But what about Edward? Amongst all the sturm und drang of the grownups’ varying tribulations, little Eddie can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame, too; apart from him being, as Beanie Feldstein would say, the titular role, O’Brien’s wounded, withdrawn performance offers the most complete, multifaceted journey among the sprawling ensemble that surrounds him. His youth and innocence compound the tragedy that’s befallen him, an orphaned boy thrust both into a family situation that wasn’t prepared for him and a media landscape that makes him the repository of everything from well-intentioned love to oversharing to conspiracies and death threats. All he has to cling to is the memory of his brother and the guilt of knowing that a game of rock-paper-scissors over which seat they’d take sealed their respective fates.
Granted, it’s all performed with admirable grace and confidence thanks to a committed cast that, at the very least, keeps the thing aloft in each tearjerking moment. Apart from O’Brien, other standouts include Schilling, who infuses Lacy with relatably brittle neuroses, and Dario Ladani Sanchez’s Sam, for whom the loss of an old high school friend in the crash awakens latent conflicts about his sexuality—especially complicated given that he’s married with kids.
But it’s Britton who infuses the most life into the otherwise-dour cast; Dee Dee’s larger-than-life brashness and volatility offer a welcome respite from the downbeat bummers around her, whether she’s rage-eating sympathy cupcakes or telling well-meaning yoga neighbors to “shove [their] kombucha up [their] ass”. Where everyone else feels like a zombie shuffling through the ruins of their deteriorated lives, she demands to see life’s manager, and it’s delightful.
But when the show veers away from Dee Dee or Edward towards its bloated tertiary cast, it becomes hard to, as Lizzy McAlpine mewls through most of the show’s treacly, guitar-folk theme, “hold on” to your attention. There are so many threads to follow, several of whom cover virtually identical territory (married men navigating their sexuality, victims falling in love with family members of other victims), and it’s all weighed down with the same heavy blanket of weepy sincerity. Katims is downright aggressive in how he piles one sadness on top of another, trapping his characters in inescapable dilemmas with little respite.
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