‘Baskets’ Finale: A Wonderful Third Season Ends with a Celebration of Christine

     March 28, 2018

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One of the most delightful things about FX’s Baskets, which comes from star Zach Galifianakis (who plays twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets) and EP Jonathan Krisel (who directs every episode), is its willingness to adjust its story each year in a response to what works best for the show. In its first season, Baskets, a rare comedy that embraces physical humor alongside its more droll observations, focused mostly on Chip returning home to Bakersfield, California from France after training to be a French clown (or “cloon.”) The rest of the humor was mostly mined at Chip’s expense, given his bumbling and inability to make anything go right. In Season 2, the series pivoted to Chip being more of a window for viewers to experience a variety of new experiences and locations, including his time spent with homeless troubadours, and finding his place back in Bakersfield while living with his mother, Christine (played beautifully and sincerely by Louis Anderson).

It was clear early in the series, though, that Christine was secretly the star of the show, with Anderson playing this character in drag in a way that was never funny for that reason. What was funny about Christine was how perfect she was as a Costco-loving mom, and Anderson’s portrayal of her used the most perfect facial expressions or groans or hilariously dry dialogue to convey that. By Season 3, it’s safe to say that Christine was now the star, and rightfully so. Alongside that, Baskets has become an increasingly sweet show, one that has never lost its edge or its humor, but has been willing to try new things to tell the most compelling story possible.

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Image via FX

(Spoilers for the finale beyond this point)

There were several fantastic arcs for Christine over the course of Season 3, including trying to impress her fickle and gossipy friends, her letting Eddie (Ernest Adams) stay at her house, her romance with Ken (the wonderful Alex Morris), and her trip to Vegas for a women’s business conference with Martha (Martha Kelly). It was a season that allowed Christine to really come into her own, thanks to a windfall of an inheritance. But like her sons, her ambition exceeded practicalities, and she had to face some difficult realties that included Dale suing her not once, but twice. (As someone who tries to keep the books balanced I do feel for Dale, who becomes increasingly unhinged as the seasons progress, as he tries to rein in his mother’s spending). Meanwhile, Chip became an even smaller presence in the show, leaving the dreaming to his mother and the grandiosity and arrogance mostly to Dale. And in that, he found a new profound level of his friendship with Martha, who was no longer his scapegoat (in fact, she’s carrying on an affair and has at least two boyfriends!)

Though Season 2 has some really excellent episodes (including my favorite, the “Ronald Reagan Library”), Season 3 has, overall, been the show’s best yet. The finale, “New Year’s Eve,” also served as a fitting conclusion to the tensions the show has built up all season. It didn’t need to address everything, but pushing Dale to the edge thanks to the entrance and swift exit of his finance Shannon gave him a reason for some much-needed introspection, and ultimately the desire to give Ken his blessing in marrying Christine. The way Chip handled himself was also indicative of his growth since the first season; this year he burned his clown costume, realized the importance of Martha’s friendship, stepped up to help with the rodeo, and ultimately called Dale into account for not supporting Ken and Christine’s relationship. He even tried to fix a furnace! (It’s also worth noting that the Twins played no role in the story this year, and that was just fine).

The point, ultimately, is that Christine has been working since the start to connect her family together, and has always been willing to sacrifice for them. She wanted to franchise an Arby’s, and settled on a rodeo for Chip. She tried to make it work, and to involve everyone in it, but it was time for them to do something for her. The look on Christine’s face as she counted down to the new year (in the right cabin — “play dead!”) and excitedly responded with a glee to Ken starting to ask his question, was priceless. It was finally Christine’s moment of happiness, one she has been hoping for and building to for such a long time, without the criticisms of her mother or brother or even her sons to stop her. Whether or not she and Ken do get engaged or  not, it was the perfect way to conclude a season that has been about Christine letting go of the past and embracing a new future, something Baskets has done beautifully each and every season.

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