film / tv / substack / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / substack / web / celeb


The Ending of 'Palm Royale' Is Criminally Bad

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 8, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 8, 2024 |


Months ago, I was enticed so much by the cast of Palm Royale — Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney, Josh Lucas, Ricky Martin — that I thought it would be one of the more anticipated series of the year. By the time it came out, however, I’d mostly lost interest — reviews were middling, and it didn’t look that interesting. Initially, I didn’t even bother.

But a funny thing happened: One of my favorite people in the world, and a remarkable critic with whom I frequently disagree, said that she didn’t like Palm Royale, which suggested to me that I might. And I did! For about three episodes. But the last seven have been a chore, culminating in a cliffhanger ending bad enough to almost rival that of A Man in Full.

Here’s a quick refresher on the storyline of Palm Royale, which feels like a television series that creator Abe Sylvia pitched that Apple TV+ accepted based on the premise and the cast, but like too many greenlit series, there was not enough thought given to where it would go.

Kristen Wiig plays Maxxine Simmons, who spends the first couple of episodes as a sort of fish-out-of-water character trying to break into the country club social scene in 1960s Palm Beach. We’re led to believe that Maxxine is actually poor, posing as a wealthy socialite and consistently being rejected by the other socialites, who can see right through her. It’s an underdog story! We’re rooting for Maxxine to break into the country club scene and ultimately discover that it’s all an empty charade that she realizes she wants no part of, or that she breaks into the scene and changes the other women for the better.

That’s not what happens.

It turns out that Maxxine is actually married to Douglas Darby Dellacorte-Simmons (Josh Lucas), the black sheep of a wealthy, high-society family. He’s related to and the supposed only heir to Norma Dellacorte, the queen bee of the country club, only Norma has been in a coma. Maxxine blackmails her way into the club, but she probably doesn’t even need to use blackmail because she and her husband subsequently move into Norma’s palatial estate to take care of her.

Meanwhile, Maxxine spends and donates a lot of money she doesn’t have, although most of that debt is eventually hand-waved away. The motivating storyline for most of the season is Maxxine’s attempt to continue hosting Norma’s big annual ball. Literally, half the season is Maxxine’s attempt to put everything into place to host this party and claim her spot within Palm Beach’s high society!

There are, however, setbacks. Her husband Douglas, for instance, is sleeping with Maxxine’s manicurist and also making a lot of unwise investments with shady people. Meanwhile, Maxxine’s high-society pals — who are also trying to sabotage her party — are having troubles of their own. The husband of Allison Janney’s Evelyn Rollins (played by Bruce Dern) dies and cuts Evelyn out of the will in favor of his daughter, Linda (Laura Dern), a socialite turned hippie. The husband of Dinah Donohue (Leslie Bibb) is arrested, so Dinah has to scramble and find another sugar daddy to keep her in the inner circle. Also, Norma Dellacorte wakes up from her coma and, though she pretends to still be unable to speak, she is actively trying to arrange Maxxine’s death.

The only true friend that Maxxine makes along the way is Norma’s caretaker and the club’s bartender, Robert Diaz, a closeted gay man played by Ricky Martin. Initially, there’s a lot of friction between the two, but eventually, they become close friends, even though Robert also adores Norma, who wants Maxxine dead.

There are a lot of other unimportant subplots, but let’s just get to the meat of it. While Maxxine’s husband is trying to dodge the cops and other shady folks, Maxxine’s party is endangered when a whale washes up on the beach. Yes, there’s a whole beached whale episode.

Rescuing the beached whale results in Maxxine being stranded in the middle of the ocean. There, she is subsequently saved by an astronaut returning from space. Maxxine asks the astronaut to go the party, and the astronaut agrees because he is smitten with Maxxine. Not only that, but the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, also agrees to go to the party to publicly meet the astronaut.

With an astronaut and the President attending her party, Maxxine is on the cusp of a hugely successful ball that will make her the new queen bee of the country-club set. However, the astronaut realizes that Maxxine is not into him romantically (because she still loves her awful husband), and he ditches the party. Robert is called in to save the day by putting on the astronaut suit and posing as the astronaut long enough to meet Nixon.

Right before Maxxine’s big speech during the ball, however, she not only finds out that Norma is trying to kill her but also finds out that her husband is sleeping with her manicurist. During the speech, she has an embarrassing public meltdown. Nixon decides it’s time for him to leave. However, this other character, Mary (Julia Duffy), has been planning to assassinate the President. Ironically, it’s the antiwar hippie, Linda, who tries to stop her.
Simultaneously, Robert removes the astronaut helmet and goes to the stage to console Maxxine, while Linda shoves Mary as she’s attempting to shoot the President. She misses and instead shoots Robert. Maxxine loses it, Douglas tries to comfort Maxxine, and the episode ends on a cliffhanger: Will Maxxine’s only friend die?

That’s unclear, and we won’t know unless there is a second season. There shouldn’t be because this is not a great show, but let’s be honest: Apple TV+ has not been very discerning, and they have a lot of money, so they continue to renew series that probably would not be renewed by other streaming networks. If I were Apple TV+, I’d cut my losses, but I have noticed that Palm Royale is often among their most-watched series during, frankly, a weak run of shows, so the tech company will probably bring it back for another year.

If they do, they need a better game plan for season two. They also better bring back Ricky Martin’s character because he’s one of the few interesting things in an otherwise bland-when-it’s-not-ridiculous series.