Gah! Only one more installment left of this show, and I am unfairly resenting it for failing to give us an action-laden penultimate episode. And I'm even more worried that the season/series finale next week will provide more questions than closure. But I digress.
As I said, this week's episode was not an adrenaline-pumping affair. Even Bryce has toned down the theatricality of his destruction, moving away from the in-your-face havoc-wreaking and going instead for the psychological jugulars of Tara's loved ones, a technique made even creepier by his prep-school-esque wardrobe. His alter-killings, too, have lost their initial steam and dramatic flair, instead treating us (and the Gregsons) to surprisingly emotional final glimpses of the original three personalities before they are to be mercilessly and internally executed, free of outward fuss or fanfare, in probably a similar fashion as the series itself will end. It seems appropriate that the audience was given one last chance to say goodbye to Buck, T and Alice, and even more appropriate that Bryce/Tara allowed each of them to say their final piece to a different (and relatable) family member—a somewhat sweet gesture if not for the fact that all three of the alters reverted back into Bryce just in time to thoroughly disturb Max, Kate and Marshall, alike. In fact, the entire episode managed to consistently communicate the same underlying message throughout: no matter how good/happy/nostalgic life can get for these people, it will always be punctuated by the danger/chaos/insanity that will quickly follow. If we didn't get the gist of this before, it certainly became clear the second Bryce literally rattled Kate and Marshall out of their happy childlike reverie.
"Crunchy Ice" was definitely designed to appeal to our emotions rather than our desire for excitement, and as such, it was a success. Who among us was able to watch with a straight face a horrified Tara begging Marshall for forgiveness after physically attacking him? Or a painfully loyal Max trying to come up with alternatives to having Tara institutionalized in spite of everyone else's advice? Or Charmy raging at Real-Bryce's decade-old grave? Or Tara grimly recalling her vows and professing her love for Max right before jumping off a bridge? (We know she survives it, but still—the intent!) Sure, we can all agree that having Tara committed is probably best at the moment, especially when Max's crazy mom seems normal by comparison, but seeing Tara's entire family unanimously decide to send her away and knowing it had to be done was... hard, and the evidence of everyone moving on with their lives away from Tara was both triumphant and tragic.
This is officially Tara's nadir, and it's one that the entire season up to this point has worked up (down?) to. With a single episode left, questions abound: Was Tara's subconscious search for Bryce (via Buck) the reason she retreated into his personality? Will she ever get to meet with the Boston doctor, and will he be able to help? Will Marshall ever get to New York City? Will Kate find stability with Evan and his son? Perhaps next week's finale will answer these and other questions; perhaps—like season finales past—it will leave us with an overall sense of hope for the future of this family. But for now, I can't help but fear that the season-long self-destructive motif up to its culmination in Tara's leap off the bridge was mere foreshadowing. Five more days and we'll know for sure. Or, you know, for ambiguous.