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HBO's 'Camping' Finale Does the Unthinkable: Leaves Us Wanting More

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 3, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 3, 2018 |


As a season finale, HBO’s Camping does exactly what a season finale should do: It rearranged the deck and put the chairs in their new positions, but it left a lot of room available for redecorating. As a series finale, however, Camping is somewhat disappointing, only in the respect that I wanted more. It came together too quickly, and I’ve invested in these characters enough to want to see how their lives are transformed by the camping trip.

Alas, that’s probably the last we’ll see of Camping. It was designed as a limited series; it was based on a British limited series; the writing duo behind the show, Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, have split up; and the ratings were soft. We’ll have to settle with a last scene in which we see Walt and Kathryn driving back home, holding hands and crying after Walt confessed to sleeping with Jandice.

In a way, however, that’s a weirdly satisfying resolution, if only because it shows how far Walt and, especially Kathryn, have come over the last eight episodes. A few days before, Walt never would have slept with someone else, because he was both scared of his wife and entirely too eager to please her even as she ignored, humiliated, and bullied him. It’s a screwed-up way to go about it, but by sleeping with Jandice — which took place on top of a rock and lasted all of 15 seconds — Walt found a way to stand up to his wife. On his birthday, he also got to have sex for the first time in two years, so good for Walt?

But it’s Kathryn who shows the biggest evolution because she didn’t tear off Walt’s head when he confessed. She doesn’t berate or belittle him. She doesn’t make Walt pull the car over so she can deliver an hour-long monologue on how Walt sleeping with Jandice reflects on her. This may sound strange to some of you who are reading this out of context without having watched the rest of the series, but in this particular instance, Walt’s decision to sleep with Jandice is not an act of adultery; it is an attempt to take some agency over his life and marriage. Kathryn, who had told Walt the night before that she hated having sex with him, seems to understand. That she cries is the first indication all season long that Kathryn actually cares about her marriage.

I think these two might be OK. But it’s impossible to underscore how important Jandice has been to everyone on this trip. She finally broke the spell that she had over both Miguel and Toby Joe by making them blow each other, which I think is why Joe was so amenable when Carleen told him that she’d be driving him to a detox facility on the way home. He hit his rock bottom. The trip also empowered Carleen to both stand up to her sister, Kathryn, and take some control back in her own marriage.

But it is Kathryn who Jandice changes the most. Jandice stood up to Kathryn. She called Kathryn out. Ultimately, she made Kathryn break, and then Kathryn beat the sh*t out of Jandice. Again, this shouldn’t be a sign of character progression, but for someone as tightly wound and controlled as Kathryn, that’s exactly what it is. She needed to lose her mind. She needed to lose control of her emotions. “The Wrath of Kath! You are not broken, sister,” Jandice told her, nose bleeding. “I showed you who you are. You’re very powerful.”

She’s still not likable, but Kathryn is at the very least an interesting and complicated character. I wish we got to see more of her to find out if any of what she gained on the camping trip sticks. To see if she can make it work with Walt, in spite of her revulsion to sex. Alas, the trip is over, and so, it appears, is Camping. I wouldn’t have guessed it two months ago, but I will actually miss this series. Meanwhile, for those looking for a quick four-hour binge, I might actually recommend it.

Other Notes

— Sol’s storyline was cute — and she got to hook up with a local — but I’m not so sure it added much to the series. I do hope that she finds some appreciation for her step-mother, Carleen, after this.

— In the end, Jandice ends up with Harry, the unexpected moral consciousness of Camping, who gave a lovely speech to Kathryn, which Kathryn largely ignored. Jandice and Kathryn ending up together, however, makes an unusual amount of sense. I think, in the end, that the wildly sexual Jandice was looking for real romance this whole time.

— Nina Joy came to her senses and realized that she wanted to be with George instead of the young kid, after all, and by “came to her senses,” I mean: What the hell, Nina Joy? In either respect, it didn’t matter, because George realized he needed more. If George is looking for more, I think he’s likely to end up alone for a very, very long time.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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Header Image Source: HBO