Garrett Hedlund’s Spence and Anna Paquin’s Isabelle unexpectedly form a friendship after their marriages implode in “In the Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses.” Andrew Rannells wrote and directed the seventh episode “How Do You Remember Me?”, in which 20somethings Ben (Marquis Rodriguez) and Robbie (Zane Pais) spot each other on a New York City sidewalk years after their date went awry. And the season concludes with “Second Embrace, With Hearts and Eyes Open,” starring Sophie Okonedo and Tobias Menzies as exes who find their way back to each other years after their divorce.
For the most part, the central performances throughout these episodes are passable (the pairings of Akinnagbe and Chao and Okonedo and Menzies have nice, low-key chemistry), with a few being quite good (Driver’s appreciably sarcastic “F**k my life”; Jack Reynor stealing “Strangers on a Train” right out from under Harington; Fishback’s tangible anger as the rejected Lil). But others are tonally off: Hedlund is so stiff that he marches headfirst into unbelievability, while Boynton isn’t acidic enough to convey her character’s cynicism. And no matter the quality of these performances, they often lose out to the overly twee components of many of these episodes, from first-person, overly self-aware narration in both “The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy” and “Strangers on a Train” to pop culture-reference-laden dialogue that tries too hard to communicate time and place. (When will we, as a society, realize that the phenomenally aggravating final season of “Game of Thrones” essentially nullified the resonance of future allusions to the show in unrelated series and films? The time has to be soon!)
Some of these chapters could have benefited from a longer run time. “Am I…? Maybe this Quiz Will Tell Me” well captures the contrast between our online and offline lives; it’s nothing “Eighth Grade” didn’t already do, but Wilson is compellingly open in the episode. Hedlund and Paquin don’t really spark against each other in “In the Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses,” but the episode also spends valuable time trying to tackle PTSD, a tall task for an episode that can barely sell its central romance within 30 minutes. But others feel overly stretched, in particular “How Do You Remember Me?”, which is so reliant on its back-and-forth editing to convey the characters’ contrasting recollections of their only date that it loses any sense of natural rhythm. All in all, the imbalance of “How Do You Remember Me?” is indicative of the series’ intermittent ability to stretch an idea into an episode, and then stretch that episode into insight.