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Please, Hulu, Let Tiny Beautiful Things Remain a Limited Series

Renewing the Kathryn Hahn-led adaptation would undermine its poignant message.
  • Kathryn Hahn and Tanzyn Crawford in Tiny Beautiful Things (Photo: Jessica Brooks/Hulu)
    Kathryn Hahn and Tanzyn Crawford in Tiny Beautiful Things (Photo: Jessica Brooks/Hulu)

    Tiny Beautiful Things may end with a moment of closure, as Kathryn Hahn's Clare stares down her grief and says a proper goodbye to her late mother (Merritt Wever), but the Hulu adaptation by no means ties up its stories with a neat bow. Various narrative threads are left dangling as the eight-episode limited series concludes, including Clare's failing marriage to Danny (Quentin Plair) and her decision to turn her Dear Sugar advice column into a full-time job. But while creator Liz Tigelaar has left room for exploration, it would do a disservice to the show, and Cheryl Strayed's essay collection that inspired it, to renew Tiny Beautiful Things for Season 2.

    There's certainly some validity to the idea that Danny's story deserves to be expanded upon in a potential second season. So much of Danny is filtered through Clare: Plair's character is given little to do beyond respond to his estranged wife (often by yelling) and her emotional unraveling. Over time, it's revealed that Danny is a musician who gave up a promising career when their daughter Rae (Tanzyn Crawford) was born, but his hopes and dreams largely end there. The flashbacks (featuring Stevonté Hart as young Danny) offer hardly any additional insight, as Danny and everyone else in these scenes, including Wever's Frankie, are presented in service of Clare's narrative. Is this how he really was, or is this how Clare prefers to remember him? That question is never raised because, for the most part, it's inconsequential to Clare's journey through grief.

    It's not until the penultimate episode, "Go," that Danny becomes an active player in his own life. At the urging of their couples therapist, Mel (Tijuana Ricks), Danny informs Clare that he's done trying to fix their marriage. "I don't want to do this anymore," he says, before quoting Sugar's words back to Clare. "Wanting to leave – it's enough."

    But viewers expecting the finale to explore the fallout from Danny's life-changing decision are in for a surprise. The episode, "Love," offers no answers about what's next for Clare and Danny; even when Rae explicitly asks if her parents are getting a divorce, Clare is vague, claiming they "have stuff to figure out." There's a sense of unfinished business here, one that becomes even stronger when the scene cuts to Danny sitting outside Mel's office, waiting for her to welcome him inside. The show seems to be suggesting that Danny is in breach of Clare's trust, though it's not clear if he's just seeing Mel for one-on-one therapy, or if they're having an emotional or sexual affair (a theory Clare floats in the premiere).

    Whatever the answer — especially if it's the latter — this feels less like the natural path of Danny's arc and more like Tigelaar leaving the door open for another season. But any way you slice it, pursuing another season of Tiny Beautiful Things would be the wrong move. While Danny could have been better-developed, this is ultimately Clare's story, and shifting focus to incorporate more of his perspective wouldn't ring true to the selfish, emotionally fragile woman with whom we've spent the past eight episodes. Not to mention, continuing this story just to tie up a few loose ends is antithetical to the show's overarching message that there's something beautiful to be found in the mess of everyday life.

    The character of Mel also plays into the "Black Lady Therapist" trope. We know absolutely nothing about Mel outside of her work with Clare and Danny: She exists solely to "fix" their marriage, and when that fails, to nudge Danny towards his request for a separation. Given the show's decision to sidestep Clare and Danny's interracial marriage altogether, it's fair to ask whether Mel's role would be expanded in a responsible and meaningful way should she return.

    Above all else, turning Tiny Beautiful Things into a multi-season drama would directly undermine the finale's moving conclusion. In answering a Dear Sugar question about "the right time to say 'I love you,'" Clare comes to realize that there's no time like the present to "tackle the mother f*cking sh*t out of love." Eventually, death comes for us all — even high-profile limited series. We can try to avoid this truth, or we can embrace the things we love while accepting that, when the moment arrives, it's best to let them go.

    Tiny Beautiful Things is now streaming on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Tiny Beautiful Things, Hulu, Cheryl Strayed, Kathryn Hahn, Liz Tigelaar, Merritt Wever, Quentin Plair, Sarah Pidgeon, Tanzyn Crawford