Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of “Please Like Me.” To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
Please Like Me continues to handle typically sensitive matters with humor, intelligence and a general sweetness that’s often forgotten in other shows. Last episode we learned that Claire was pregnant, and this week we see her going through with the abortion, with the increasingly reliable Josh by her side. Not only does the series tackle the storyline with tact and an admirable amount of introspection, it also doesn’t turn into a “very special episode of Please Like Me”. We’re given the moments of awkwardness in the waiting room, where Josh and Claire don’t quite know what to do, and we see the nurse who has been speaking to Claire second guess Josh’s ability to help. We get to see the process of what happens in a realistic light, never glamorizing the situation and always making sure to tell this from a woman’s perspective, in our case, Claire’s. No one tries to talk her out of it or offer her caution, Josh gives her support, the nurses are warm but factual-it’s what life looks like.
Claire is able to experience most of it at home, being told it will be nothing more than a heavy period, and that Josh should simply be there, while Claire may grow emotional due to the medicine she’s been given.
There are other plot developments that are sweet, and it was funny juxtaposition to see Tom so anxious over his dentist appointment while Claire went to plan her abortion, but the real development outside of Claire is that Tom and Ella are now officially dating. I do feel that this relationship is moving rather quickly, but it’s allowed Tom to not constantly be down in the dumps, which is a nice change of pace.
Rose, meanwhile, is concerned that Stuart (who was already kind of an asshat) is cheating on him, and goes to right an expletive on his lawn as Hannah steals a lawn gnome. Alan continues to be sad dad, while Mae tries to reach out, and Arnold is out of the majority of the episode as he goes to his parents for a trial night sleepover.
The heart of the episode is Claire though, and to an extent Josh, as the two deal with Claire’s decision, Claire with the emotions of it all and Josh in trying to be a supportive friend. There are definite moments of humor, including Josh taking advantage of Claire having to put pills under her tongue, restricting her from speaking, to rant against the idea of alternative medicine, saying people “can’t have alternative facts”. There’s also Claire asking Josh if she should take a picture of the toilet after the procedure has finished, saying she can show it to anyone who shows her pictures of their kids. It’s blunt humor, but it works for the characters.
However, there’s also moments of genuine heartache, where Claire needs to unload about the turmoil she’s feeling. We learned last week just how lonely she had been, and here she is, home at last, and having to deal with a new hurdle. The conversation she has with Josh in her bedroom, where they promise to keep their tones monotone to avoid awkward feelings, they admit to irrational thoughts they had over the weekend. Josh says that for a moment he was jealous of Claire being able to get pregnant, while Claire says she dressed up for the abortion clinic, wanting, despite her better instincts, to prove that she wasn’t a “fuck-up”. Josh says for a moment that he thought about the two of them keeping the baby and raising it, and Claire admits to having thought about little outfits for it.
Then, Claire says, she felt a little guilty. Maybe not guilty perhaps, but with the flushing of the toilet came the dawning realization that she’s an adult, and this is her life, and it’s something that only she is in control of. It’s some great work from Josh Thomas and especially Caitlin Stasey, who’s allowed to do quite a lot her as she processes the emotions she’s experiencing.
I just recently turned 24 years old and I’ve begun to experience this sinking, hard to stomach, realization that I am in fact an adult. I hate it. I absolutely think it’s the worst, and that I’m laughably ill equipped to handle it, just like Claire. One day, you’re too young to properly take care of fish, the next, you’re squatted over a toilet, after you’ve taken medically prescribed medicine to induce a miscarriage. The entire sequence, as Claire goes through the pain and the shock of what happened, is unflinchingly raw.
In particular I loved her comments about her feelings interfering with her politics, and how much it annoyed her. Her mind and her beliefs tells her that she has the right and agency over her own body to make this decision to have an abortion, but she can’t stop the doubt and the what if’s that come along with that decision.
And that is the exceptional yet harsh reality of being a human. We have the ability to think and feel and love and spite in a multitude of manners.Some rational, some objectively not.
We are, crucially, allowed to be more than just one thing. We can contradict what we believed were our politics with emotional responses. Claire is relieved but irritable and emotional. She’s tough but in a vulnerable spot and she’s longing for the gleefully naive freedom that comes from being a kid.
Which makes the ending scene so grin inducingly beautiful. Arnold comes back from his parents, in a bad mood and to help with him and Claire, Tom decides it’s time to let John loose on his miniature scaled, cardboard city that’s been worked on since the third episode of the season.
Of course, John is a pacifist in the end, and it’s now up to Claire, who dons Josh’s dinosaur costume and smashes away. There is something so pointedly touching about Claire, who had just been lamenting the loss of her adolescence innocence, ending the episode dressed up and stomping on play houses. Sure, she’s’ an adult and her responsibilities won’t just wash away and she’s no longer granted the freedom of frivolous ignorance, but she’s allowed to have fun and be silly. Please Like Me has the acute ability to touch those who watch and it’s not because the writers create larger than life storylines that are meant to emotionally manipulate you. Rather, they’re touching because they treasure the mundane and seemingly unimportant. From cooking for a friend, to building an entire city just to tear it down, Please Like Me loves it’s little moments, because they’re often the ones worth remembering.