After this episode I am going to need a box of Kleenex and a moment to collect myself. We get two divergent tales from the point of view of Vik (Omar Metwally), who finally has an emotional breakthrough in dealing with his cancer diagnosis, and Cole (Joshua Jackson), who decides to listen to his heart.
Things start with Vik, whose storyline solves the question of which character would get the fifth point of view this season. As promised, it is well-deserved — certainly more so than Juliette (Irène Jacob) in season 3. It is also disappointing, though, because part of me was hoping the honor would go to principal Janelle Wilson (Sanaa Lathan). Vik’s point of view proves itself necessary, however, to break his cancer storyline. Since his diagnosis in episode 3, Vik has remained virtually emotionless, if red-eyed, and steadfastly chained himself to letting death come. Here, he examines what he wants from life; what will bring him pleasure, what his actual dying wishes might be. It has been difficult for him because he’s been living his life for his parents, which he says he thinks is the way the children of a lot of immigrants feel. They had to give up everything, so he feels pressure not only to be a success and allow them live their goals through him, since they gave up prestigious careers to run a dry cleaners in America.
I hope we return to his POV at some point in the season to see more of that relationship explored, but in this episode we pivot to his impending death crisis, which looks a lot like a midlife crisis. He goes out and buys a $200K Porsche (I endorse this choice) and he has a heart to heart with the neighbor and then fucks her. It’s hard to flat out condemn the choice. Ethically, he is in the wrong. Emotionally, he needed the comfort. Helen (Maura Tierney) continues to insist he create a treatment plan and drops the bomb that she hasn’t been taking all of her fertility shots because she doesn’t want to have his baby; it’s all very complicated and difficult. The neighbor is simple. It just happens and lets Vik feel something...else. Somehow I doubt she’ll start picking up her garbage cans.
And then there’s Cole, who heads to the same town in California where his father went on a walkabout only to meet...the woman he had an affair with, Nan (Amy Irving). Let’s take a moment to give kudos to this show for booking brilliant and too often overlooked older female actresses like Irving and Mare Winningham for roles playing complicated women. The show also does an amazing job of making Cole someone who has a hard time seeing these women, in his POV, and this episode is an eye-opening experience for a character who has spent essentially all of the time that we’ve known him hiding in his fear and projecting a self-possessed demeanor to cover how he really feels. Cole finds out that neither his father nor his mother are quite what he thought, and that their relationship was much more complicated than he imagined. His face when Nan tells him that his father only came home from his walkabout because his mother threatened to kill herself is really something; Cherry has been this strong, stoic figure from his POV. He’s belatedly having the revelation that kids have about their parents being multi-dimensional human beings, and it pushes him to examine his feelings about his own relationship.
The news is not good for Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno): Cole comes to the realization, after trying some hippie, Ojai-inspired crap from the ‘70s to exorcise her memory, that he’s in love with Alison (Ruth Wilson) and he needs to exit his relationship with his current wife. He heads back to Montauk with getting her back on his mind, a tricky endeavor since she’s happily ensconced with Ben (Ramon Rodriguez)...for the time being.
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about the use of Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met” in the scene when Cole builds a fire of things he loves and hates about Alison. In a word: no. No, you may not take a song that is so emotionally tied to another show, in this case 13 Reasons Why (and that’s not a spoiler if you haven't watched it), and tie it into an emotional scene in a completely different show. The 13 Reasons Why placement is like 95% of that song’s identity. Why don’t you just use the theme from Love Story or “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic? Oh right, because they are forever connected to those characters and moments. Allow me to direct you to Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” instead. That National song at the end was nice, though — and two songs this week from a show that rarely uses them at all? Interesting, very interesting.
Since we got the two men this week, I’m hoping that means we get Helen and Ruth next week.