Can this marriage be saved? Should he?
Compelling questions to tackle on Valentine’s Day, the launch date of the witty and bittersweet second season of State of the Union, the Emmy-winning romantic drama anthology from writer Nick Hornby. Airing over 10 nights on SundanceTV, each episode, directed by Stephen Frears, features a quick but deep 10-minute conversation. (The entire season can be watched in one satisfying gulp on AMC+ and Sundance Now.)
The casting is once again impeccable. Following the high standard set by Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd in season one, this more mature storyline is wonderfully and sensitively played by Emmy winners Brendan Gleeson (mostly masking his Irish brogue) and Patricia Clarkson. The vignettes tell the story of Scott and Ellen, a wealthy Connecticut couple whose 30-year marriage appears to be falling apart. Think of it as Scenes from the end of a wedding.
“I think I want a divorce,” Ellen tells a flabbergasted Scott during the first of their weekly get-togethers at a hip cafe. (They’re warming up for the trip upstairs for their marriage counseling sessions.) Over the weeks, as Scott learns to appreciate the craft beers so foreign to his nature, the two observe how well they’ve grown. distant, discussing subjects of faith, intimacy, fidelity, even their taste for the cinema. (Listen to the reference to a certain Churchill movie, which may or may not be the HBO movie In the storm which won Gleeson a 1999 Emmy.)
For comic relief, Scott’s violent interactions with a playful non-binary barista (Esco Jouléy) reveal how he evolves and expands his view of the world. “I can’t go on being myself, not if I want to stay married to you,” he eventually realizes.
But is it too little too late, and will it ever be enough?
State of the UnionSeason premiere, 10/9c, Sundance TV (also streaming on AMC+ and Sundance Now)