Sunday, November 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Divorce' - Frances Learns About the Family Finances While Robert Looks for Sex in 'Weekend Plans'

HBO's Divorce - Episode 1.07 "Weekend Plans"

Frances discovers that Robert has misled her about their financial situation. Robert tries to re-enter the "dating" pool.

The audience has known about Robert's massive amounts of debt for a couple of episodes now. "Weekend Plans" finally lets Frances in on that little secret. It's an important part of the story. It's the main reason why Robert decided to hire a lawyer. He wants to collect spousal support from Frances. He doesn't want to address his underlying issues that led to all of these problems. He just wants to find a new way to get money before things start to turn around for him. He has an answer for all of his seemingly bad investments. It's a startling revelation for Frances. She has been made to feel guilty about so much in her life and this divorce. But now, she truly does have the moral superiority. She didn't mess up the family finances. She's the stable provider who makes sure that the kids' futures are secure. She's not waiting for things to turn around. Yes, she's chasing her own dream right now. But she's still working as a headhunter in order to support her family. She's doing all of the right things. It's just so frustrating to her that Robert remains so casual about the whole topic. He thinks everything is a big joke. That's how Frances wants to see things as first. Robert's debt is just a nasty trick for the divorce to hide all of his money. But once the reality sets in, things take a nasty turn which leads to a pretty fun main story.

It's amusing to watch the divorce proceedings actually get started in "Weekend Plans." Robert and Frances have both hired lawyers they believe will fight and win for them. They believe they have hired the best of the best. And yet, it's abundantly clear that both come with their own set of problems. Robert's lawyer, Tony, is a pompous prick and men's rights activist who wants to liberate Robert from female imprisonment. He wants to set Robert free after years of captivity in a marriage with a horrible women. That's not how Robert would define his marriage at all. He still looks back on it with love. He still struggles to move on from it because he's still in love with Frances. Yes, she cheated on him 32 times with Julian. He's still furious about that. But he still wants to confide with her about everything in his life even though she no longer has to do that for him. Conversely, Frances' lawyer, Max, seems like a competent and compassionate man. He clearly wants to milk the situation for all its worth but he does seem to genuinely care. But then, it's revealed he has recently had a mini stroke and isn't completely there mentally. That leads to a couple of amusing moments. Some clearly hint at much larger issues while other times he plays things up in order to win. Even in declining health, he seems like a crafty lawyer who will do his best for his clients. Now, it just waits to be seen if Frances is making a mistake by sticking with him throughout this process.

There are a couple of things Frances could wrongly be doing right now too. It's not just keeping Max as her lawyer. He may confide in her that their first sit down with Robert and Tony is all an act. She breathes a sigh of relief knowing that he has a strategy. But it really wouldn't take much for all of this to go horribly awry for her. She needs someone passionately fighting for her. She's fed up with all of Robert's narcissistic qualities. And yet, he is still being indulged. He's not changing at all despite this massive change in his life. He's still just following his dream even though it's looking more and more foolish with each passing day. Frances calls him out on all of his bad decisions. It's a pretty hilarious scene when she questions every property that he owns. Despite being a Wall Street guy, Robert really has poor judgment skills when it comes to buying houses and taking out loans. He's made so many decisions without Frances' knowledge. It's all just starting to hit her now. She first takes that out on him by throwing a brink through a window at one of his properties. But then, she just verbally assaults him about his own stupidity while out at dinner with the kids. It's still amusing that they think they can just walk a few feet away and fight without it having an impact on the kids. Their issues are only getting worse and will continue to do so until this divorce is over with. And yet, that doesn't seem likely anytime soon because the emotions are really running hot right now.

Robert is trying to move on from his marriage as well. He's putting effort into getting back out there. He wants to be going on dates again. Unsurprisingly though, he's really bad at it. Much like his search for friends earlier this season, he just goes out looking in familiar environments. Things didn't work out with Frances so he goes back to the woman he had an emotional affair with all of those years ago. He still doesn't see that as a betrayal of his wedding vows. But he thinks those emotions will still be there. And yet, that was fifteen years ago. Lots of things have changed since then. Robert wants to pick things up again like nothing has changed. He refuses to see things any differently. He sees things in situations that are clearly not there. He thinks the young barista is flirting with him when that couldn't be any further from the truth. He thinks the world is out to get him because it's not conforming to his standards of what life post-marriage should be. For some reason, the show rewards this behavior. Robert actually gets some sex in this episode. He gets it when he's not actively looking for it. Another parent at his kids' school seduces him. It's an amusing sight to see him incapable of moving both during and after sex. He doesn't know how to react at all. This is what he wanted but he wasn't prepared for the reality of it at all.

The show tries to have all of this mean something. It's a way to drive a parallel between Frances and Robert hiding things in their marriage. Robert didn't have any suspicions about Frances cheating on him while Frances had no worries about the family finances. They both had reasons to be concerned but they didn't notice anything. And now, they see things clearly. Their eyes are open. It's made them angry and spiteful. They've both wanted the other person to pay for their massive betrayals. But once again, the episode ends on a sentimental note of things seemingly being good between Frances and Robert. That is still just a forced character dynamic. However, it does seem like Frances is done putting up with all of Robert's bullshit. She closes the door in his face when he wants to talk about the sex he has just had. And yet, she still does listen to the conversation for a little while before during so. She is able to immediately name the person he slept with. Apparently, it's not a surprise whatsoever. But she doesn't have to do this anymore. She doesn't have to listen to the banal details of Robert's life. She no longer has to put her dreams on hold in order to appease his. She can do whatever she wants. And yet, Robert is still there clinging onto something. He still needs this dynamic and doesn't know how to function without it. But again, he's not really doing any work to analyze why he needs it or how he can change without it. So it ultimately isn't that great or insightful of a story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Weekend Plans" was written by Adam Resnick and directed by Adam Bernstein.
  • Robert runs into Dallas when he's out shopping for new clothes. Of course, he says hi to her. But it's much more about him criticizing her for still shopping for her teenage son. It's a very mean thing to say. However, it's also weird and has a hint of sexual tension as well.
  • It's still abundantly clear that Diane really doesn't care about anyone else. She doesn't ultimately care what Frances does with her gallery. She just shows up to be supportive. Plus, she tells Frances about Robert's big "Fun Zone" idea.
  • The scene that first introduces Max's mental health problems drags on for a bit too long. This episode has one too many jokes about Max making mistakes because of his health. It largely just showcases how bad for the job both of these lawyers really are.
  • The running joke about Robert's mustache has been very great throughout the season. Frances really hates it. She cites it as the moment things started going downhill in their marriage. But Tony says it's the only thing that is working for Robert at the moment.
  • HBO renewed Divorce for a second season this past week. Of the channel's current Sunday night lineup, it's the weakest show. And yet, it has moments of greatness when it really knows what it wants to do. Hopefully, there will be more of them next season. Though I'm also curious how long the show can realistically stretch out this divorce between Robert and Frances?