“I never thought we’d get back to this table. I can’t tell you how good it felt to have dinner together again. We hadn’t done that since the accident. To be honest, sometimes it felt like we’d never get over it. But somehow we did.”
But will we ever get over the Walker family? This was to be the final season of the series, and the network wasn’t exactly kind in its last days. The budget was slashed so that most of the characters appear in limited episodes. You won’t find near so many of the Walker family gatherings as you did in previous years. This plays out very much like a series that is winding down. There are still some nice moments, and most characters get closure.
Ken Olin is truly a great talent that I’ve followed since back when he played the snotty detective Garibaldi on Hill Street Blues. Since then he’s done some wonderful work behind the camera, and Brothers & Sisters certainly shows his influence; however, this is not some of his best work. The show often leans on clichés and gets awfully lazy in moving forward at times. I do see the great family of characters they created here, but fail to find them interesting beyond the life breathed into them by their performers. This is a case of ego getting in the way of great potential. The writers and producers are trying way too hard to do something special. True greatness often requires the least effort. My advice to Olin and company is, play to the strengths of this great cast, and then get out of their way as often as possible.
Sally Field plays Nora Walker. Her husband has just died and left her with a lot of unanswered questions in her life. She soon discovers a twenty-year affair and some even more serious hanky-panky with the books of the company the family owns. Her emotional ups and downs can be about as compelling as television can get. Callista Flockhart plays the best opposite Field as the errant, and of course, conservative, black sheep of the family. The moments they share have given me a greater respect for Flockhart than her previous roles have. It is a little much watching her call someone else skinny. Ron Rifkin steals every scene he’s in as the old-fashioned Uncle Saul, proving that Alias was no fluke for this accomplished actor. Rachel Griffiths again hides her English accent to show that if nothing else, she does a good job of crying. The remaining cast of Dave Annable, Balthazar Getty, and Matthew Rys are often just as nice as the three brother siblings on the show.
While most of the crew for this series worked together on Alias, the series looks a lot more like Six Feet Under. The musical cues are so nearly identical, I at first believed they were done by the same composer. They were not. The idea of the recently widowed matron, the dysfunctional family, the gay brother, and a lot of the symbolism remind me often of the former HBO series.
So what’s up with the Walkers in the final season? The series picks up about a year since the accident that ended the previous year. Robert is in a coma, and Kitty isn’t willing to let go. Justin has returned from his third tour in Iraq, and he’s trying to put his marriage back together. Holly has suffered brain damage from the accident and can’t keep her short-term memory. Scotty and Kevin have turned to adoption and bring a new daughter, the troubled Olivia, played by Isabella Rae Thomas. Nora hooks up with her old boyfriend Brody, played by Beau Bridges. He just might be Sarah’s father. Nora also gets a job at a local radio station as a talk show advice talent named Dear Mom. Of course, Sarah uses the money left over from the land deal to buy the station. Justin becomes a paramedic and ends up with a series of girlfriends including Annie played by his real-life wife Odette Annable. Richard Chamberlain stars as the old friend of Saul’s who gave him AIDS so many years ago. Now he’s falling for him all over again.
Each episode of Brothers & Sisters is presented in an above average television 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The show is often a little too dark for my tastes, but the image doesn’t suffer in quality from the choice. Black levels are fortunately pretty solid. A taste of grain sometimes works its way to the forefront, but never enough for me to downgrade the quality. You’ll see a little compression artifact from time to time, again made more noticeable by the dark tone of the show. Colors are solid, and sharpness creates a fine element of detail most of the time. Again, I just wish this show were a little brighter.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a nice mix for a television series. There’s plenty of subtle surrounds, more than enough to generate a nice immersion into the story for the viewer. The songs are presented in a solid presentation in so far as quality is concerned, but all of them appear to be from the same female vocalist regardless of the original artist. I know rights costs make this sort of thing necessary these days, but could you at least mix it up a little bit? Dialog is clear and well placed in the center.
The show spans 6 single-sided discs containing 24 episodes. Some things are found throughout the set.
Bloopers: (2:20) The usual missteps and mayhem.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Gillies Marini – Uncovered: (6:06) A playful look at the actor who plays Luc. Lots of ribs from the cast and crew.
Writing For The Walkers: (10:00) The writing team gather to talk about the stories and their process.
This plays very much like a show in its death throes. Fans have a right to feel a little cheated in how the final season turned out. It ends with Sarah’s wedding and some nice moments for each character, but there just wasn’t the passion and intensity in this season as you found in the previous years. It’s almost as if everyone knew they were running out of steam. The Walkers are gone, and I’m sure many of you wanted so much more. It ends with one of my favorite Elton John songs, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters. There’s still plenty of drama and more than a little tragedy. “Nothing says the Walkers were here than true wreckage.”