Can you turn back time? It’s a question asked all throughout Kidding‘s second season and is the theme most prominently touched upon in the final two episodes of the season. It’s a question Will has been seeking an answer to all year long. While he was the character most outwardly seeking an answer, it was a question all of the characters were asking themselves and a question that the show answered in a breathtakingly beautiful fashion. Let’s get into Kidding S2 Episodes 9 and 10.
In the penultimate episode of the year, we got a resolution in Seb’s arc, as well as some resolution in Deirdre’s story. Seb, after his recent stroke, has been slipping in and out of reality and it came to a painful head in episode 9. Jeff was sleeping onset after the attempt on his life in the previous episode. Jeff woke up only to see his father sitting on the couch on the set, holding a gun, telling Jeff how he was here to protect him. What started off as an awkward yet sweet conversation, quickly took a sharp left turn as Jeff saw Seb’s deteriorating mental condition firsthand. Seb’s meltdown, screaming about how there were no walls, no pictures hanging up, completely frightened and unaware of his surroundings was gut-wrenching to watch. Frank Langella’s performance here made you forget all of the times the character of Seb has angered you and as a viewer, made you hope that you would never be in this position with one of your parents. Seb had another stroke and this one was leaving him with permanent damage, the kind of damage that would require him being cared for moving forward.
In the first of several truly beautiful moments over the course of these two episodes, Jeff, Deirdre and Will took Seb to the facility we saw last week for elderly people with memory problems. While his family stood back and watched, Seb finally found the woman he’d been missing for all of these years, his ex-wife, who we saw at the facility last week. We watched the two find each other, not knowing the life they had built together so many years before. Yet there was this spark between them that they couldn’t deny. They even questioned if they knew each other. They might not remember one another, the good times they had or the pain and hard feelings that would come in time but they were together again. These estranged lovers spent years away from each other and perhaps it’s for the best that they can’t remember what came between them. They can now spend their final years together, the clock turned back to a simpler time in a sense.
Deidre’s quest to get her creations, her puppets back, took a turn I didn’t see coming. Previously her ex-husband had agreed to give her Astronotter back in exchange for one extra day a week with their daughter, an offer Deirdre flatly denied. Yet here, after her wise beyond her year’s daughter told her that she should “do what Grandpa would do”, Deirdre made a deal with Scott, full custody of their daughter in exchange for all of her puppets back. The first thought that came to mind here was that this felt more like something their mother would do and not Seb. While Seb has always been controlling of his children, he never would leave his kids. This wasn’t at all “what Grandpa would do”. This was about Deirdre turning back the clock herself, getting back to a time when she didn’t put everyone’s needs above her own. Turning back the clock to a time when her hopes and dreams still meant something to her, as indicated in last week’s flashback episode. When we saw Deirdre go to watch the rocket launch, it all made sense to me. She knew her daughter was fine with Scott. She knew she would still see her all the time. Did it seem cruel and neglectful? It did and will probably cause her daughter some pain but Deirdre had to take some sense of control back in her life and for her own well being and this was the only way she knew how to do it.
Another incredibly powerful moment was when the man who had previously tried to burn down Jeff’s house came to Will’s school and wanted to encourage Will to leave his family and come with him. Will all season long has been asking his father to fight for his mother but really, Will wanted his dad to fight for him and he did just that, coming out of nowhere and beating the man senseless with his bare hands. The following scene showed Will with a haircut, just like his father’s, that requires no analysis on my part. A grieving child felt closer to his father and it was beautiful to see.
The finale was solely focused on Jeff, Jill and Will. The core of this story is still a grieving family. A family that experienced a loss so great, that it split them apart. Jeff and Jill’s marriage couldn’t survive the loss of their son Phil. Will, after losing his twin brother and going through his parent’s separation, wanted to turn back time. Could he? Could his parents? The curious case of the manila envelope was finally revealed to all, as Will showed its contents to his dad, who then confronted Jill about it. There was this emotional power to Jill’s explanation that only an actress the caliber of Judy Greer could pull off. Jill’s motivation, that she wanted Phil’s organs being donated to be his gift to the world and not become attached to his father’s celebrity was so pure and exactly what a grieving mother would want to do for her deceased son. Give him something, something that was all his, his moment. His young life was cut down so short. He deserved to have something that was all his and listening to Jill explain it, all while continuing to blame herself for the car wreck that took his life was as powerful of a moment as you will find anywhere. Jill was begging Jeff to admit that he blames her for Phil’s death, which led us into a prolonged flashback where once again, time was turned back and the beauty that exists at the heart of this show got to shine.
Once upon a time, Jeff and Jill were madly in love. We got to see their origin story, how she chased him and how the pain that stemmed from his mother leaving made him want to be alone. His mission was clear; he wanted to raise the world’s children but his fears of abandonment prevented him from allowing himself to be with this woman that he was head over heels in love with. And she felt that way too. Jeff and Jill’s love for each other was intense. It was deep-rooted. It was the kind of love story you see and expect these people to stay together forever. Except they didn’t. Their child died and their grief tore them apart. We joined in towards the end of this love story way back in Season 1 and here, we got to turn back time and see how it all began. We got to feel how madly in love they were and then join them on milestone moments throughout their marriage, such as the birth of the twins. It only felt right since we’ve lived through so much of their pain. You can only turn back time for so long though before you have to come back. When we did, it was to Jeff telling Jill that he did blame her for the death of their son, words she longed to hear. Throughout it all, she knew she could still count on Jeff to be the one person to tell her the truth, even when it was a painful truth.
After the shocker that ended Season 1, I found myself sitting intently, not knowing what to expect from the closing moments of this season. What we got this year was a moment of true beauty, another milestone in this family’s path towards healing. The final number on Will’s search he’s been on all season was the number of a runner, a woman competing in a marathon. Jill took Jeff and Will to meet the woman that had Phil’s heart. As Will stated earlier, Phil wasn’t gone. He was still here, a part of different people, all of whom were doing great things. The final shot of the year was Jeff and Jill with Jill’s stethoscope, each with one ear in, listening to their son’s heartbeat inside the woman he saved.
Kidding Season 2 pushed the envelope in terms of its absurdist humor, its daring imagination, its quest to examine what grief and healing both look like and then still having the ability to find the beauty in the world no matter what. There’s really nothing else like this on television. Part of the power of this finale is that the story could end here and all of the characters are in emotionally satisfying places but if the show is to continue, there’s still so much ground left to explore. Kidding somehow manages to have the feel of arthouse cinema, wrapped in a sitcom’s package but its neither. It’s art that can make you both laugh and cry all while thinking about your own life and the larger questions we all face. Kidding found its voice in the back half of the first season and here in the second, had the confidence to really put itself out there and create something that nobody who watched it will ever soon forget.