In this week's Chasing Life
finale, April finally goes through a very difficult chemo treatment, both physically and emotionally.
I guess it's time for a story.
Like all people, I've known someone with cancer. When I was younger, maybe 10, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. A very aggressive breast cancer. We were close before. The before is a telling part of another story.
But my memories of this time are vague. At 10, I knew that she had very aggressive breast cancer. She could die. But there is so much glossed over at that age (and sometimes any age). The technical side of things is over your head, the family dynamics are only basically grasped and on top of that everything feels fine for the most part. The fact that Chasing Life has addressed all of these things and exposed them is impressive to me.
There's so much glossed over about cancer on TV. No one wants to dive in deep, you know? For better or worse, April's cancer jolted everyone in her entire life to stop glossing things over. The half-sister storyline comes to light. The acting out stops. People talk about their issues at a support group instead of ignoring them. In a weird way, everything that was glossed over about April's life before absolutely cannot now.
The recent cancer show The Big C did, but that was about a woman in her 40s accepting her terminal status. A recent-ish storyling on Parenthood did. But cancer is usually the gift given to guest star love interests or women in their 40s or the parents of lead characters. The fact that we can have three shows about women with cancer -- and have the characters and shows be completely different -- speaks volumes about how women can be so different and complex.
April is a complex character and this is the best episode Chasing Life could have churned out for her, maybe the best it will ever be. It's hard to see what the future stakes will be for April (how can you dramatize remission over and over again?), but in this episode April's chemo treatment is drawn out, though for good measure. April's cancer journey has been especially difficult because she just can't accept things.
April must spend a month at the hospital recovering after chemo because AML is a special kind of cancer. April, Beth and Brenna lie in the grass looking at the weather, enjoying April's last day outside before April meets her two new BFFs: a catheter and an IV.
We meet her hospital crew -- a no-nonsense nurse name Leelani and a sweet one named Martina who give her the low-down. I can't believe that April can afford a single room at the hospital. This is crazy expensive.
April has trouble adjusting to the chemo and the hospital because she is prone to hallucinations. Hallucinations are one of my favorite tropes in television because they allow infinite imagination for the writers to show us what people are actually thinking or afraid of. So we have that to look forward to.
After she wakes up, who would be in her bedroom but Dominic. They hug and you can maybe see April planning a wedding or something in her eyes as Dom says he knew he shouldn't have left. April shrugs off that she was sick, but Dom presses for when she found out. You know, the night of our first date. They have an honest to god adult conversation about feelings and their perspectives. It's refreshing for once. April realizes she handled this all wrong. Yes, good. This is progress. Dom hands her a hard drive of 10,000 minutes worth of songs because that adds up to seven days in chemo. He's pretty sweet.
Among April's other visitors is Danny! This is promising because he had one line in the last episode and I appreciate their work competition just as much as April does. Danny's acting so weird around April because he's uncomfortable that he can't act like a jerk to her anymore. That's sweet? No, it's definitely sweet.
Since April has two friends, the other one stops by a lot. This is Beth, who is just wonderful. I gave her so much crap in the pilot for being Australian, but I never knew I'd adore her so much. April worries that she cheated on Dominic, but I want to shout like Ross Geller did that they were on a break. Of course, my shouting is interrupted by April's puke spree.
People must be rotating to spend the night with April because Brenna shows up the next night. Let's talk about Brenna. Brenna, the worst brat in the world, is finally taking responsibility for herself and bailing herself out after the school finds out Brenna and Greer skipped eco-club to go drink. Brenna is devastated to learn she isn't a match for April's bone marrow transplant. Brenna even finally comes clean to April that she went down there to find Natalie. And Brenna tells off Ford that there are more important things than hating things all the time, which is an amazing lesson. I still don't like Brenna much, but I like how far she has come.
Especially with Brenna's next scene where she tells her mother. Sarah did in fact know about Natalie Ortiz, her husband's illegitimate daughter, but she was protecting her girls. Just like she does when Greer's parents bail both of the girls out of trouble by buying stuff for the school. After they forbid their relationship (not for Greer being gay, but for Brenna being a bad influence), there's a great scene for Sarah where she stands up to Brenna for being brave and strong. It tidies up their mother-daughter relationship so well.
Heaven Support Group
April looks very sick after a few days of chemo and her hallucinations are getting the better of her. She sees her father and asks if she is dead. She isn't, but she is so frightened that she'll die in there she sort of escapes from her hospital bed and goes missing. Well, she goes to the hospital chapel when who shows up? Leo Hendrie.
Most definitely at her lowest point, April believes she can't go through with this and she's called the one person who will break her out. It's a good scene for Italia Ricci, who balances how sick April is and how much she resents missing everything going on. Leo's the only one who would understand, she says, and he does. Leo's also not willing to help her one bit because he reasons that she's supposed to live. I wonder if that's really healthy to think, if one is very sick. That there's some grand design in which you know you are going to live.
Leo carries her away honeymoon prince style, like he isn't dying. And a really interesting thing happens here: Chasing Life becomes super self-aware. Leo says that April called him because she can look at his own mortality to reflect on hers (which is basically his character's purpose). However, April denies that Leo isn't a symbol but a love interest. She caught feelings from him, even if he is the wrong horse to bet on. They aren't going to make a big deal out of this moment, but let's be real, they totally do. Just as Dominic watches from afar.
Back in her room and her existential crisis slightly behind her, she now has to officially break up with her other love interest. Dom is weirdly jealous that April can't talk to him but to Leo, more so when April reasons that they have a near-death connection. You can have conversations about life and death and what it means. Dom figures out it was more than that. He admits rather surprisingly that he feels stupid, like he was more invested in the relationship than April. Maybe? All I know is that Dom's feelings are totally valid here and he articulates them well. Like, I know three things about him: his mom is in jail, he writes for the paper and he really, really likes April.
Since her love interests have settled down, her existential crisis can come back a bit by hallucinating a heaven support group. All of the people April's known to die are there. Her friend from support group. Carrot juice guy! Her dad. It inspires her to finally look out the blinds and take ward walks around the hospital. With her IV! During said walk, though, April spots Leo's parents at the hospital. She checks her voicemail that Leo left her, asking to talk to her. The show wants to leave it on a cliffhanger, but the answer is most definitely Leo getting a surgery. Right?
-- I would very much like to see more Beth and Danny stories in the next 10 episodes. And Dominic. I'm a little over Brenna and Sarah's respective love lives.
-- Speaking of Sarah's love life, George has the hots for Sarah and the feelings to match. What would April and Brenna call him? Uncle Step-Dad?
-- Again, I cannot get over how big that hospital room was for one person. I hope money issues become a big deal in the next half of the season, if the show continues.
That's it! What did you think of April finally getting chemo? Did you love it? Is it the best episode yet? Are you Team Leo or Team Dom? Do you want more screen time for other characters? Holla down below.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)