“Margherita” is an episode all about pushing past rejection. Rose and Hannah leave the psychiatric hospital, Tom hides in his bathroom from a prostitute that he regrets ordering, Alan proposes to Mae, and Josh finally gets a proper date with Arnold (even if it does end in much the same way as the first).
Just like its very first episode of the season, Please Like Me‘s second season finale all starts with a night out at a club, as Arnold and Josh venture out on an “unsafe” (and therefore Tom-less) date. Something that’s then quickly derailed when an incapacitated Patrick stumbles upon the pair, and is in need of being helped home — not that’s he’s exactly sure where that is.
At first, it’s all very funny. Patrick lies at Josh and Arnold’s feet as they eat pizza, then dragging them to the beach as he runs into the ocean. The pair discuss Arnold’s illness, Josh playing at being his ‘free therapist,’ and solving all of his anxieties — something that, it then becomes clear after Patrick’s actions prompt Arnold to have a panic attack, are perhaps more complicated than either we or Josh originally presumed. That’s the thing about anxiety and depression: they’re easy to mask until suddenly, they’re impossible to cover up. Arnold then asks Josh to take him back to the hospital, but before he can, Josh has to meet his father to be apart of his hot air balloon proposal, leaving Arnold on the ground to unwillingly look after the baby, as the three set off over Melbourne, Josh’s gaunt face cleverly contrasted with the beautiful visuals surrounding him.
Arnold’s breakdown acts as a confirmation for the symptoms of his illness that we’ve seen scattered throughout Please Like Me‘s second season. There’s a difference between knowing someone’s mentally ill, and then seeing the worst effects of it firsthand, Josh watching on helplessly as Arnold tries to calm himself down and stop his thoughts from spinning out of control.
It’s easy, objectively, to look at an issue and see it in black and white — to recognize that Josh wasn’t following Patrick into the water because he likes him, or because he was hoping that Patrick would appreciate his attempt at playing the hero. But anxiety muddles things, and lends twisted thoughts legitimacy and space, something that causes Arnold to break down on the beach, pushing Josh away from him in a way that resembles what Mae then does to Josh’s father. She takes his ring, but doesn’t accept his proposal, not wanting to get married. Not now, not ever, and not to anyone.
Josh and his father aren’t wanted on certain terms by their respective partners, but they shrug these rejections off, and accept what good things they still do have. Mae doesn’t want to marry Alan, but she appreciates the sentiment, and after we’re given the image of his deflated head hanging from the air balloon (a visual that’s matched perfectly by Josh as he throws up over the other side, hungover and exhausted, offhandedly throwing out an apology), we then see the family curled up together in their bedroom, showing a relationship that doesn’t need the addition of marriage to add anymore value.
Josh then faces a second rejection from Arnold, who, under the guidance of his therapist, tells Josh to leave him alone at the hospital. But upon his return, after Josh talks with Tom, they agree on the condition of not being boyfriends — not yet, anyway — and Arnold lets him stay. Arnold doesn’t feel ready for a commitment, and Josh accepts this, but he does push at the all-out rejection that he’s been given, a lot of it driven by Arnold’s insecurities that were seen on the beach. Arnold pushed at Josh, telling him to stop touching him and to leave him alone, before sinking into a full blown panic attack that saw him admitting that he thinks Josh should go after Patrick and not him, because he’s a bad choice.
Arnold might not think that he’s ready for the pressure of Josh being an important person in his life, someone that he can depend on and expect things from, and something that, in turn, he has to be for Josh (which is arguably the scarier thing for Arnold), but Josh is doing all he can to cease these pressures. Anxiety is birthed and bred inside someone’s mind, but certain things help to trigger it, and Patrick kissing Jos flicked that switch on all of Arnold’s negative thoughts about himself, bringing them to light for Josh to see.
It’s a sad scene, but rather than accepting Arnold’s anxieties as truths, or, more importantly, as something that changes the way that he feels about him, Josh instead sits beside Arnold as he panics, telling him that he’ll be waiting for him. And he shows this when he returns to the hospital at the end of the episode. Geoffrey was never worth this kind of effort in Josh’s mind, but Arnold, he seems to have decided, is.
It feels like progress for a character that attempts to achieve, it sometimes feels like, as little as possible.
Instead it’s Tom that’s left to hold the mantle on stagnation. Tom ends the season masturbating in his bedroom with the curtains drawn. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to go through with having sex with a prostitute this episode, and has sworn off relationships, so that’s… That’s something, I suppose. And as he tells Josh, he’s already got a deep, lifelong relationship — the one that he shares with him, as his best friend.
Relationships can be a lot of pressure, but when you’ve got the right people around you, they become pretty damn simple.
“You know that I’m, like, here for you, right?”
“Well, you have nowhere else to be.”
Please Like Me will be back in 2015 for a third season, and has just been nominated for an International Emmy.