The Split

We just finished this last night and I can’t believe I have to wait another year for the third and final season to find out what happens with the characters, I’m invested!

Actually, I’d never heard of “The Split.” But my buddy Don Down Under recommended it, and when I looked it up on RottenTomatoes the Critics Rating was 75%, but the Audience Score was 91%, so I was intrigued. Normally I like it the other way, a higher Critic score. But anything with a number in the nineties is worth checking out.

So we did.

The thing you have to know about “The Split” is it stars Nicola Walker, one of the best actresses in the U.K. The acting in “The Split” is phenomenal, a cut above everything on network and most on cable, and the outfits! I’m not into fashion whatsoever, but even I was moved by the clothing, especially what the women wear. I was calculating the cost in my head, wondering if attorneys could really afford it, and I ultimately decided they could, but the stylist deserves kudos, I only wish this person could outfit me. Never mind so many business people in the public eye. The right colors, the right fit, they make all the difference.

So what you’ve got here is a series about family law, i.e. divorce.

Practicing law is boring and oftentimes unsatisfying. There’s a scene where the law association has a mixer and I about puked, the thought of hanging around with people discussing legal issues was a huge turnoff. But if it had been music issues…

But these attorneys are really into their jobs. Furthermore, they’re really into the money, getting clients, boosting the charges, gaining revenue and prominence. It’s offensive. I guess I see law as a service, and once you focus on business, the clients take a back seat.

Not that the attorneys in this show are bad at the law, quite the contrary, they’re excellent! Nicola Walker’s Hannah is a superstar, but sans the superstar trappings. Too often people become winners in their field and they’ve got to tell you all about it, they hire PR people to plant stories, it becomes offensive. But Hannah is just doing the work, confidently.

We learn that she has gotten out from under the thumb of her mother Ruth, at the family firm, Defoes, which has been in business for over a century. And Deborah Findlay as Ruth is at first off-putting and offensive, radiating no sexuality, you almost wonder if she’s a man, but as the series evolves you realize not only is she a great attorney, she’s a great advisor, she’s the one keeping the family together, if only every family had a matriarch like this. On some level, Ruth is too involved, but when her kids touch the third rail, she calmly counsels them, instead of freaking out they should see what’s important and save it, as opposed to throwing it out and ruining their lives. In America youth is idolized, if you’re old you’re made fun of, but then you watch Ruth and you realize that’s what we need over here, more respected Ruths.

And Ruth has three children, the aforementioned Hannah, and Nina and Rose. Hannah ultimately has to oversee everything, she’s responsible, even though she can never arrive anywhere on time. One of the progeny always plays this role, of herding cats. They don’t want to take on the duty, but they’re fearful if they don’t chaos will ensue. It’s draining, with no acknowledgement, but if they don’t do it no one will.

Rose is the youngest, the baby of the family, and she acts like it. Every once in a while someone in the show is called on their crap, they’re being artificially nice, they’re complaining, and then they’re busted. And the busting is frequently done by Nina. Nina is the middle child. Beautiful, like Hannah she followed in her mother’s footsteps, she became an attorney, not that she loves the work, as a matter of fact she’s not quite sure what her life is about. Nina is in her mid-thirties yet she can’t sustain a relationship, even though she’s not averse to having sex. But she’s also a drinker, and when she drinks…she says the unsayable. Both things everyone knows and those they don’t. She shocks everybody with her statements. And you’ve got to give her credit for being honest, she’s not duplicitous, which we ultimately find Hannah is, but in real life most people, especially successful people, know the boundaries and observe them.

Nathan is Hannah’s husband. They met in law school. They’ve got three children. He’s a nice guy. But maybe that’s not attractive enough.

Christie went to law school with them and it turns out…he could never get over Hannah, she’s the one he wanted and still wants.

Hmm… That’s what’s great about this show, it gets the emotions, the feelings right. You’d be stunned how many people, especially men, have never gotten over their young loves, fantasize about them, believe if they could just reconnect with them their lives would work.

And they also get divorce right. If you’ve ever been divorced, you know it’s completely different from how it’s portrayed in the media. There’s a deep connection between the two of you and then someone breaks the bond. Let me be clear here, anybody who tells you a divorce is mutual is lying through their teeth, they’re afraid of telling the truth, for fear of looking guilty if they were the responsible party, or fear of looking like a sad sack if they were caught unawares.

Furthermore, there’s a breaking point in every breakup. Something that is said that pushes the other over the line. Whether you’re married or just living together, you have a fight and then someone says something and you realize…there’s no coming back from this. You can try to patch it up, but it’s over.

So, other than Rose, all the major characters are attorneys, and they’re all family law attorneys, which is radically different from being a corporate or business attorney. First and foremost, it’s oftentimes hard to make a big buck because most people can’t afford to pay it! Yes, divorce is paid for by the clients, who rarely have deep pockets, unlike the corporation, you can only charge so much. Which is one reason why Zander, the managing partner, is always looking to snare high profile clients, who can afford to pay. But it also switches the focus, because in family law, it’s about the people. It’s rarely about the people in other avenues of practice. Sure, people might feel the end result, but divorce and its attendant processes speak to the heart of your identity, the center of your life, what you are living for, your bond to your spouse and your family, assuming you’ve got children. This show portrays this so well. You think your career is important, just wait until the tree of your home life is shaken, suddenly you have trouble functioning in business, you now realize we’re all equal, just people on the planet, and if our people life, our regular life, isn’t working, then nothing is. Which is one reason why the uncoupled often overwork. Because if they have to look at the four walls, they go crazy.

So there are two seasons, each only six episodes long. And the travails of the main characters are the focus, but threaded throughout are family law disputes, and the truth is we can relate to all of them. The child who gets into a bad relationship. The abusive husband. What’s the right course of action, how do you cope with this? Now many people don’t, but those with money can afford these family lawyers to help them effect a reasonable solution.

Now to tell you the truth, at the beginning of the second season, maybe even at the end of the first, the show devolves a bit, to the point where you just think it’s a classy “L.A. Law,” maybe even “Ally McBeal.” But there’s not the ridiculous, unbelievable humor. But everybody seems to be in crisis, almost to the point where you shake your head. But then it gets back on track, maybe because the acting is so damn good.

I love these shows. If you’re interested in people more than business, if you’re into reality more than fantasy, “The Split” is for you.

Then again, too many people are afraid to dig into the issues, which is why most won’t go see a psychotherapist, and many can only talk about the external, everything but themselves. Men are the worst, which is why conversations with women are usually more rewarding. They’re less worried about the totem pole and more interested in their feelings, and how people interact, and that’s what this show is all about.

Now “The Split” is on Hulu. Or if you’re a Sundance subscriber, you can watch it there too. And the truth is if something’s not on the big three, Netflix, Amazon and HBO, many people don’t have access. (Yes, Disney has a ton of subscribers, but it’s mostly about kid and fantastical content, I had a free subscription, I never bothered to renew it, there was nothing I wanted to see.) So you might be intrigued but the hurdle to watching is just too much.

And that’s too bad.

You want to connect with real life? Watch “The A Word” or “Bonus Family” or “The Split.” The truth is “The Split” is not quite as good as the other two, but quality shows in this vein are rare, but when we find one we want to connect with other like-minded people, to tell them about it, to discuss it after they see it.

Let’s talk after you watch “The Split.”

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