Spoiler alert: This article contains details of tonight’s series finale of FX comedy Baskets.
After four seasons on FX, the Baskets family is moving on.
Tonight, FX aired the final episode of the oddball comedy created by Jonathan Krisel, Zach Galifianakis and Louis C.K.—before the latter comedian’s fall from grace and subsequent removal from all his FX titles.
Running for four seasons and earning four Emmy nominations—as well as one statuette for co-star Louie Anderson in 2016—the strip-mall Western follows Chip and Dale Baskets (Galifianakis, in dual roles), a pair of emotionally stunted, immature twins living in Bakersfield with their mother Christine (Anderson) who deal with trauma from the past while trying to figure out who they really are and what they want to do in the world. Centered primarily on Chip, who aspires to be a professional clown and sees those dreams dashed, Baskets traded as much in substantial, character-driven emotional moments as it did slapstick falls.
Titled “Moving On,” tonight’s finale sees Christine preparing to move to Denver with her new hubby Ken (Alex Morris). In the midst of an existential spiral, Chip seeks out life coach Tammy (Andrea Marcovicci), referred to him by deadpan pal Martha (Martha Kelly), to try to sort out a new life for himself, overwhelmed by the fact that everything in his world has begun to change.
Concerned about Chip’s mental state, Martha follows him to his appointment, and entirely misunderstands the nature of what she’s seeing. Convincing Christine that her wayward son has been inducted into a cult, a comedy of errors ensues, with a masked Dale abducting his brother in a van and Martha accidentally getting herself shot—the bullet lodged in her famous green cast.
Christine confronts Chip about his life choices, and Chip pushes back. He’s an adult with his own ideas, he says, who can make his own decisions. Once quite the man-child, Chip now can express his feelings, admitting he was hurt by Christine’s choice to sell the family rodeo without speaking with him first. Christine continues to make a fuss and confronts Tammy on a golf course, accusing her of brainwashing her son, only to realize the role she’s played in fostering her dysfunctional relationship with Chip.
Moving from judgment of her son toward acceptance, Christine apologizes to Chip, and the pair reconcile—as do Dale and Ken, the former slapped by the latter in an earlier episode for shooting his mouth off about his mother, as he was wont to do.
Just like that, the codependent bond between a mother and her son is resolved, and Chip is able to lean into the uncertainty of adulthood with joy, for perhaps the first time.
As Christine heads out of town following a touching goodbye moment, Chip goes to the hospital to visit Martha—who, after four seasons, finally has had her cast removed. We’re still not sure why she had it in the first place; something to do carpal tunnel? But never mind, because the cast actually saved her life.
Reconciling with Martha regarding the intervention she planned, Chip lies down alongside her in her hospital bed, to enjoy an episode of Judge Joe Brown. At last, it seems, the series has shipped the couple who had been side by side all along.
Before tonight’s finale aired, Deadline caught up with Baskets co-creator Jonathan Krisel, who discussed key moments from the finale, scripting two versions of it, and his desire to push the envelope with his upcoming Sesame Street film.
DEADLINE: Can you recall the moment in time when the ending for Baskets crystallized for you?
Jonathan Krisel: This last season, I really came into it having zero ideas of what it was going to be. The only thing was, this bullet train being constructed in California is an idea that we’ve had since the first season, it bulldozing something in its path. That was on the table for a long time. But really, when we sat down to write this season, we thought, “OK, this could be the last season. We’ll write it and see if it could be a finale.”
There was a little bit in the back of our minds of, “Let’s see if it wraps up,” you know? Because the story of Chip Baskets and his clown persona, and trying to figure himself out, it seemed like maybe this is the end of that tale. But I think the exciting part of going into this season was like, I want Chip to be making a lot of bold choices, giving him a life coach as an empowering person. Because I think you reach a point in your life where you’re like, “Oh, my God. I keep making the same mistakes,” and you want to get in there and figure it out, get under the hood. So that was the impetus—like, help him get under the hood to see what the hell is going on, so he’s not just the victim of himself over and over again.
