I’ve just watched the series finale of Baskets on FX. As a self-confessed Baskets-case this might be more of a tribute than a review. Over the last three years I have basked in the brilliance of the performances; two are by the show’s Exec Producer and co-creator Zach Galifianakis as as twin brothers Chip and Dale, and as with Tom Hardy’s stunning work in the 2015 Krays movie Legend, I often had to remind myself that these weren’t two different actors, but one supremely talented one who’d impressively created such distinct characters. Then there’s the genius casting, clear throughout, but exemplified right at the heart of the show with Louie Anderson as Mrs Baskets and of course, the hilarious, acutely observed writing. All of which was on display in the 26 minute finale, which airs in the US this Thursday 22nd August at 10pm ET/PT, written and directed by Jonathan Krisel.
Early in the series there was no lack of awkward moments that made me squirm, although brilliantly written and acted, there were definitely scenes that I found a little hard to watch in that The Office oh-no-please-don’t-say-that kind of way, especially Chip’s treatment of Martha (Martha Kelly) as they began their one-sided freindship, and the way the twins treated their mother. Maybe it’s just that I have come to accept these characters like weird in-laws, but recently I’ve found even Dale a little less abhorrent. Yes, he is a gun-toting, conspiracy theory peddling, make America great againer, drawn in broadstrokes, but Zach Galifianakis bring a humanity to him that always makes you think there’s a misguided man-child underneath that exterior who deserves another chance. He’s part of the family, and receives the unconditional love of his mother, which encourages us to not completely give up on him either. There have always been Dales around, his character pre-dates the 2016 election result, and his proclivities don’t prevent the show from providing some much needed respite from the car-crash political news cycle of the real world. I enjoyed escaping to Bakersfield each week as much I like spending time in Schitt’s Creek. It’s a cliché, but Baskets should be available over the counter in your local pharmacy as as a restorative.
As the series has progressed, all of the lead characters’ lives have gradually developed. At 49 Chip has finally moved out of his mother’s home. He may not been ‘clooning’ as his French ex-wife Penelope would say, but as Christine reminds him, at least he had the opportunity to go to Paris to train. He did get out of Bakersfield once and knows there’s a wider world out there. It’s been satisfying to see him attempt to take some control of his life and devote himself to self-improvement, however misguided the means.
With all that she’s gone through with her twins by birth, going from one disaster to the next, and her adopted sons rarely in her life, it has been heartwarming to see the widowed Christine find love and happiness with the Carpet King, Ken (Alex Morris). I’d begun to be concerned that his ‘carpet emergency’ would be an indefinite one and threaten their relationship, but thankfully it looks like happiness in Denver is on the cards for the pair. She never liked that new house anyway.
It was a genius idea to bring such a grounded, decent man into Christine’s world – dependable, with his cellphone earpiece always in place, as sure as Martha’s green cast is always on her arm. But not for much longer, as FX’s succinct one sentence finale description reveals “Martha removes her cast.” Yes, following some drama which I won’t spoil, finally Martha is free of her green cast, and as a series finale treat, we even find out the reason why she was wearing it for all these years. And there’s finally some balance in her relationship with Chip. Who knows there might even be some romance between them down the line. If there’s ever a special one off episode or a spin-off Baskets movie maybe Martha and Chip’s wedding would be a good setting? I’d love to hear her deadpan ‘I do’. No one deadpans quite like Martha Kelly as Martha. Yet as lifeless as her voice is, there’s a fully realised, recognisable, lovable person there and it’s been satisfying to see her shed her passivity and take some real action, particularly in this final episode.
Louie Anderserson deservedly won an Emmy last year for his nuanced work on the series as Christine. One of my favourite episodes of this final season, “Grandmother’s Day” was largely devoted to quality grandmother time between Dale’s daughter Crystal (Julia Rose Gruenberg) and Christine, as she helped with a school project. Spotting Crystal kissing her female friend in the swimming pool, Christine later broaches the subject of sexuality with her granddaughter with some reassurance, “I mean I love Ellen, she’s terrific.” When Crystal says that most of her friends are bisexual, Christine is touchingly, instantly accepting, “I’ll go to any parade you want” she says, “except I won’t be able to walk because I have that darn Plantar fasciitis, it’s no fun.”
In one of his finest moments as Christine this season, while giving a speech about her u-turn on the bullet train that will go through the site of her Rodeo, in episode 9, she throws in her granddaughter’s sexuality. I’m sure the connection makes some sense in her head about change being inevitable, and her granddaughter’s generation being part of that change: “the only constant in life is change, that train is coming, that change is happening and my granddaughter is bi.” Both these scenes demonstrate how funny, absurd, touching, even deeply moving and often delightfully uplifting Louie Anderson’s performance is and I will miss it. In fact I’ll probably just rewatch this ingenious series. A lot. It’s a classic and if you’ve not seen it, why are you reading this? Get watching, you’re in for a treat.
By James Kleinmann
Baskets series finale airs tonight Thursday 22nd August at 10pm ET/PT on FX.