Episode 21: Apocalypse Meow
Episode 22: Stray Dogs
By: Carlos Uribe
Suburgatory is a show about a teenage girl who is stuck in her version of hell, the suburbs.
The season finale of Suburgatory is upon us. All of the recent plot developments that have been building up to this week basically explode. It all begins with Apocalypse Meow. Tessa is not happy that she's broken up with Ryan. She diverts all of her energy into seeking revenge on Dalia rather than processing that the relationship is over. She doesn't just know how she's going to get this. She tries to get dirt on Dalia to use against her. She can't use the lesbian thing because it might actually become a trend in Chatswin. She tries to gather information against her but Dalia is able to actually outsmart her. The ideas she has are of the extreme nature. She actually considered the pros and cons of drowning Dalia and tries to glean information from Dallas about Dalia's weaknesses. Tessa realizes that she has lost her edge since coming to Chatswin. She's stopped wearing her lesbian boots and the jacket she used to wear has been hanging into her closet. She steps back into those clothes to try and become the old Tessa. The person she used to be before she started dating Ryan and softened up. Tessa's revenge is simple. She's going to physically attack Dalia. The two get into a pretty epic girl fight where punches are thrown and objects are used. It gets so bad that Tessa actually rips out part of Dalia's hair and scalp. Dalia might seem like an apathetic and oblivious character but she fought back hard. Tessa does get roughed up a bit but at least she can say the other person looks worse. The tension between the two characters had been present since the pilot but it wasn't until Ryan and Jenna that it truly exploded into a physical fight. The two simply can't be in the same room because they hate each other. Tessa considers Dalia the devil while Dalia feels threatened by her. It's a feud that gets so bad it has disastrous consequences.
While Tessa is trying to get back at Dalia, George is trying to figure out a way to tell his daughter they're moving in with Dallas. I have a feeling that if it was just Dallas in the picture then Tessa would be fine with it. Dallas has managed to become Tessa's maternal figure. The problem is Dalia even as the adults don't completely realize it until after they tell her. George does build up his confidence to lay down the law after Sheila convinces him that he needs to be in charge. Only it's right after Dalia and Tessa had their big fight scene so it doesn't go over very well. Tessa decides that since George is going to move in with Dallas and Dalia then Tessa will no longer live with him. She plans to move out. That's the cliff-hanger that ends Apocalypse Meow but the viewers don't have to wait long to find out what happens next since the second part of the finale airs right after. Apocalypse Meow also has a sub-plot with Noah seeking his own revenge against the therapist that stole Carmen from him. Noah pretends to have moved on but it's really a ploy to get the therapist to visit his dental practice for a routine cleaning. Noah doesn't actually clean the teeth but rather sharpens them so that they look like fangs. It's a great revenge for the moment but it wouldn't surprise me if it comes back to haunt him in the future. I can't imagine that any dental association board would approve Noah using his dentistry license for person revenge. Noah might be no closer to getting Carmen but at least he did his best to sabotage his therapist's relationship with her.
Stray Dogs picks up on the main narrative plot from the previous episode. Noah and his love for Carmen might not have had a real resolution on Apocalypse Meow but it doesn't really carry on over in Stray Dogs. Tessa moving out and what this means to George and Dallas does. Tessa thinks that her grandmother will provide shelter but she gets turned down because there's only one bathroom. She's basically forced to become homeless as she lives in the only place left where she feels safe-the school restroom. Her anger has taken down completely to the point where she doesn't really have a home anymore. She does try to get a new place to live but she finds that nobody is really ready to allow her to live with them. It's not until the end of the episode where we get a great ending. Tessa is trying to head out of Chatswin when she spots her mom. The two reunite and they decide to live together in Chatswin. I wonder how long it's going to last but this is a really significant change in the status quo. A large part of the show is how Tessa's mother has always been absent from her life. Even when she was reintroduced to her mom, Tessa's mom remained aloof. Now that Tessa has left George in a fit of rage, she's ready to connect with her mom. It's a promising narrative arc that partially gets sold due to a great montage at the end as George sings the longer version of the show's theme son. The first season had been about Tessa and George settling into Chatswin. The second season they had settled in but Tessa tried to reconnect with her mom. She had some partial success but it was thrown into the backburner so that the writers could concentrate on a Ryan-Tessa relationship. It's a bit disappointing because it honestly felt like the writers had largely forgotten about an element that was crucial in the first half of the season but it's nice for the season finale to come back to it. As for the Ryan-Tessa relationship, they sort-of getting a good-bye when the two sleep together. It doesn't really provide closure for their relationship but it's probably the closest to a resolution we're going to get if Parker Young can't come back to the series.
