Particularly with shows that I really love — Better Call Saul, The Leftovers, The Good Place, etc. — I appreciate that they air only once a week because it allows viewers to savor each episode, to stew in the emotions of each installment. I was initially bummed that Hulu decided against that, releasing the final season of Casual all at once because it meant that I would not be afforded those few minutes of reflection after each episode, because I find the “next episode” button too great a temptation.
Having now watched the entire eight-episode season, however, I understand why they made the choice they did, and I completely agree with it. It’s a season where each episode builds emotionally on top of the other, where each episode flows into the next until it reaches its big, beautiful, profoundly powerful bittersweet conclusion.
Without giving anything away, here’s Michaela Watkins on Tommy Dewey in that final scene of the season (via Vulture) (and the two genuinely seem to love each other as brother and sister in real life, too, which imbues the finale with an extra punch in the heart):
Tommy was so emotional out of the gate, which is hilarious because I read all the scripts ahead of time and I have all my emotions and feel everything. Then Tommy’s like, “I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen!” Then he showed up to this scene a hot mess … He cried himself into a migraine headache.
The final season of Casual jumps the timeline by four years, which gives both the writers and characters something fun with which to play, sporadically and casually scattering new technologies into the season, like self-driving cars, virtual reality dating (with obnoxious pop-up ads!), and the demise of the NFL (there’s also a great joke about former EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt being gunned down while visiting another country). Mostly, however, the time jump allows the story to take Alex (Tommy Dewey) into a future where he’s raising his adorable three-year-old daughter with Rae (Maya Erskine), his platonic roommate with whom he had a drunken one-night stand.
The arrangement, however, works. It works really well: They live together; they raise a child together; they date other people; and they continue to live as roommates, only they also share custody of a daughter. Naturally, however, Alex screws it up by developing strong romantic feelings for Rae, but it’s never clear if they are genuine or if they’re part and parcel of an idealized vision of a more traditional nuclear family.
Meanwhile, Valerie (Michaela Watkins) quits her job as a therapist and uses the savings she has accumulated over the years to open a wine shop. With no family to support, Valerie decides to live her life the way she wants to live it. She also gets involved with a guy who is almost too good to be true: He’s a nice, caring, smart fella who doesn’t attempt to control her life so much as he remains completely inflexible in how he conducts his own life, and for a couple in a relationship, there’s hardly a difference.
Laura, meanwhile, returns to Los Angeles for the first time since she moved out to live with her grandmother. She’s come back with a new girlfriend with whom Laura makes assumptions far too early in their relationship. When Laura — through a fit of jealousy — breaks up with her girlfriend, she starts a YouTube show where she combines cooking with her break-up grief. But even through that turmoil, Laura handles her life with a new level of maturity and grace, while the four-year break from her mother weirdly has the effect of making them closer. Given space away from each other, they finally achieve the perfect mother-daughter dynamic.
Meanwhile, Leon and Leia (Nyasha Hatendi and Julie Berman), the rock of Casual, experience their own struggles when Leia decides after a pregnancy scare that maybe she doesn’t want children, a crushing deal-breaker for Leon. These two are perfect for each other in every respect except that Leon is an ideal future-father while Leia … just isn’t interested at this point in her life.
Whereas in previous seasons of Casual, it’s been about characters trying to find their own identities while navigating the dating world, the final season is more about finding ways to compromise on those identities. It’s not about settling — it’s about realizing that, in a practical sense, you can’t have everything, and that means making sacrifices these characters were not mature enough in previous seasons to make. It means prioritizing certain kinds of happiness over others. The good news in season four is that it’s not about choosing between happiness and heartache. It’s about finding the right kind of happiness for these characters at this stage in their lives, and creator Zander Lehmann strikes the exact right balance to send the series off on a pitch-perfect note.
Header Image Source: Hulu