My anger about the pilot episode of A Million Little Things stemmed from the fact that it felt like the series would turn into a mystery in which the characters tried to solve Jon’s suicide. That felt cheap. As the series progressed, however, I warmed up to it, and now I find that I am a legitimate champion of the ABC drama, which — at least in the case of Jon’s suicide — can be best described as a drama about a group of friends trying to sort out their feelings after losing their best friend, husband, and boss. Jon’s suicide has become a reference point for all of these characters to tell their own stories, and in this week’s episode, Gary’s came to the fore.
James Roday, who plays Gary, is never going to be the kind of actor who gets a lot of awards attention, and I’m not even sure he is in that category of actor. However, in this week’s episode, he delivered a powerful, and real performance, and one that I am sure connected with a lot of people who have lost loved ones to suicide. After 9 episodes, a character on this series finally arrived at the Anger stage, and it poured out of Gary in the way that these things do: Forcefully, clumsily, and with heartbreaking anguish.
The episode takes place on the first anniversary of Gary going into remission, as well as the morning after Gary slept with Ashley, a turn that actually doesn’t create many ripples, at least not yet. Their relationship remains casual, and at least in this episode, and it doesn’t feel like a betrayal to Maggie, at least not an emotional one. It was a booty call and they were on a break.
Many of Gary’s scenes are flashbacks to the hospital room where he received chemo treatment. Jon was there for every one of them, telling Gary (in a very bad bald wig) that he would survive this and outlive him (was he hinting at something, Gary wonders). In the present, Gary loses it with his friends because they can’t make the Bruins game that night, the first game they’ve missed in years. However, after Gary has drinks with Ashley — who offers nothing new as it pertains to Jon’s suicide, but does ask Gary if he knows who Barbara Morgan is — she takes him back to his place, where he’s met with a surprise party from all of his friends, celebrating his year-long remission.
Instead of being elated or surprised or gobsmacked, Gary is … angry. Not with anyone in the room (not even Maggie), but with Jon for taking his life. He destroys a painting of the Charles River, where Jon had told him they’d one day row little boats. “That’s what I get for making plans,” a tormented Gary says, looking directly at Maggie.
And of all the things that Gary has said and done this season, that seemed to be the clincher. At the end of the episode, we see the room in which Gary used to receive chemo treatments, but it’s not Gary inside it this time. It’s Maggie. She finally decides to get treatment, although her text to Gary goes unanswered.
— Rome had a pretty good storyline this week, too. He asks his father to come over to help him fix a sink, which is when his father discovers that Gary is taking medication for his depression and seeing a therapist. Rome’s father says nothing but looks disappointed. “I spent my whole life proud to be his son,” Rome tells Regina later that night. “I just wanted him to be proud to be my father.”
I think we’ll find in future episodes that Rome will ultimately inspire his father to seek treatment for himself.
— Maggie and Delilah go on a road trip so that Maggie could give a speech about “complicated grief” to a college class. Maggie and Delilah bond, and Delilah confesses to Maggie why she can’t yet take off her wedding ring (because it would feel like a betrayal to Jon). In the end, she still can’t bring herself to remove the ring.
— On the other hand, Katherine does take off her ring. She’s offered partner at her firm, but when she insists she get two hours every night to put her kid to bed, the firm withdraws it. Instead of feeling disappointed, Katherine feels liberated. She gets her life back, and the first thing she’s gonna do with it is take off her wedding ring and climb that work colleague of hers, Hunter. Meanwhile, Eddie’s band is getting back together, and they want him to go on tour. He ultimately accepts, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect: He’ll be gone for a few weeks, but Katherine will be free to take care of their kid.
Next week’s winter finale looks like a doozy.
Header Image Source: ABC