Divorce Episode 1 Recap: Life Savers
So here we are. 12 years after the finale of Sex and the City, we finally have a new television show starring Sarah Jessica Parker. It's been a long time coming, but happily, Divorce i s worth the wait. Each week, I'll be recapping the show for you, navigating the world of SJP's Frances, her rocky marriage to Robert (Thomas Haden Church), her friendships with Diane (Molly Shannon) and Dallas (Talia Balsam), and her struggles as a mom to kids Lila and Charlie.
In the pilot, we meet Frances looking at herself in the mirror, pulling her skin every which way as if to envision what she'd look like at various ages. Then, France's husband, Robert, enters the scene and we're immediately tipped off that this is not a happy marriage: When Robert laments that Frances took so long in the bathroom that he was forced to relieve himself downstairs in a...um, coffee can, France doesn't so much as flinch.
(As your Divorce recapper, I feel it's my duty to you to mention that I am, in fact, not married and that this show basically encapsulates every single thing that terrifies me about marriage. So please excuse me if I write as though this show makes me want to run away, join a convent, and skip the whole marriage thing altogether.)
Okay, so continuing on. As Frances and Robert drive to their friend Diane's birthday party, Robert hums along to Coldplay's "Paradise" (perfectly ironic song choice) completely off-key until an irritated Frances turns off the radio. I don't blame her; there should be a national ban on humming along to "Paradise," because it's essentially impossible to sound good humming to that tune.
The couple arrives at the party, where we're introduced to yet another unhappy marriage. Diane complains about her husband's weight gain and the death of their dog. Her husband, Nick, gives her a snark-filled happy birthday speech before bringing in a new dog as a birthday gift. Oof. A wee bit insensitive, Nick, don't cha think?
Diane storms into the bedroom — to pull out a gun. Chaos ensues before she accidentally shoots, narrowly missing Robert's head; no one is hurt, but all of the turmoil is enough to give Nick a heart attack. He's rushed to the hospital and Diane is rushed to a police station in handcuffs, leaving a stunned Frances and Robert behind.
Frances is clearly shaken-up. "How do you go from eight years of a happy marriage to wanting to blow someone's head off?" she asks. She then grabs Robert's hand and, for a moment, I think this crisis is going to bring them closer together; perhaps the near-death experience was enough to make her forget about Robert's horrendous humming. Instead, she turns to him, realization in her eyes.
"I want to save my life while I still care about it. I don't love you anymore," she says. "I want a divorce."
Robert is so shocked that he pukes. He's still in disbelief the following morning, when Frances wakes to him sitting in a chair across from their bed. He desperately pleads with her, even offering to give her an orgasm because it would "be good" for them both, but Frances doesn't crack. She leaves to drop the kids off and then gets on the train into the city for work, where she tells her friend Dallas about the divorce — and casually mentions that she won't be alone, because of...JULIAN?!
AHA! I knew there had to be more to the story. Turns out, Ms. Frances has been gettin' hers with a side piece named Julian. When Frances declares she loves him, Dallas responds, "You don't love him. You love his dick." (How many times have we all thought that to ourselves, but never actually said it out loud to our friends?) Still, Frances swoons over her "sweet, fun" lover and we expect that he'll be super-sexy and hot — until we find that he's actually a pretty dowdy, granola-making professor who reacts to Frances's news that she's leaving her husband in the worst way possible. Basically, he wants to keep their affair just that: An affair, nothing more. Nice move, a-hole.
Julian's less-than-enthusiastic reaction pushes Frances back to her husband. They have an open conversation about where things went wrong; my favorite moment in the episode is when Robert asks, "When did it start to go off the tracks in your mind?"
Frances responds, "Perhaps when you grew the mustache?" Thank goodness, because that creeper 'stache has been bothering me the entire pilot. Anyway, they make up and decide to move forward. After they have sex, Robert sees that Frances is receiving a call from J, a.k.a. Julian, but she brushes it off as a work thing.
The next day, Frances goes to visit Diane, who updates her that Nick is alive, but in critical condition. She asks Frances to watch her new dog, Hannah, who Frances reluctantly drags home in the snow. But when she reaches her door, she's not able to get in the house. So she calls Robert — and here comes the twist:
Robert, it turns out, isn't so naive, after all. He walks up to the screen door to inform Frances that he returned the call to J and "it became apparent within 30 seconds that the two of you have been fucking for quite awhile." Uh-oh. Robert turns into King Petty: Not only has he locked Frances out, but he tells her that she can forget all about her "sneaky, easy, friendly" divorce, because he wants to make her life miserable. In fact, "You're Jesse James, and I get to be Sandra Bullock," is the way he put it. Messy, messy. After he mic drops his cell phone and walks away, we end on a shot of Frances standing alone in the snow — outside of her own house, a drop of sea blue in an ocean of snow white.
So friends, it looks like our bad guy here is Frances. She's portrayed as narcissistic and even a little mean — and yet, is it just me, or does she still comes off as likable? Is it because she's portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, whom it's impossible not to like? Or because despite France's wrongdoing, it's easy to see how one could end up in a miserable marriage with no freakin' clue how to get out without hurting anyone? I'm not sure, but I'll be interested to see if Frances remains likable until the end of the season — or even until next episode. Guess we'll see next week.
Until then, readers: Please allow your significant others or loved ones access to the bathroom so they can avoid any encounters with coffee cans. Thank you kindly! — Management.
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