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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Climbing the FAMILY TREE

Article first published as Climbing the FAMILY TREE on TheTVKing.

HBO's Family Tree is little more than a curiosity for most of the freshman run. It's vaguely amusing in a very understated way, but while the characters resemble those from Christopher Guest films, there isn't a clear zaniness that elicits laughs out loud or quotable lines. It's this bit of pizzazz that is absent, as the story unfolds slowly over eight episodes.

But I feel the season finale, "Cowboys," which aired this week, is different. Maybe it just took me awhile to adjust to the tone and style of the series, but in this last episode, I finally connected with the material. It meant something more, the characters actually mattered, and there was pay-off from the journey we've been on.

Tom (Chris O'Dowd) is on a mission to find out about his family, but by the end of "Cowboys," he isn't looking any longer, at least for this day. He's enjoying the last bit of his trip to California before he goes home, hanging out with his newly-discovered relatives, and spending time with the gal he likes, Ally (Amy Seimetz, The Killing). He's relaxed, luxuriating in a place he enjoys being, with people that he is fond of, even though he's only known them a short time.

This occurs despite the startling revelations Tom inadvertently stumbles onto. Al (Ed Begley Jr.) tells Tom about a bunch of conspiracies, including the faked moon landing and JFK's assassination secrets. This stuff is crazy, and Tom doesn't buy any of it for a moment. Yet, shortly thereafter, he tells Amy that he'll miss Al and the rest of the kin, and Tom means it. It doesn't matter what Al believes, he's family, and Tom is glad to know him.

It's this connection, which we see in the brilliant O'Dowd's face, that makes the whole series mean something. For the first time, we see just how desperate Tom is to be part of the family, and how grateful he is to find his roots. We see how much he loves those whom he is a part of, and likes being around them. His life seems so much better than in the first episode, and without even realizing it, there has been growth and development.

Does that mean Tom will stay in America? At the end of "Cowboys," he is kissing Ally, whom he sleeps with, and says he doesn't want to leave. It's an ambiguous ending, but combined with the stated fondness for his West Coast relations, it seems to indicate that Tom is more than a little tempted not to return to England.

This season of Family Tree split the action between England and the United States, and that worked well. There were wonderful actors playing parts on both sides of The Pond. That could easily continue into a sophomore year, should the show be renewed. If Tom goes home and stays there, that would drop a valuable portion of the cast, and I'd hate to see that happen.

But regardless of how the tale might continue, "Cowboys" is a perfect ending that leaves viewers wanting more. If we're lucky, HBO will grant us that.

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