Divorce is really hard. Making a divorce work isn’t like making a marriage work, because in divorce, you can’t really make a “right” move—the mistake has already been made, and then it’s just… try not to make it worse. That’s what Abby and Jake are trying to do, “try” being the operative word.
For basically the exact same reason, making a show about divorce is also really hard, and in that way, this series is accomplishing something quite bold. Divorce is not a fun time to pop into people’s lives. On Girlfriends’ Guide, we’re pretty much watching everyone make mistake after mistake. The victories are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them small, and the lessons are hard-learned, but they’re there For that reason, the dramatic moments, and the characters who commit most to being a little screwed up seem to work best.
I’m going to have to depart from the likability scale that guided the past two recaps here, because if there’s one thing this episode made perfectly clear, it’s that it’s hard to be likable during a divorce. At a certain point, likability is really not a goal. Abby and Jake have kissed the gentle mediation techniques that seemed so appealing when they first decided to kiss their marriage goodbye, and Lyla is tired of exactly everyone’s bullshit, including her own.
So, how do you make a likable show with a bunch of people going through a dark time? Many have said that the darker themes of Girlfriends’ Guide make it seem like a series for Showtime or AMC, much more than the Network that Andy Cohen Built. But to me—a regular Bravo watcher who takes liberal advantage of the fast-forward button every time I start to feel cringe-y—the network makes a lot of sense. There’s a darkness that underlies the Real Housewives franchise, due in large part to just how many marriages have ended either as a direct result, or perhaps just coincidentally during its tenure.
Someone also always seems to be swinging around a vibrator on those shows too, which brings us to tonight’s episode. “Always” finds our characters at their lowest points yet. Abby is about to spend her first night without her children, and Jake is trying to make his bland apartment a fun second home for his children. Abby’s brother Max is helping Jake move into his new apartment—which I’m pretty sure is on the old set of Melrose Place—and whining about feeling like he has to choose between his sister and his old pal, his sister’s soon-to-be ex-husband. Man… this divorce must be so hard for him.
I think the answer to the question posed earlier about making a show likable with characters who are in a very unlikable place is to make them sympathetic. Jake and Abby’s situation is certainly sympathetic. That’s why, despite a fine job by Patrick Heusinger, I cannot come around on this brother. He has no sympathy for the two people he’s supposedly closest to who are going through a divorce, except to think about how much it’s hurting him. It’s, frankly, a really weird storyline to keep pushing.
It’s also funny then, that on the other side of the fence, I’m finding Becca, Jake’s CW-starring girlfriend, surprisingly sympathetic. She really seems to care for Jake, and therefore, she cares for his situation. She doesn’t harbor ill will toward Abby, and she seems to be coming from a good place when she comes over to help Jake as he crashes and burns trying to entertain his kids. It’s a terrible, unforgivable mistake for him to introduce Becca to his children, especially Lilly, who worships her, when he told Abby he wouldn’t, but it’s his mistake, not Becca’s. Lilly, of course, is thrilled to hang out with a famous actress and get over 400 likes on Instagram.
NEXT: Abby’s dancing on her own…