Monday, August 10, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chasing Life' - April Gets a Reality Check About Her Health During Her Wedding to Leo in 'The Last W'

ABC Family's Chasing Life - Episode 2.06 "The Last W"

All the planning is done and the day is finally here - the day April Carver marries Leo Hendrie. What should be the most perfect day of April's life takes a bumpy detour as nerves and secrets threaten to ruin everything. Can Leo and April's love triumph or was this a "pity" wedding after all?

April Carver has been planning her wedding all season long. She has had some major setbacks with her health and learning more about her father. But getting married to Leo is the thing that makes her the happiest right now. And her wedding day has finally come. It's a day of high emotions for everyone involved. The season has been ramping up the love triangle between April, Dominic and Leo once more. Big things have been happening for everyone in the Carver family. April made a promise to start living her life differently in the season premiere. That has allowed for a lot of fun times. But now, the emotional cost of her life is catching up with her. The happiest day of her life is met with the tragedy of her cancer rearing its ugly head once more.

Cancer has fueled a whole lot of action on April's part. She recognizes that she may not be able to live a long and healthy life like everything else she knows. She doesn't want to spend that time worrying about what she should and shouldn't do. She's incredibly hopeful about the clinical trial she is in. But she's also a little too hopeful about things as well. She has lived her life to the fullest this season. She took a trip to Bermuda. She went to Rhode Island. She had her bachelorette party at a strip club - which led to some time in jail. All of that has been a lot of fun. But it also came with some emotional realizations for the characters as well. April's cancer does effect everyone else around her. They are all supportive of her and her decisions. But it's also hard for them to live their own lives as well.

Everyone is happy to set aside their lives and problems on this day because they are so happy for April and Leo. Of course, those problems still sneak into the events of the day. Beth is so focused on making Graham jealous with her new boyfriend that she ends up pushing him away. Though that leads to some breakup sex with Graham in a hospital closet later. Natalie isn't thrilled by her paternal grandmother coming to town after a lifetime of not really caring about her. The two of them have their awkward moments but are able to bond over their shared feeling of always coming in second place to the rest of the family. That was a nice moment - though a little too redundant of what those characters have felt previously.

And then, there was the biggest one of them all: Dominic coming to terms with his true feelings for April and actually trying to act on them. Dominic was fine still being friends with April. He didn't want to believe Natalie when she said that he was still in love with her. But that has always been true. And now, he has come to embrace that. It took a drunken state and a black eye to get there. But he did. That sure does add an interesting complication to the narrative. It's not abundantly clear how the audience is suppose to react to Dominic's valiant effort to get to the church on time to tell April how he really feels. It's still just so hard to feel anything for him given how emotionally powerful her health deterioration actually becomes. The final third of the episode is some of the most emotional material the show has produced to date. They are entirely about April and Leo's connection and how this setback won't destroy their happiness. They have this connection with cancer. That has allowed them to be somewhat honest with each other. They have changed for the better. But Dominic is still in the background as a lingering thought. His story doesn't have a whole lot of purpose. The narrative believes it is meaningful to have that moment where he allows April to go and get married to Leo. He recognizes that that's what will make her happy. But it's still just so frustrating to have a love triangle play out without all the players knowing how the others truly feel. It should feel tragic that April is committing herself to Leo and not Dominic. But it's hard to feel anything because Dominic is a character adrift. Who knows where his story will go next?

But all of those concerns just float away because of how great April and Leo's actually wedding is. The future is uncertain for both of them. Dr. Hamburg isn't completely sure what's wrong with April yet. She will need to stay in the hospital for several days now. Meanwhile, Leo has a chance to take a job with his father that will give even more importance to his charitable work. But that opportunity could confine him in a way that just doesn't make sense to him. The two of them planned on having a very traditional wedding. One with a rehearsal dinner and the next day having a big ceremony at a church. April passing out while she was walking down the aisle was a big moment. One obviously played for shock value and the act break. But also one that got a whole lot of emotional leverage out of it. This show knows how to handle emotions in regards to life-and-death matters really well. That moment was scary and made things come crashing back to reality for so many characters. But it also gave April and Leo the wedding that they truly deserved.

The wedding became a simple ceremony in the hospital chapel. The place where Leo saved April when she had her crippling doubts about her treatment. They both have spent so much time at a hospital. It's probably not the place where they want to be - yet again. But it's the place that has the strongest emotional connection for them and their relationship. Their love was able to come out of the horribleness of both of them getting cancer. Their love is strong but drastically different than what a normal relationship is. It's horrifying to think that Leo is only marrying April out of pity. That's the doubt that creeps into her mind constantly before the wedding. But the truth is, Leo's love for her is real as is his desire to marry her. Things may be on a rushed schedule but the emotions are real. When the two of them are standing in front of their friends and family, their love is apparent for all to see. Their vows are truthful and honest. Their love is real and their commitment for each other is genuine. The future may be uncertain. They don't know what will happen or how long this marriage will last. But both are willing to embrace the other for as long as they have. That's such a powerful moment for the episode and the season so far to build to. This represents a turning point for the show. The emotional realities of the characters will be different moving forward. But that kind of change makes big moments like this work extremely well. This is a moving episode of television. And one that came together beautifully while still progressing the show forward in an even stronger creative direction. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Last W" was written by Aaron Fullerton and directed by Janice Cooke.
  • Uncle George is also back in town for the wedding - with his new girlfriend Meg. He will be staying as well because Hamberg may need his medical opinion on April's case. It also doesn't seem like things are quite done yet between Sara and him - especially if the show is taking the time to let Brenna in on their big former relationship.
  • I'm going to miss Emma a lot once she leaves for her big romantic trip. She just continues to be so great. She is able to keep the wedding ceremony simple but important and romantic. Plus, she tells Brenna what she needs to do in the wake of April's latest health setback. So many great moments.
  • Will Beth and Graham's latest hookup led to a romantic reunion? Or did they just do that in order to fully get the other out of their system? And now, Beth can try and win back her new boyfriend?
  • A throw-away line was used to explain why Ed Asner didn't return as April, Brenna and Natalie's grandfather alongside Marion Ross.
  • The Greek reunion aspect of Frankie was a strong enough reason to have Amber Stevens West on the show. But she didn't really add a whole lot to the actual show. In fact, her moments with April didn't really work at all.
  • Isn't it weird that April doesn't ask Leo why he punched Dominic? Thinking she knows the truth about what happened is probably why Dominic doesn't pursue her any further.
  • The delight and amusement Leo got from realizing that April didn't write her vows in advanced was one of the reasons why they make such a great couple.