'Nip/Tuck' ends softly, surprisingly and lovingly
Have there been more gut-wrenching lines expressed between heterosexual men on TV before?
When Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) told Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) in Wednesday night's series finale that he was dissolving their partnership so that Sean could move on and practice the kind of medicine he’d always dreamed of, “Nip/Tuck” slapped me in the face. Not in its usual shocking way, with a gruesome surgery or another orgy, but with a tenderness and sentiment that I had really missed.
FX’s sexy plastic surgery drama rocked my world from the start. I couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous cast, hyper-real situations, intrigue, off-beat surgeries, outstanding soundtrack, and the fresh prism through which it examined our culture. Loyal to the end, I stuck with it, even when in later seasons the insanity outweighed the sanity, and Sean and Christian, as doctors and as men, no longer moved me.
But as the end neared, “Nip/Tuck” returned to its center -- the doomed love story between Sean and Christian, two best friends and business partners who fought constantly, betrayed each other countless times (sleeping with each other’s wives was just the half of it) and broke up several times. Remember when they fixed their broken hearts/bruised egos with a three-way -- and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful episodes of the series? Juxtaposed with a scene in the operating room in which Sean and Christian surgically separated conjoined twins, the provocative turn served to bring home the point that they really did need each other.
This season, in one of the series’ most well-written and best-performed episodes, the two doctors wound up on a therapist’s couch, trying to figure out if their relationship could be saved. Although they both pretended that it could, Christian proved the stronger, finally accepting that the person he loved most in the world would die spiritually if he didn’t let him go.
Their goodbye at the airport was a heart-breaker, with Art Garfunkel’s “AII I Know” playing in the background. The first time creator Ryan Murphy introduced that melancholic song -- “I bruise you / You bruise me / We both bruise too easily / Too easily to let it show / I love you, and that’s all I know” -- was at the end of the second season when the menacing Carver stabbed Christian.
Used again, during their real goodbye, the song's lyrics became sadder and more potent, McNamara/Troy closed once and for all, and the message loud and clear: Most people never change. They simply can’t.
“The point that Ryan was making all along was as poignant as ever,” FX President and General Manager John Landgraf told me in an interview. “If you want to change, it starts from the inside out, not outside in. Very few people do it and this obsession that we have in our culture with being beautiful, young, thin and famous has nothing to do with what people need to be happy in their lives.”
Murphy says he’d always intended for the series “to begin with a bang and go out with a whisper” and the last few episodes definitely paved the wave for that. The fan sites have been buzzing with predictions of murder and mayhem and the operatic flourishes the series was known for, but Murphy, who wrote the finale, took the opposite approach. And the result was very touching.
As Christian walked away from Sean, and both men held in their emotions, I couldn’t help but recall the excruciating fight scene between them in the second season when Sean learned that Christian had slept with Julia (Joely Richardson) in college. “I loved you the most!” Sean said then in pure agony.
But with his final act of kindness, when he let Sean leave so that he could finally be true to himself, Christian proved that though he won’t change (there he was in the last scene at the bar with the pretty blond again) -- it was he who had loved the most.
Love won on “Nip/Tuck.” Who would have thought?
-- Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)
Photo: "Nip/Tuck" cast in a dinner scene from the series finale. Credit: FX