The final season of Casual is a lovely coda to the character’s journeys over four seasons, and it does feel like one, since the writers decided to do something a bit different this time and orchestrated a time jump of at least a few years. Since the show always took place in a very present day Los Angeles, that puts us in the future, and sets up jokes about a world where driverless cabs and other futuristic tech have more or less taken over people’s lives.
That touch is a little odd (though it does give us a funny joke about Scott “remember him?” Pruitt being shot dead in Ukraine), since the jokes about a world where the NFL has officially been disbanded and people are celebrating the “last Super Bowl” gives the show a feeling that it never had before and kind of places it in the realm of sci-fi (if only very mildly), but thankfully the relationships between the characters are still the focus of this highly character driven dramedy.
In the few years since we last saw them, Alex and his roommate Rae have had a child (an adorable little girl named Carrie) and are co-parenting and living together platonically, at least for now. Laura has spent the last two years traveling around Europe and has now come home with a new, worldly girlfriend in Tatiana, and Val has mostly been running in place, with not a lot having changed, except her newfound comfort with herself as a single woman who doesn’t necessarily need to have a man in her life (besides her brother of course). Alex and Valerie, the co-dependent siblings, remain the heart of the show, but a surprising amount of focus is given to supporting lovebirds Leon and Lea this season, as they decide whether they should have a baby, and Laura’s ups and downs with Tatiana and her new career as a burgeoning chef.
As always, the Laura stuff doesn’t quite work, as I never found that the show ever really knew exactly what to do with her, and it’s near impossible to care about her relationship with the new girlfriend. She finds it in herself to want to commit at last, which is growth for her, but her inherent smugness remains annoying and unpleasant. However, Michaela Watkins and Tommy Dewey bring it for the final eight episodes, with Alex and Valerie as close as ever, supporting each other while Val decides to quit her job and open a wine store, and Alex veers into the world of virtual reality dating before realizing he might be in love with Rae after all. The best episode of the season sees the original trio in Alex, Valerie and Laura heading out on an aborted road trip to see the ever flighty and awful grandma Dawn (Frances Conroy), and another highlight is the funeral of said Dawn, where the siblings can’t help but skewer it in their contagious hysterics. The finale is a love letter to the brother-sister duo, who devolve into sobbing messes at the thought of their coming separation, that after all these years, has a gut punching impact as Dewey and Watkins’ real life closeness and camaraderie bleed off the screen.
Although I think the show peaked with the transcendent third season, a perfect series finale counts for quite a lot, as what I will remember from this season is Alex and Valerie’s last successful double date and searing final scenes together. Casual was the rare show that celebrated an adult brother-sister relationship in ways not often seen onscreen, it was funny and moving and often sparklingly insightful, and for that it will live on fondly in my memory.