Series finale review: ‘The Big C: Hereafter’

Showtime’s “The Big C” – or, specifically, the concluding miniseries titled “The Big C: Hereafter” – came to an end last night, and I have a few thoughts coming up just as soon as you don’t take cash…

“The Big C” was a show that I initially admired but didn’t like (because Cathy’s insistence on keeping her cancer a secret seemed insane to me), then one I grew to like but not love (because she told her family, but the series still had a certain smugness to it that can be endemic to Showtime’s half-hour series), and then one I simply lost track of when other series became a priority. But the self-contained four-week nature of “Hereafter,” and the promise of seeing her story to the end, was enough to bring me back.

I’d missed a lot of developments along the way (including whatever happened to Cynthia Nixon’s character), but it wasn’t too hard to dive back in, and the work that the creative team did in these concluding chapters made the return worth the effort. These four episodes provided some genuine, emotional closure to the story of Cathy and her family (you’d have to be made of stone to not respond to the miniature graduation ceremony in the kitchen), dealt interestingly and movingly with lots of questions about death and what (if anything) comes next (the scene with Cathy quizzing the assembled hospice clergy was lovely), and ended the series in the only way it honestly could. If a character on a how not primarily about cancer (say, “Parenthood”) gets sick, odds are they will go into remission in time; for a show with this title, and this as its central premise, anything but Cathy ‘s demise would have felt like a cheat. (And I say this as someone who has lost loved ones to cancer while others have been luckier.) 

Some of the comedic bits (like the d-bag kidney recipient) had the same self-satisfied tone that had put me off the series earlier, but overall the pluses of “Hereafter” far outweighed the minuses. I’m glad Showtime, Darlene Hunt, Jenny Bicks and company were able to bring the story to a proper, affecting conclusion.

What did everybody else think? If you stuck with the series all the way through, did you feel satisfied? And did anyone else, like me, come back to it just for the ending, after having missed earlier parts?