Tuca and Bertie Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: Family and Mental Health - VRGyani News and Media


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tuca and Bertie Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: Family and Mental Health

[Editor's note: The following contains spoilers for Tuca & Bertie, Season 2, Episode 8, "Corpse Week."]Lisa Hanawalt’s Tuca & Bertie has always been a series willing to delve into the mental health of its title characters. This ranges from Bertie addressing her traumatic childhood experiences at the Jelly Lakes to Tuca gripping with life as a sober bird — and the series captures said feelings with breathtaking and fluid animation that changes on a dime to match the mood of the scene.

Season 2, Episode 8, “Corpse Week,” took another angle to showcase the roots of Tuca and Bertie’s approaches to delving into their issues. And they go back deep, as the characterization of the title characters’ families shows the differences between the two characters and how they deal with their issues.

RELATED: 'Tuca & Bertie' Stars Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong on How Their Real-Life Friendship Connects to the Show

This is far from the first time each character has dealt with their past, especially Tuca. Tuca has before spent time with her Auntie Tallulah, a wealthy bird who acts passive-aggressive toward her niece while lowering her self-confidence. Also, Tuca has detailed how her mom’s death at a young age affected her family, a moment that shaped her worldview.

"Corpse Week" tackles that head-on when the pair visits each other’s families for Cadaveri (this universe’s Halloween). First up is Tuca’s sister, Terry, and her family: a loving husband and competitive raker, Thomas, and adorable daughter, Tulip (note that this is the first time Tuca has visited Terry in a while after years of fighting). Additionally, Tuca’s genius food scientist brother, Desmond, is in attendance.

Tuca gets in a fight with Terry over dinner after telling Tulip a ghost story for the holiday, saying that the story — shown through a darker, more shadowy form of animation — is too frightening for her young daughter. The two get into a shouting match over how Tulip should be raised while Terry’s husband gets thrown in for trying to calm his wife down. The three shout while Desmond buries his head in a book, handing another (“The Crepe Gatsby,” what a pun) to Bertie.

Later, Tuca takes Tulip out for “yum or yell” (trick or treating) while Tuca tells more ghost stories. Tulip asks for another, but Tuca declines because she thinks her sister will yell at her, citing “the demon of blaming Tuca for everything,” using the same animation style as the demonic imagery in her earlier story. Later, when Tulip comes home with rashes after suffering an allergic reaction, Terry yells at Tuca that she stopped her life to lead the family and clean up Tuca’s messes after their mom died, “and somehow, I’m still holding shit down. When do I get to stop?”

These exchanges give an even wider glimpse into the dynamics that formed surrounding Tuca’s family life after her mom passed away. Terry had to live with the weight of being a surrogate mother without being a child, while the younger siblings each found ways to move into their own identities, like Desmond getting into reading. Tuca, meanwhile, handled her grief through outbursts and drinking, which strained her relationship with herself and her siblings. This explains why Tuca is so prone to making big gestures and wild, wacky schemes; her outward confidence compensates for the fact that she struggles to form intimate relationships with people.

Such outward drama serves as a stark contrast to the Songthrush household, where nothing of importance is discussed. Bertie walks into her house to see the living room filled up with garbage and junk. Her mother panics when Bertie offers to throw out some old newspapers then rushes to get drinks without saying why that stuff is there. Then, Bertie’s father brushes her off after she tells him she’s been seeing a therapist, saying “you don’t need therapy, you’re normal.” This causes Bertie to pick her feathers and quickly see her leg detach from her body, both signs of her anxiety as seen throughout the season.

During dinner, Bertie learns that her father had surgery and that her parents kept that information from her to avoid “troubling” her. Her father tries to talk about the weather to avoid an “upsetting” discussion, but then Bertie finally forces her parents to address their issues. She blames them for not wanting to talk about anything “real” during her childhood, like her sexual assault at the Jelly Lakes.

Bertie later exclaims that her parents need therapy to stop everything from piling up and becoming “crap,” all while a violin score you might hear in a horror film builds in the background. Her parents then sit in silence as Bertie asks for a response in tears, before running to her room. Her dad then responds by jumping out of the window to go and get ice.

This heavy conversation all happens in a crowded dining room filled with random items, including toilet paper, scrapbooks, and boxes filled with taxes from 1985. The Songthrushes’ cluttered home, as Bertie acknowledges in the episode, serves as a visual representation of the obvious issues that have existed within her family for generations that just keep building, rather than being addressed and removed. Unlike Tuca’s family, Bertie has been raised in an environment that prefers to keep moving forward rather than stopping to clean up the emotional baggage that has weighed them down for decades.

This conversation clears up many of the issues from the series. For example, Bertie never mentions her parents when she revisits the Jelly Lakes or recounts her story of being sexually assaulted. Also, this contextualizes Bertie’s self-reflection right before her anniversary date with Speckle in the season opener; she sees herself as a burden to her friends for wanting to share her emotions. Those feelings stem from her parents’ inability to share any kind of complicated thoughts with their daughter.

Tuca comments after the Songthrush dinner that she now understands why Bertie gets “weird” when she’s angry: “Y’all family doesn’t talk about anything.” This right here showcases the contrast between the two families and how it has created the pair’s baggage. Tuca can express herself all the time but struggles to find intimacy because her family lacked the closeness it needed after her mom’s death. Meanwhile, Bertie struggles to vocalize her emotions after her family trained her to bottle everything up and focus on superficial goals to give the appearance of stability.

The festivities for Cadaveri coincide well with the horrors of familial drama. Hanawalt and writer Samantha Irby (Shrill) find different moments within the episode to point this out – from darkening the animation when Tuca and Tulip return from their Yum or Yell to the ritual prayers asking their dead elders to not drag them to the “death realm." These all mix to tie the supernatural, fun scares that come with the Halloween-esque holiday to the overreaching, generational frights created from familial stories that have run longer than Twilight Zone reruns.

Both families end the episode in different places. Tuca visits Terry at a coffee shop, with both apologizing for their actions – from the past weekend and the past 20+ years – and to comment how proud they are of each other for what they have accomplished. Meanwhile, Bertie hugs her parents and tells her mom that she loves her, to which her mom replies “Goodbye, sweetie.” Given the episode’s events, that line carries some unsettling weight, with Bertie’s mom unable to even say that she loves her daughter in return.

The family dynamics on display in this episode highlight Tuca and Bertie’s differences in how they approach their lives, showing how the pair fills each other’s gaps. This sets up the show to delve into the haunting truths surrounding the pair’s relationship in both the current season’s home stretch and future seasons.

Tuca and Bertie Season 2 airs Sundays on Adult Swim.

KEEP READING: 'Tuca & Bertie' Renewed for Season 3 on Adult Swim

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