Brothers & Sisters – “Separation Anxiety”

“Separation Anxiety”

April 20th, 2008

In my own anxiety of trying to figure out how to spend my time when I will have no consistent employment hours and no homework all summer, I apparently completely forgot that the ABC drama that I haven’t given up on is returning from its strike hiatus for a short few episodes. Brothers & Sisters has been fairly good this season, if a bit predictable at parts, but I’m glad to see it returning if only so we can get back more serial television.

This is one of the few shows that can’t act as if no time has passed, as it was embroiled in the Republican primary system when we last left it. Before we hit the title, McAllister is bowing out of the race and we’re flashing forward three months to a world where presidency is replaced with pregnancy in the grand scheme of things.

It’s a smart decision because it allows for a partial reset of some storylines, particularly the dramatic tension in Tommy’s life. Instead, we get to return to Walkers being Walkers as the family faces a crisis and a celebration: Rebecca’s birthday and Isaac (Danny Glover) inviting Nora to live with him in Washington. Needless to say, this creates plenty of drama for the episode to draw from.

Nora’s acceptance of Isaac’s proposal of sorts is a ripple effect that brings out the worst (For us, the best) of the Walker siblings: scheming, nosy and conniving in a comic fashion, their various dynamics are a great counterpoint to Danny Glover’s soft-spoken politico. Whether it was the boys grilling him over a game of golf, or Kevin breaking down in tears over the thought of it all (And Sarah slapping him), it was a fine return to form.

Watching the siblings literally self-destruct on screen is always enjoyable, but the interesting thing is that they are somewhat right: we as the viewer are aware of the same problems with her decision as they are. However, Nora’s heartfelt monologue over how her family treats her, which is perhaps even more valid, cuts right to the heart of the matter – this is a family that isn’t really great at getting along. This isn’t exactly a newsflash, but it’s a nice point to lead into the rest of he season.

I always like episodes that ask the viewer to make their own decision, so the earth-shattering change in the siblings after Nora’s speech kind of disappointed me. It was good for Kitty and Nora to have their moment, where it all relates back to the comparison between their respective departures from California, and as far as Walker family decisions go this one was probably handled in as thorough a fashion as possible – I think I just wanted us to have to think about it for a bit longer on my own.

Her decision to stay, of course, was to be found in both common sense logic and the opening credits – but it still felt impactful, and even though “nothing” has changed locationally it was a nice character moment for Nora and most involved. Similarly, the logical addition of McAllister as VP on Taylor’s ticket was written in stone when the character had nothing to do all episode, and as one book closes (Nora and Isaac) another opens (McAllister on the ticket).

The other point of drama is what the show has been marching towards for quite some time now – the inevitable Justin/Rebecca relationship. Even before Ken Olin arrived on the scene, the writing was on the wall, but here it finally broke free as Holly admits to the remote change David is her father. That it was Justin who broke the news to her is really quite self-centered, considering where the characters are clearly headed, but let’s chalk it up to cousinly appreciation to reduce how frakkin’ creepy it is.

The episode’s biggest problem was that its lack of family-related drama seemed unimportant by comparison: Sarah’s tryst with Steven Weber is mired up in concerns over inter-office dating and avoiding Saul, and it just doesn’t seem to resonate on the same level as everything else. It just didn’t matter in the end, with everything else marching on at a different beat – I actually don’t even get it, since her financial advisor approved the deal and all, but I guess she’s just being neurotic.

But on the whole, a multi-layered and engaging return hour for the series.

Cultural Observations

  • I’m not sure if Ken Olin, more of a director by trade, is really that great an actor, but the casting is smart mostly because he does have great chemistry (In both blissful and vengeful moments) with Patricia Wettig, his real life wife.
  • I will miss Danny Glover, presuming that we won’t be seeing much more of him for at least a while – he wasn’t a huge presence, but it was nice to have someone who was more of a quiet contributor to the storylines versus the rather broad characterizations of the Walkers themselves.
  • My favourite moment of the episode was definitely Sarah completely ignoring any other element outside of her own children when considering Nora’s departure – that’s the kind of selfish thinking I like to see.

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