Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nip/Tuck: Ronnie Chase (5.15)

It always felt like the writers of Nip/Tuck had repetitive strain injury. There would be runs of episodes full of cartoon craziness, strained exploration of taboo subjects, and awful things happening to the show's increasingly victimized cast of characters. Then, out of nowhere, almost as if the writers had realized what they had done, they'd drastically pull back and put the main cast center stage once again, granting them character-driven stories that weren't obscene in their ridiculousness. Then, of course, they'd quickly grow bored of that and introduce a whole bunch of batshit contrivance to grab some attention from passing viewers. Ronnie Chase begins with an elaborate fifteen-minute exercise in carnage, before exploring human drama for once.

Just like the character, there wasn't a whole lot to the Colleen Rose arc. She was disturbing, she killed people, she repeatedly stabbed Sean in a bout of rage, before getting knifed to death herself. Sean, now confined to a wheelchair, is revealed to be faking his inability to walk (a soap opera staple, I may add), presumably as a result of being shaken by recent events. But there's little emphasis on Sean himself here. Psychological trauma has been explored to greater effect in the past (like his 'yips' arc in season two, as well as the aftermath of Christian's rape), here Sean is just whiny.

More successful is Christian's cancer, an intriguing storyline which at this point utilizes two Nip/Tuck strengths that have been undervalued lately. First of all we have Christian's vulnerability, usually masked by a wall of arrogance and cruelty. His cancer almost makes him implode, distracting him during sex (the horror!) and leading to sudden spasms of rage. Second of all, it explores the relationship between Christian and Liz. Like Christian as a person, the relationship outwardly is all about petty insults and comedic provocation, but there's always been depth and love beneath the surface, as depicted in that wonderful (albeit brief) season two arc about Liz wanting to be a mom. The two of them exhibit such a strong connection here, especially when Liz treats him as a patient during discussion of his will, and as a friend when Wilber's well-being is brought up. Like everything on this show, the story quickly derails itself, but right here there's some great work from both Julian and Roma.

Also of interest was the discussion about the Conor McNamara, 2026 episode, confirmed here as a 'vision' of Sean's. It's a little vague and clunky, but I appreciate that the show at least attempted to follow up on that trainwreck from season four, instead of simply tossing it in the trash like so many other subplots over the years (like Julia's amnesia, as evidenced here).

I don't know if this episode works as one cohesive hour (the tone of the opening act compared to what follows is ridiculously jarring), but it's an impressive attempt to do something a little muted and low-key, at least compared to what the show has served up recently. B

Guest stars Sharon Gless (Colleen Rose); Adhir Kalyan (Dr. Raj Paresh); Kelsey Lynn Batelaan (Annie McNamara); Diane Farr (Darlene Lowell); Damien Leake (Dr. Moss); Jaime Ray Newman (Dr. Daphne Pendell); Cyia Batten (Girl in Bar); Allison McAtee (Bartender)
Writer Ryan Murphy Director Brad Falchuk

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