[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “The Detour” Season 3 finale — Episode 10, “The Whiskey Double, Leave the Bottle.”]
Hopefully, the last episode of Season 3 of “The Detour,” one of the most underrated shows on TBS and in all of TV, means that every farewell episode per year involves an explosion of some kind. (Last season, the big finale setpiece was an exploding cow that caught both the Parkers and pretty much anyone in the audience off-guard.)
This time around, the surprise was a little more telegraphed, as much as the sudden appearance of an RPG can be. The militia group that had been working with Edie’s (Laura Benanti) renegade USPIS task force of one to track down the Parkers and indict them in a greater fraud scheme descended on this Pioneertown-style oasis, tucked away in the greater reaches of the Alaskan wilderness.
If this all seems overwhelming, that’s kind of by design. Over the course of three seasons, “The Detour” has constantly pushed to outdo itself in the craziness department, whether that means extra bodily fluid, more nudity, or a more improbable set of circumstances for this family to face. After a couple episodes in the literal and figurative wilderness, with this family trying to figure out how or why it should keep itself together, last week’s everyone-but-Nate drug trip seemed to lock everything back in place. It all set the stage for a “Westworld” parody that’s as much an antidote to the grim austerity of the HBO show as it is a winking reference.
From the movie quote showdown with the Japanese cowboys, all the way through to the multiple Toy Story references — the player piano cycling through a jangly version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” might be the best joke of the season — this is a show that is biologically designed to not take it so seriously. While every episode doesn’t necessarily have a genre hook like this, this is an appropriate farewell for a season that also included episode-long riffs on “Open Water” and an inspirational hockey movie.
The family has always been the heart of this show. The second half of the season scattered the four Parkers across continents and timelines, but “The Whiskey Double, Leave the Bottle” made the always-wise decision to capitalize on what they can do when they’re all put together. Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovich) and Jareb (Liam Carroll) have always been the secret highlights of the show, but as the dynamics of the family have switched, they’ve become far closer to their parents than they were at the series’ start. Delilah fully embracing her teenage years and going toe-to-toe with Robin is a big leap for the series. Still, her “We have to run! The heat’s here!” line is right out of the zany heights of Season 2 and Jareb gleefully holding up his illustration inside the police station montage feels like a spiritual flashback to the opening episodes of the show.
After a season-long gray area that promised at some point to pay off Edie’s obsession, Nate (Jason Jones) finally figures out the mystery: The near-childbirth Edie is a long-lost child of J.R. and by extension one of Robin’s sisters. The reunited siblings are on hugging terms now, but that will most certainly change once Robin (Natalie Zea) finds out that the father of the baby she’s carrying is one of Nate’s many sperm donations.
Because of the way the show has always felt the need to one-up itself, “The Detour” has reached a point where a dead body is only a tiny bit shocking. Sleepy sliding down a mountainside (and drawing the wrath of his militia-mates) has become standard operating procedure for a family finally pushed to the brink of not running anymore. That drive to get nuttier is only so sustainable. So rather than find a new remote area to banish the Parkers to, “The Detour” used this finale framework to send away one of their own. Delilah slowly laying the groundwork for her own escape is a Verbal Kint-like bit of trickery, taking the family‘s money and her admirer’s car with her.
Even in past seasons when the Parkers have been forced to go elsewhere, they’ve done so as a unit. Breaking off a vital piece of what makes the show great from the rest of it is a tricky prospect, one that delivers a helpful shake to the show’s status quo. The nice thing about watching “The Detour” is that, even beyond that sense of consistency, everything that surrounded it has always been a haze of outrageous belly laughs. Now that chaos will just be aimed in a new direction.
“The Detour” Season 3 is now available to stream via the TBS app.