When two divorce lawyers begin ironing out their divorce, things start out looking bright and professional. However, the situation quickly turns sour when one brings a new partner into the picture, leaving the other blindsided.
The Split is a story about the personal and professional lives of the Defoe family, a trailblazing single mother, Ruth (Deborah Findlay), and her grown-up daughters. They work as family lawyers for London’s rich and famous.
The third season, which concludes the series, picks things up where it left off. A love triangle between the eldest Defoe daughter, Hannah (Nicola Walker), her husband Nathan (Stephen Mangan), and Hannah’s colleague Christie (Barry Atsma), has come to a head.
While The Split has been hugely popular, it doesn’t get much media hype. Yet, it may be one of the best TV series in the last few years.
Family law is an inherently juicy topic. It deals with issues most of us are likely to experience at some point in our lives. While the Defoes and their colleagues navigate the highs and lows of relationships, they often do the opposite of what they advise their clients to do.
Divorce is an inseparable part of the institution of marriage. While they may be professionals at splitting assets and drawing contracts, we repeatedly see that the heart wants what it wants.
What makes The Split such a stand-out drama is its abundance of well-written female characters. Not only does it pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours, but in the world of the show, women overall take up equal space as complex and fully-fledged individuals.
Not to mention how rare it still is to see women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s navigating love and relationships on our screens. While the choice is undoubtedly intentional, it’s not rubbed in the viewer’s face.
The trilogy's final part repeats The Split's familiar recipe for success. It’s powerful, emotional, and gripping without the need to reach for shock value. At its core, it’s a show about family but executed so well; that it becomes something more.
Even when members of the Defoe family are falling to pieces on their own, the gravitational pull of the tight-knit family holds them together. Watching it is like drinking a warm cup of tea under a blanket on a rainy day.
However, just like any masterpiece, The Split has its imperfections too. The plot line about Ruth starting a marriage and divorce podcast is entirely unnecessary and perhaps the most unrealistic facet of the season. Not everybody needs to have a podcast in 2022, including fictional characters (looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw in And Just Like That).
Undoubtedly, Ruth has what it takes to be the Esther Perel of divorce. Still, being the powerhouse she is, surely she would have scouted more interesting guests than her obscure daughters and sons-in-law and a better recording location than the dinner table.
The podcast facilitates conversations that bring additional context to the plot while turning Ruth into a narrator. Admittedly, her soft voice is giving Lady Whistledown, and her monologues help paint the story's broad strokes. Still, a podcast inside a TV show is starting to feel like a gimmicky storytelling shortcut.
The incredibly charismatic Nicola Walker gives another magnetic performance as Hannah. She makes Hannah so lifelike one can’t help but back her up, even when she makes mistakes. Fiona Button as the youngest Defoe daughter, Rose, and Stephen Mangan as Nathan both deliver fantastic and nuanced performances as their characters handle the curveballs they are thrown this season.
There is a solid cultural narrative of marriage as the end goal, the happily-ever-after, especially for women. The Split holds a mirror up this narrative by exploring everything that comes after the wedding, both good and bad. Truthfully, no end goal in life leads to an uncomplicated happily-ever-after because life always keeps going, and that’s the place The Split operates.
Another overarching theme of the season is knowing when it’s the right time to call it quits. As Ruth asks on her annoying but also sometimes very wise podcast:
“Why do we place so much weight on the idea that things must last? Surely what constitutes a successful relationship is knowing when it’s over, being brave enough to call time.”
Divorce doesn’t equal failure; some marriages just run their course. It’s also not a failure to not renew a good show for countless seasons (take note, showrunners everywhere); quite the opposite.
Unlike other TV series that have suffered from overstaying their welcome, The Split wraps up at its height, which might be the right thing for its legacy. While it’s hard to say goodbye to the Defoe family, the showrunners are making a point of following their own advice.
However, show creator Abi Morgan has not ruled out the chance of a spinoff, so this might not be the final goodbye. If we get a spin-off, one can only hope it follows the original show’s example of telling a story with intention.
The final season of The Split is currently broadcast on ABC TV and streaming on ABC iView.
Before you move on, why not give our Facebook page a like here. Or give our Twitter account a follow to keep up with our work here.