TV Review: ‘Nip/Tuck’ Begins Final Season Without Much Fanfare
CHICAGO – Ryan Murphy’s “Nip/Tuck” begins its final cosmetic procedure this evening, starting a nine-episode arc that will end this once-promising series that has been in need of a face lift for a few years now. Even with its sizable flaws since it jumped the shark in season three, I always thought that “Nip/Tuck” could return to the relative greatness of its first two to three seasons. But based on the first two episodes of the final season, “Nip/Tuck” seems to be going out with a whimper when these over-sexed doctors surely deserve a bang.
Television Rating: 2.5/5.0
Of course, it’s unlikely that “Nip/Tuck” truly will end on a placid, contemplative note considering the insanity the characters have gone through in the last few years, but the first two episodes are surprisingly familiar. They don’t feel like a show hurtling toward a conclusion as much as one waiting to be put out to pasture. As the ratings have slid over the last few seasons so it seems has the creative spark of the show waned.
Photo credit: FX
What’s so frustrating about “Nip/Tuck” is the familiarity of the beats hit in the season premiere. Christian cheats on Kimber and gets a woman pregnant AGAIN. As he says, apparently, he has super sperm. He asks Sean to perform a vasectomy, which is made to look as easy to do as getting your teeth cleaned. Meanwhile, the two perform surgery on someone with an amazingly intense condition that forces him to commit acts of self-mutilation in the “shocking patient” plotline of the week. Most interestingly, the show flashes back to two younger actors well-cast as the student-age Sean and Christian forming their first partnership and Sean runs into an old student peer who shows him proof of a life better-lived than Dr. McNamara and rekindles memories that Dr. Troy has been screwing up his life for a very long time.
Photo credit: FX
If the show is overly familiar, as so many are in their later years, why not dismiss it entirely? Walsh and McMahon are still good and there are still scenes that work. Most importantly, there is a slight hint that Murphy, who wrote and directed the mid-season premiere, is trying to bring the series back to what defined it in the beginning - two men with serious problems underneath trying to fix the surface issues of others but unable to mend their own internal wounds. Sean’s savior complex comes into play when he assumes his patient’s mental problem will be fixed by plastic surgery and Christian’s deep human flaws play a role again.
Ultimately, what has frustrated me so deeply about “Nip/Tuck” in the last few years is what’s going to make the final season less than satisfying - the actions of recent seasons have had no repercussions. Just last season, Sean’s wife tried to kill him before being murdered herself and Kimber was forced to have an abortion to marry Christian. And yet these events are barely mentioned. Christian gets cancer and it doesn’t change him at all? Sean and Christian suffer through an economic crisis last season and now it’s barely mentioned? Even Liz seems not to care that she just divorced Dr. Troy.
How can the final arc of “Nip/Tuck” work? Focus on the characters and the impact of their actions. Make Christian’s flaws important to his character arc instead of just episode-specific problems. The most interesting line in the first two episodes is when Sean tells Christian that he’s “done being a substitute for his conscience.” Explore that in depth. And recognize that Sean has long been a piling up series of problems from the way he deals with his wife to his kids to his business partner and let the meltdown begin. He’s long been “one more straw” from losing it. Let that straw land on his back.
Or…if they didn’t want to approach “Nip/Tuck” realistically, let the show fly completely off the rails as it has done at times. Go nuts. Kill characters. Send some to jail. Embrace the series more soap operatic elements. It’s when the show tries to have it both ways, as it has done so the last few years, that it’s disappointing. It’s not too late to pick a side for the final arc - melodrama or realism - but it’s getting there.