Review: ‘The Big C’ Season Premiere – Thinking Outside The Coffin

Posted on June 27, 2011


The sophomore season of The Big C finds consistency in the areas it didn’t quite excel in last season. More on tonight’s wonderful return after the jump…

The Big C (photo: Showtime)

I have a lot of sympathy for Cathy Jamison. I really, really do. But last season it appeared there was no person that could compete with Cathy’s bitchy, self-righteous ways. The problem wasn’t with the performance at all (Laura Linney always gives it her best and plays the flawed character marvelously); the problem came right down to the writing. Fortunately, the lead two writers (Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks) for the show have focused in on season one’s instability issues and have written Cathy as a three-dimensional character that is far more easy to relate to than she was last year.

Cathy is experiencing unfathomable migraines that are turning into horrific nightmares, which is a nice way of bringing Marlene back into the fold. Last season Marlene committed suicide after revealing to her closest friend Cathy (who were once upon a night enemies) that she had Alzheimer’s. It was a sad revelation that became far more emotional after the unexpected suicide. I was worried the show would be losing Phyllis Somerville, but it seems my preconceived notions were unwarranted. Marlene may be dead and gone but her spirit lives on as Cathy continues to battle for her life and coping with cancer.

Sean is finally made aware of his sister’s condition and he reacts every bit as much as his sister expected. After promising to Cathy that she would not spill the beans, Sean’s fiancee Rebecca breaks the news to the soon-to-be daddy and tension is instantly created between the siblings. It’s unfortunate in many ways. Not only did Cathy and Sean manage to rekindle many aspects of their family relationship prior to this, but Sean was finally at peace with many things; his living arrangements, his future as a dad, and a soon-to-be husband. All that emotional progress that was made is now on the brink of destruction all because Cathy withheld the news from him for so long, once again playing into her selfish ways. Had Cathy been truthful from the onset and informed her family, friends, and loved ones that she had The Big C, most of the turmoil would be nonexistent.

There’s three other interesting developments in the premiere. Thomas, Marlene’s dog, appears to be dead at two points during the half-hour, and both times are truly emotional. The basset is Cathy’s only physical connection to her former friend and a very real representation of how she has one foot in the death doorway. She realizes she can pass away at any time, which is why she’s so heavily determined to get a second opinion from a new doctor. At first she doesn’t have so much luck with that. Her luck does increase though from a rather unfortunate twist. Trying to ease away the pain by using marijuana, Cathy shares with Paul (who are both equally stoned) that she once had a romantic encounter with her doctor, Todd Mauer. It seems at first glance that Paul is okay with it (and probably not coherent enough to fully understand the fact), but he confronts Todd, punches him in the face, and questions his professionalism. Doing what he believes is in the best interest of his reputation and for Cathy, he drops her as a patient, but not before he’s made sure she has a spot on another doctor’s roster.

I’m not too sure what to expect from this season or a series as a whole; at some point we’ll figure out whether she successfully kicks the cancer’s ass, or falls victim to it–not much surprise there. But what I mostly take away from the show is that these characters are on a very emotional journey, and it’s the way they cope with all the misfortunes that truly makes it a show worth watching.

What did you all think?

Posted in: journalism