Bunheads: For Fanny

This week’s second episode of Bunheads, “For Fanny,” dealt with the aftermath of Hubbell’s death at the end of the pilot and did a remarkable job of portraying people grieving in realistic but non-stereotypical ways. But first, we get a new opening sequence with lots of ballet and Nutcracker-themed music, and I must say that I love it rather a lot.

But yes! So! Hubbell is dead. I was not surprised by this, as I thought the result of the car accident was obvious from the moment Truly started talking at the end of the pilot. Therefore, I was startled to discover that other viewers thought this was meant to be ambiguous, or assumed that he was merely severely injured or in a coma. And indeed, it took a surprisingly long time in “For Fanny” for anyone to actually come out and say point blank that Hubbell was dead, though I think that was more to prolong the “I don’t know what that look means!” joke than because they actually thought they were leaving the audience in suspense.

His death obviously means big changes for both Fanny and Michelle; he had become the center of both of their lives in very different ways. Fanny avoids her grief by planning an extremely elaborate memorial service; at various points the plan involves everything from an aircraft carrier to a circus tent to the Dalai Lama. The slightly kooky friends she enlists to help with her planning realize that she’s out of control but don’t know how to stop her, for, as Fanny points out, the death of her only child means her heart is broken forever, “and when your heart is completely broken forever, you get to do whatever you want.”

And then, of course, there’s Michelle. Her heart is probably not completely broken forever – I figure they’ll introduce a new love interest by, what, episode five? – but Hubbell was her husband, and she had just uprooted her entire life for him. She’s now lost, both existentially and, for a while, geographically. (If you’re wondering about the fake name she gave at the bar, by the way, read up on Sophie Tucker. This is mixed with no small measure of guilt, since Hubbell got into his accident while he was looking for her. When Truly announces that she blames Michelle for Hubbell’s death, Michelle simply says “Me too.” Her grief, guilt, and disorientation are compounded by Fanny’s refusal to acknowledge that her daughter-in-law has also lost something or to let her help in any practical way.

The young star dancers react to Hubbell’s death in a refreshingly realistic way as well: They are sincerely upset by the news, but they also take the opportunity to skip school to go to the movies – and then feel badly about it later. “What about a Mark Wahlberg movie says ‘sorry for your loss’?” Of course, they’re most concerned about their beloved teacher, and Boo makes everyone stay at the dance studio for hours even though it’s clear Fanny won’t show up: “If Madame Fanny suddenly decides she wants to teach today, we are going to be here for her to teach.” And in the end, of course, it’s the kids who prompt Michelle into action. They ignore all Fanny’s fancy plans and plan the memorial service Fanny doesn’t know she actually wants, with a small group of townspeople and pretty lights and decorations and a special ballet performed by her students. (This was practically the only dancing in this episode, which was understandable but a little disappointing.)

Michelle’s help with this impromptu memorial goes a long way toward warming relations between her and Fanny, but it’s not quite enough. At the end of the episode, the show brings in Hubbell’s childhood friend/lawyer to tell Fanny and Michelle how much Hubbell loved Michelle, which was a tidy way of making Fanny realize that Hubbell’s feelings were real and that Michelle is not the enemy.

More urgently, though, the lawyer arrives with the news that Hubbell had updated his will recently. Very recently: after his marriage, he somehow had time to change his will to leave everything to Michelle. (Maybe that’s what he was doing while she was dress shopping in the pilot.) This answers the question as to how the show will keep Michelle in Paradise: as I expected, it will have something to do with issues of inheritance; Michelle now owns Fanny’s house and, I think, the land on which the ballet school sits, but not the school itself. In addition to giving Michelle a reason to stay, this of course reintroduced some tension between Michelle and Fanny just as they were starting to get along. Will Fanny contest the will? I wasn’t really expecting legal drama, but then, this show has been pretty unexpected so far.

Favorite quotes from the episode:

“What are you doing?” “Reading the paper.” “Who does that?”
“He gets really upset if he falls asleep before Gail Collins.”
“You’d think there’d be one 24-hour tent company somewhere in the world!”
“The voice of reason has just entered the building.”

Bunheads airs on ABC Family and ABC Spark on Mondays at 9/8c.

(Photo courtesy of ABC Family.)

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