Tessa moving out from George's house has more consequences with Dallas and George. The two have been dating for most of the season and it's been a relationship I've largely liked. The two feel like they belong together but they break up. There's really many reasons for this but I believe that the catalyst was when Tessa refused to move in with them. It must have made Dallas rethink their relationship as she invites Stephen to return from Singapore to remove any attachment Dalia has made to George. She breaks up with him because she's not convinced their going to work together. She thinks George may have learned to love her but he's still not in love with her. George tries to fight for her even as he realizes he's never going to prove that he actually does. It's all very sad. The two are over now and George has to live in the house that he bought for them to live in. The episode does end with a surprise twist where Dalia decides to stay at George's new house. Why? She claims to have actually grown attached to him. She might be a psychotic absorbed human being but I think she means it when she says George is a good dad. She gets to stay the night, after telling Dallas of course, but there's a lot left up in the air on what's going to happen when she wakes up. The finale basically moved around a lot of pieces in the one-hour but it didn't completely work.
There's nothing wrong with leaving plots in cliff-hangers. A lot of shows to this to ensure that viewers come back. There's nothing wrong with shaking up the status quo so that things don't become stale. At the same time, when the episode was over it didn't really feel like the season had ended. It didn't even feel like the episode had ended. There really weren't any cliff-hangers but a whole bunch plots that didn't really have resolutions. It created the sense that there was more to the episode rather than promising that the story will continue in the next season. If anything, these two episodes feel more like something that might come in the middle of a season rather than at the end. I still like Suburgatory and I'm definably going to be back for the third season...but I don't really feel like I have to watch it immediately because of the lack of any resolution or build-up in any of the plots. There's two ways to end a season: have a big episode that resolves itself with maybe a promise for a status quo or one that builds up to a cliff-hanger where the status quo is directly threatened. The episode tried to go for the former but it failed because there were no real resolutions. I'm not sure why that is but I think it's because the finale tried to cram too many things that very few of the emotional notes at the end worked well. Some did and I did like the montage set to George singing the theme song. It parallels how the season began and adds a further layer to the term “pleasant nightmare” but I can't feel like it could have worked better if it wasn't so crowded. I'm not sure how to resolve this other than stating that maybe a part three was called for.
The second season of Suburgatory was a pretty good one. The sophomore season was an improvement over the freshman one as it was more consistent but it did suffer some problems. It's a semi-serialized comedy but the plotting is so odd that it hurts the narrative momentum. For instance the first half of Suburgatory revolved around Tessa's mother so much that it was noticeably absent in the second half. The series needs to get better at laying out the plot points which means having to juggle all the elements. The finale sort-of shows that as it has some problems setting up the next season as there's no resolution but there aren't really any cliff-hangers. There's just a promise that things will change but this isn't as compelling on it's own. Even the plot itself reveals this as Tessa's mother is largely in the background for most of it despite the crucial role it plays in the end. On the other hand, the episodes were pretty funny. This second season was a lot more consistent at churning out laughs than the first. The season finale was funny and it was filled with great moments...but it's clear the show is still learning how to juggle so many plot elements at once. It's not to the level Suburgatory could be but it's definably becoming a more mature sit-com.