show ending, not only because of what it will mean for her career but because she thought they were all a family. Now she realizes that while Julia cares about her, she cares about other things more. Isaac very sensibly replies that everyone does that. Alice knows she can’t put all her happiness eggs in one work basket (words for us all), and Isaac tells her to come to New York. Yes, Alice! Go visit Isaac!
Julia is reading The Feminine Mystique, and Paul calls her a masochist for reading it. I mean. Maybe, Paul. Julia finally admits that she lied to Paul about the show. It was her idea, and she paid for a large part out of the royalties from her book and asked her father for money for it. Paul feels extremely hurt, which makes sense! I would feel hurt, too! But as Avis later points out, he did tell Julia she couldn’t do it, so what was she supposed to do? In this first moment of discovery, though, hurt feelings are fair. Paul works out his feelings at his dojo.
While filming the last episode, Julia is doing much better, possibly from the relief of letting it go (joke’s on you, Julia!). She has big signs on the oven that say “Keep Out” and “Do Not Disturb,” which is very charming. As she serves the soufflé at the end, she says the key not only to the kitchen but to life is to plunge in. Everyone is teary. After filming is done, she thanks everyone, and Paul takes a photo and makes everyone say “fromage.” Okay, Paul.
Paul and Julia make up, and he apologizes for being a spouse who essentially forced her to go behind his back because that’s not who they are. I’m so glad they addressed this honestly, discussed it, and moved forward! This makes up for the early episodes Paul! Julia’s co-author Simca calls and invites her back to France so they can cook together and go on walks. This sounds fun, minus the cooking part.
Everything’s really comin’ up Julia, but it is definitely coming down for everyone else (not Julia’s fault). Russ is no longer allowed to do his documentary project because they won’t have the money for it. He’s back on the book show he started with (remember the book show?). Alice will no longer be the producer of an extremely popular public television show that she helped syndicate. Paul and Avis feel rudderless, and now Paul is drawing pears in the kitchen. It has come to this.
Paul doesn’t want to go to France! He loves France, but he does not want to help Julia run away from the show. We get a lovely speech from him where he says they went through World War II together, and they know what matters. The wonderful thing about The French Chef is it will not save or ruin the world. It is for them and for the people who enjoy it. “All this show is is joy — the joy of being in your company for half an hour every week.” Oh, excellent job, Paul! I’m going to think of this the next time someone maligns a silly show I love. Julia is worried because she already told everyone she wasn’t doing a second season, but Paul correctly says they will not care. She’s 51 and she has options and she’s writing a cookbook and they’ll go to France and they’ll make season two of the show. How inspiring indeed.
At WGBH, Julia tells Hunter she’s doing season two, but she needs some time to go to France to clear her head and do research. Hunter happily agrees! Alice comes in and then awkwardly tries to leave, but Julia stops her and lets her know she’s staying. Everyone is thrilled. Russ calls Julia the Parmesan of public television (the big cheese). He’s back to doing documentaries!
Alice calls Isaac and tells him the show is back on. He wants her to visit, and she essentially says she’ll be very busy now, and she doesn’t know if it’s going to work between them. No, Alice, nooooo! She hangs up to watch the final episode of season one. In their own living room, Russ and his wife toast to bigger things ahead, but mostly to Julia. Judith is editing in front of her TV. Paul and Julia drink to another year and 26 more recipes. “Egad,” she says.
Okay, but — aah! Judith hasn’t made her career switch to cookbooks or married Blanche Knopf yet. Alice has seemingly dropped Isaac (nooooo!). Avis is finally ready to get going with her life, and Julia has to go to France and hang out with Isabella Rosselini, who was barely in this season! Well, lots to get to in season two.