IMHO “United States of Tara” Season Finale (1.12): Miracles

Last night was the season-one finale of Showtime’s United States of Tara and like all great season-enders left us wanting more, especially when it comes to the complicated teenager Marshall (Keir Gilchrist).

Find out why this episode earns an arrow up, and take a look back at the first season and the emergence of a potentially ground-breaking gay character.

When we first met fourteen-year old Marshall, he was a bed-wetting (though he’s exonerated later) jazz fan who dressed like an elderly accountant and made "muffins of triumph." Considering what he had to put up with during his short life (the whole "my mom’s koo-koo" thing), it’s not all that weird (except the jazz thing … that’s just wrong).

During the first few episodes it became clear that Marshall had his own, um … quirks, like beating up his sister’s abusive boyfriend and creating elaborate dioramas. But it wasn’t until he started crushing on fellow teen Jason (Andrew Lawrence) that he really started to flower as a character.

Jason was a minister’s son, and Marshall was so smitten he even agreed to help out with the local "Hell House", and the two bonded over the hilariously obscene and offensive display.

It was unclear if Jason was gay, curious, or just trying to rebel, but when Marshall kissed him after a boozy play-date, he kissed back. Unfortunately, Tara’s alter "T" took notice, and in a moment of mother-meddling decided to put her own moves on Marshall’s wannabe boyfriend.

Betrayed, Marshall revealed new shading to his personality by calmly going off the deep end and burning down his mother’s work/alter shed.

As the season-ender opens up, Tara is in a hospital trying to cope with her alters, and Marshall is still not ready to forgive her. Strangely, the pill-popping he developed last week is nowhere to be found (maybe it was just a side-effect of the Valley of the Dolls marathon … heaven knows watching Lisa Hartman and Patty Duke trying to out Neely each other can drive anyone to drugs).

Marshall is trying to deal with the fact that Jason has ended things between them, and his cool aunt Charmaigne’s hot new boyfriend Nick tries to help out by … standing there being hot.

He finds out that Jason has been seen in the close company of a girl, and finally accepts that Tara was trying to help him out when "T" put the moves on Jason.

Marshall visits his mom in the hospital and forgives her, and the episode ends with a "life goes on" scene at a bowling alley, with the whole family together (including the alters).

This episode gets an up arrow for the same reason the entire season gets an up arrow: because the character of Marshall is a true breath of fresh air. He’s unique, engaging, and completely unpredictable.

What at first seemed like a gimmicky character (so many "funny quirks") has become a fascinating portrait of a complicated kid trying to deal with an impossible situation.

Hopefully when the show comes back for its second season (next year, unfortunately), they’ll continue to explore Marshall’s coming-of-age in the same off-the-wall, unpredictable way.

What did you think about the last episode, and the season as a whole? Looking forward to Season Two, or have you had enough of Tara and her brood?

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.