‘United States of Tara’ – ‘Train Wreck’: Get out while you still can

A review of tonight’s “United States of Tara” coming up just as soon as Woody Allen works the register at FAO Schwartz…

“I wish we were the type of family who could only be upset about one thing.” -Kate

Season 3 accelerates its very dark turn as Bryce continues to torment the Gregsons, and at a particularly awful moment, as Marshall is mourning the death of Lionel(*) in a car accident.

(*) Is this the first we’ve heard that Lionel’s full name was Lionel Train? Seems maybe a little too cute, like a remnant of the days when the show was more aggressively quirky.

This is good for absolutely no one. Tara’s either too doped to function or at risk of turning into the little monster who made her life into a nightmare in the first place. Not only can she not be there for her son when he so badly needs a mother, but she (in the guise of Bryce) makes everything so, so much worse. Every time I thought Bryce had reached a new low (say, trashing Marshall’s room), he found a way to get lower, taunting Neil and Charmaine with the story of how he took a bus ride with Wheels (a move designed to hurt Tara just as much as her sister).

All season long, we’ve seen the toll Tara’s condition has taken on Marshall, but here we also see just how much all of Kate’s attempts to rush into adulthood are a reaction to Tara’s condition. That house is just too much to cope with, and she needs out – needs, as she says, to create her own problems, because how could they be anywhere near as bad as the problems in her family? It’s not the healthiest start to a relationship, but it’s what she has to do right now.

Everyone in the cast was on fire tonight. You expect Toni Collette to bring her A-game, obviously, and I like how she’s curbed herself just a little as Bryce – he’s still a caricature of a nasty teenage boy in the same way Buck is Tara’s caricature of a Vietnam vet or Alice is how she envisions the perfect housewife, but Collette somehow makes him seem more real, and in turn much more of a threat than any of the other alters have ever been. But Patton Oswalt continued to prove the theory that it’s easier to turn a comedian into a good dramatic actor than to take a serious thespian and make them funny, and Keir Gilchrist and John Corbett were both superb in Marshall and Max’s final conversation about the buckets.

Hard to believe there are only two episodes left, ever. But like I said last week, it’s going to be one of those endings that feels like just right, even if it wasn’t mean to be.

What did everybody else think?