Final Season of Hulu’s ‘Casual’ Tries to Find True Love at the End of the Road
Hulu’s “Casual” is bowing out with a fourth and final season that again ponders everything that is strange, tricky and lonely about modern love. This was never a dreary show, but a contemplative one. In its final round nearly every episode is its own story, like a collage of how the middle class deals with romance in an era devoid of it, where anxiety and uncertainty are the norm. For fans of the last three seasons there will be some fitting resolutions and fun surprises.
As the season begins Valerie (Michaela Watkins) is dealing with two emotionally draining issues: Her daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) is back from abroad with a new girlfriend, Tathiana (Lorenza Izzo). Valerie is a bit nervous because of the shaky relationship between her and Laura in the last two seasons, especially when Laura walked in on Valerie having sex with a teacher she was crushing on. But time and distance seem to have smoothed out some of the hurt feelings. Valerie is also feeling unfulfilled with her work as a therapist, and starts contemplating doing something new, like opening wine shop. Valerie’s own brother Alex (Tommy Dewey), is having his own internal dilemmas. He’s having an unofficial relationship with Rae (Maya Erskine), which essentially means they live together with Rae’s cute little daughter, but he can still go out and sleep with casual partners. But when Rae brings her own new fling to the house, Alex starts freaking out and begins to question his approach to relationships and dating.
Season four of “Casual” has the fitting feel of a person who has been around the block quite often and is starting to mellow out, either cynically or hopefully, and begins to start reflecting more deeply on the very nature of relationships. It’s a wise move to close out the series now, as the storylines still have heart and interest. What always made “Casual” a fun and engaging binge is how it doesn’t need to try too hard to conjure interesting conflict for the characters. Their issues are immensely relatable. In this season Alex finds himself in that interesting conundrum that has a habit of popping up in this era of casual relations: What is one to do if the hook up turns into real feelings? In Alex’s case he starts wondering if maybe it’s him who is seeking something more meaningful after living so freely for so long. His initial reaction is one of the season’s funniest early subplots, as he starts stalking Rae’s lover, trying to get social media information, inviting him over for a beer to subtly do an interrogation. Eventually he decides to escape into a virtual reality program, meeting women jacking into the program as well. These moments are funny but also have a depth to them. In the third episode Alex really starts asking questions about himself, and the VR becomes a metaphor for how everyone is free, but after a while shallow choices start leaving a void.
All the characters are well-served for their final bows. Whether relationships or finding a decent job, life enjoys throwing curve balls and everyone faces one or two per episode. Valerie would like to start fresh with a wine business, but there’s a difference between enthusiasm and planning things out. She soon learns during a first business meeting that there’s more to selling wine then just liking the taste of “reds.” She also seems to find some romance later on but it is ever so fleeting. This season what is more interesting about her is how she grows as a person. Laura’s relationship is also written with a very knowing sense of how people are. Everything seems fine with Tathiana until Laura asks if she can move in, then reality hits and Tathiana reveals that’s not what she’s after at the moment. The way words create self-doubt and drop like atom bombs in a relationship is captured with sharp precision in this show. Alex gets a taste of it too when Rae decides to move out.
This season of “Casual” never gets too melodramatic or over the top, even the twists, like some big news Leia (Julie Berman) has for Leon (Nyasha Hatendi), feel as natural as life deciding to mess with you. While some shows like “This Is Us” have done a fine job capturing many of the cultural buzzwords and moods of the moment, “Casual” successfully uses the themes of casual relationships to explore multiple ideas. The search for love in an era of fleeting relations is at the center, but it is also a funny, light take on our anxieties, insecurities and search for acceptance in a world moving so fast. From the first season on, the characters grew and went through experiences the way people tend to in life. Unwise choices, bad relationships, stupid mistakes all colored the lives of these characters the way they color our own, with the added twerks of TV drama. In this season there are some great lines throughout that capture it all. Alex explains his relationship with Rae as, “sexually incompatible co-parents who mostly but not exclusively love each other.” Valerie replies that that’s precisely what one would call a marriage.
“Casual” ends its run on Hulu as an entertaining, heartfelt take on how we are loving others and ourselves in the lonely suburban corners of the republic. It has tears, hugs and smiles, with everyone finding something good at the end of the road to love about themselves and each other, as imperfect as it all may be.
“Casual” season four premieres July 31 on Hulu.