[7 June 2010]
PopMatters Associate Interviews Editor
With its sixth season now completed and released to DVD Nip/Tuck – the long-running FX show about a couple of aging, dysfunctional plastic surgeons – finally comes to an end. So, how did they wrap things up? They’ve been treading water for a couple of seasons now, and as I said in my review of Season Five, Part Two, “It’s hard to say where the show will go from here. Both [main characters] are still mired in the mid-life crises that began in season one”.
Actually, the answer to that question ends up being quite simple. Nip/Tuck’s writers decided that business and medicine partners Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) would continue to deal with all the usual life problems and crazy patients we’ve seen in the past, but that the season would end with events that would actually change our heroes lives in drastic, likely permanent ways.
The season opens with Christian’s life going back to normal and Sean’s getting worse. The fatal breast cancer that occupied Christian throughout last season is gone, as it turns out his medical records just got mixed up with some other poor sap’s (as I also said in my review of the previous season, it’s a Battlestar Galactica-level cop-out). Of course this means his last minute marriage to lesbian anesthesiologist Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia) needs to end, even though their divorce threatens the fragile triangle that forms the core of McNamara/Troy. It causes all sorts of problems, but it lets Christian go back to his usual diet of hot models, crazy fetishists, and occasional reunions with everyone’s favorite ex-porn star and sex toy manufacturer, Kimber Henry (Kelly Carlson). As usual, he still finds time to spend his money in irresponsible ways and force Sean to fix the various things (and people) he breaks in the process of enjoying his life.
Sean, meanwhile, finds himself on the road to marriage as well. At the end of last season he started loosening up a little, thanks to his new girlfriend Dr. Teddy Rowe (Rose McGowan, who looks and acts nothing like Katee Sackhoff, the actress she replaces). Unfortunately, it seems like she’s a gold-digger at best, though probably something much worst. Why a successful doctor would waste time trying to steal the fortune of someone who tends to face bankruptcy at least once a season is a bit of a mystery, but either way, Sean does not take this revelation well. He spends much of this season making poor choices as a result; choices that hurt his business almost as much as himself. He has all the same problems he’s always had – his inability to hold on to a woman, his jealousy of Christian’s gift at bending the world to his will, and a desire to do something more fulfilling with his life than implant silicone into women’s breasts – but this season they seem to be getting to him more than ever before.
Sean and Christian’s associates also have issues to deal with. Liz is still alone aside from the two men she has always known will never grow up enough for her to fully respect them. Sean’s ex-wife Julia (Joely Richardson) continues to feud with her domineering mother and annoy Sean with her insistence on taking their younger children to places beyond his reach. Their oldest son Matt (John Hensley) drifts further into his downward spiral, turning to a life of crime when his quest to become a professional mime doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. An assortment of other characters from Sean and Christian’s past also make appearances, including surgery addict Joan Rivers and Aurelia Gallardo, the daughter of old nemesis Escobar and the sexual victim of the dead man the surgeons dumped in the Everglades back in the very first episode of season one.
As usual, Sean and Christian meet their fair share of new faces, mostly through their work at the practice. Among others, there is a model who doesn’t want to be beautiful anymore; a death-row inmate who needs liposuction before he can be executed; a woman whose face was destroyed by her friend’s chimpanzee; and a transsexual who wants to look like a man but is only attracted to straight men. As one-shot characters, they’re as interesting as anything Nip/Tuck has shown us before, but unfortunately this show has been doing this for a long time now, and even the most die-hard fans must admit that the freak-show – however well-rounded and non-judgmental its presentations – has lost its novelty after six long seasons.
The real hook for most longtime viewers is seeing what happens to this messed-up group of ex-Floridians as the show comes to a close. Most of them will probably be satisfied with the resolutions (or lack thereof) their favorite characters get in the end. Whether it’s Kimber’s tragic final attempt to win back Christian, or Matt’s decision to accept an unorthodox and unequal relationship in order to be with the person he loves, everything makes perfect sense in the context of Nip/Tuck’s off-the-rails universe. As for Christian and Sean, they take the path that they’ve been drawn toward but have been afraid to embark upon since the very first episode. It really is the right way to wrap up the central story of this once-great mix of impossibly cool aesthetics and soapy melodrama. It’s just a shame it took so damned long.
The DVD version features only one extra, a short documentary on the “Psychology of Beauty”, which sadly is not any more substantial than the paper-thin featurettes proved with other recent seasons.