Several weeks ago, I was worried that this High Maintenance episode, “Steve,” would be the series finale. Fortunately, season three was confirmed midway through season two, but “Steve” would have definitely worked as a fitting goodbye. Besides some possibly coincidental parallels to the very first episode ever – Blichfeld and Sinclair wrote both, and the first was titled “Stevie” – this episode is generally so positive and hopeful that it would have been a satisfying farewell.
I’m really glad it’s not the last episode. This season has been as good as the show ever was pre-HBO, possibly even better – in fact, definitely better in some parts, even if we’re only judging production value. I’m glad season two had ten episodes rather than last season’s six, because getting to dip into this world at least once a week for ten long weeks was kind of soothing. Even when the show goes a little dark, there’s something so real and human about it that it never feels as though things are ever going to get hopeless. You can feel that Blichfeld, Sinclair, the other writers and directors, as well as the recurring cast – and new cast – care about these people so much that they’re not going to let anything truly awful happen to them.
That being said, this episode begins with another moment that would have served well as a capper to this series. The Guy and his ex-wife, Jules, at last finalize their divorce. It’s in their usually friendly and loving way – even taking a smiley photograph outside the building. I purposely choose not to ponder what, if any, moments from this show are directly inspired by real life, but as mentioned in an earlier review, Blichfeld and Sinclair were married and are currently not, but they still work together on this show (and based on all interviews, appearances, and the frequency with which they collaborate, they are still close friends). It’s hard to watch this scene and not see the former couple finding a bit of closure-through-art on this particular period of their life in the same way The Guy and Jules do. It’s a warm scene, and is also an efficient and tidy end to The Guy’s mini-arc this season. He’s finally turning a new page, after getting a bit stuck in the mud for a minute.
An interview with Blichfeld and Sinclair in Entertainment Weekly – in addition to describing a real-life incident that you will recognize from “Scromple” – ends with Blichfeld and Sinclair agreeing that the season, and the finale in particular, underlines two main ideas: “change is inevitable” and “choose love.”
The first sentiment is evident in the divorce finalization, and the second sentiment is evident throughout. It’s one of those High Maintenance ironies that the two main “events” of this episode are a divorce and an engagement, and both are treated as good things happening between people who love each other.
The engagement comes at us as many High Maintenance plots do, by teasing us gradually and distracting us with hijinks and hilarity until we finally realize what’s happening. The plot involves two couples – the first couple, Dahlia and Roger (Anna Suzuki and Omar Shaukat), are dressing up and choosing wigs when we first meet them. The second couple we meet is Zack and Elena (John Gallager, Jr. and Alexandra Fiber), who are planning to head to the park to watch the solar eclipse. The two couples almost cross paths, but the disguises do their job. At this point, we’re thinking maybe they’re neighbors or acquaintances and they don’t get along so they don’t want to run into each other.
Things just continue to get stranger as more characters are introduced. The disguised couple gets a paddle boat and sets up in the lake with a giant camera. Elena seems increasingly tense, especially upon seeing that their wooded spot is teeming with people and even more so once Zack partakes in strangers’ pot and offers up their biscuits. Once Elena starts texting the friend in the paddle boat, it starts to click that three of the four have something planned. Finally, as the eclipse begins, Elena grabs Zack’s hand and takes him to the water’s edge to propose to him – who cares if the rest of the afternoon didn’t go quite as planned. It’s a very sweet, but not overly sentimental, proposal and even though “gimmick-y” proposals like this (timed to the solar eclipse) usually make me scoff, this whole plan was actually pretty great and very cute. The friends’ set up on the paddle boat is a particularly nice touch – especially as someone watching this, just because that couple is delightful in every single scene they’re in.
Although the engagement is truly heart-warming, we end the episode with The Guy. While out at a bar with the other picnickers, he receives a text from long-lost Beth. She asks if he wants to hang out, which he interprets as the usual code for “can I buy weed from you?” She doesn’t mean that, though, so he agrees to meet up with her.
It turns out that in recent months Beth has been travelling some of the country in a very cute, but a little dysfunctional, camper van. She has also stopped getting high and drinking – which, as we saw in “Globo,” she was leaning into a little too hard. She looks and sounds good as she explains to him the weird spot she was in that prompted her to “ghost” him, which she is sorry for. The Guy understands, and in this scene we can see more of the “choose love” sentiment. In a situation that could provoke bitter or hurt feelings, the Guy and new-Beth choose to greet each other with respect and love and are able to admit to their bad choices and hurt feelings in the past.
Beth is leaving, though, going back to Australia for a bit. She’s leaving behind her van, of course, but with a cock of an eyebrow we see that The Guy is interested. We cut to a new day, with him adding his personal touch to the van and checking under the hood. He takes a joyful ride for a few minutes before the van starts sputtering and he has to pull over. He is disappointed and dejected for a moment, but he soon gets out and goes to see if he can fix the problem. It’s a simple moment to end the season with, but one that is emblematic of most of these episodes – particularly ones focused on The Guy. Things can be hard, change is inevitable, but if you “choose love” rather than anger or bitterness, you might be able to get through to the other side with your heart intact.
- This episode was written and directed by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair.
- A note on ratings: It’s hard to rate these episodes! I basically loved them all, but looking back I think I could have given out more nines. The problem is that nines are pretty much my tens. So! This episode was an eight, but I bumped it to a nine because it is a solid season finale, which counts for something in my book.
- The Guy and Jules’ goodbyes to each other: “I enjoyed being married to you… I love you, I always will” and “I love you too.” The definition of bittersweet?
- The Guy’s book of choice was Lincoln in the Bardo, a perfect Brooklyn Intellectual Book Choice.
- “Steve” (Harvey) is the name of Beth’s camper van.
- I’m 99% sure the guy in the pink tank top sitting at the picnic, and later next to The Guy at the bar, is the same character we saw gabbing loudly on his phone while sharing an Uber in “Derech.”
- “Zach looks like every white guy” – My favorite line of the episode.
- At first I thought the credits scene would just be black, but lo and behold! It’s the solar eclipse, baby!
- I’m going to miss this show. I hope we don’t have to wait another 12-plus months before we get new episodes – but at least we’re getting them.