DEADLINE: Do you always tend to come to endings for your series in such an organic way?
Krisel: Yeah. Every season finale has been pretty big and exciting, but I don’t set out with it 100% figured out, knowing what it’s going to be. But then at a certain point, maybe in the middle, you go, “OK, I know what the ending is,” so then you can fill in the middle.
The idea of the family feeling like they lost Chip to a cult, [and that becoming] like this rescue mission, was on the table for [a while], and I do really like that as an ending. Then, Christine leaving Bakersfield was like, “OK. Well, now she’s gone.” And also, [there was] him just being like, “I don’t even know what I’m doing, but at least I’m not going to do the same thing again. I’m going to do something new.” Being lost is almost a better place to be than getting lost.
DEADLINE: Could you elaborate on the resolution you came to for Chip, and why it felt right to you?
Krisel: In a coming-of-age way, figuring out who you are, he’s like, “I’m a clown,” but sort of self-sabotaging himself, time after time, to always come back to his family or do different things—being scared to really go for it but also not really being in control of his clowning. He is a clown in his real life, but he’s, in his clown life, not as much of a clown. And it is a story of a clown. It is a tragedy, you know?
We tried to always make [him] like a real-life clown. You’re just falling and getting up all the time, and it’s not that funny when you’re experiencing it. It is for the audience, but I think in a dramatic sense, this was this character who had this father who committed suicide, and this whole, huge thing that was weighing on him—[with] him trying to cheer up the family, and a lot of burden being placed on his ability to make everyone happy. And it’s hard to make everyone happy all the time, so [he needed] to untangle some of those crossed wires inside himself to get more in control of his gift.
DEADLINE: The finale features a remarkable moment of confrontation and catharsis reached between mother and son, as Christine and Chip release each other from blame for things that had happened in the past, and their codependent bond breaks. This was, it seems, the climax of the entire series.
Krisel: It’s funny, because we had a whole different draft. I kind of wrote that whole episode twice. They’ve always treated Chip like he’s a menace to himself, in a way—like, “We’ve got to lock this guy up; we’ve got to deprogram him.” He’s clearly not in a cult state at all, but the family, through the grapevine, they’re just like, “Of course this would happen to him. It makes so much sense.” We tried to see, “What if Chip had a new mother in this life coach—a different kind of mom—and then Christine finds out about her?” It’s mom versus mom, and that would spark her to be [like], “Whoa, what is he doing?”
But to finally have it out between mother and son, this sort of central relationship of the show, and her saying, “I’m trying to deprogram you,” it’s like, “I’m not programmed. I’m just having my own original thoughts. You’ve always treated me like an extension of you, and I’m my own person.”
She was kind of like, “I’m building you a rodeo, I’m sending you to clown college; now, I’m taking it away from you.” Her intentions were good, I guess, but he finally has the ability to tell her, “I was excited about saving the rodeo and doing those things together. And you were like, ‘Oh, I’m over it,’ so you got rid of it.”
I think it was hard for us to articulate that [moment] for a long time, for Chip to say to Christine, “I felt erased when you didn’t consult me on this project that we were working on together.” He finally sort of stood up for himself, and I think she never noticed that. She’s like, “You’re just my little kid. I decide things for you,” and then he’s like, “No. I actually know how to do this on my own.” Then, you feel like, “Yeah, maybe he can.”
He actually has taken a lot of initiative. He was helping her, helping Martha, helping Dale. He was keeping the rodeo afloat, making it a real business. Maybe he can do some stuff on his own. He was considering himself an artist, but then he let it go for a big part of the season and was able to complete some stuff. And it’s like, “Then you can put that back into your art, that you know how to do stuff.” You can’t just be an artist in Artist Land that doesn’t have any bearing on reality. Artists really get stuff done. They really make stuff; they really have deadlines. So now, he has those two things he can work with together.
DEADLINE: Did you weigh any alternate endings or storyline possibilities before arriving at the episode that just aired? Or make any last-minute additions to the script?
[The draft not used] was basically the same, but it was just kind of told differently. But [there was] one thing: Once we started realizing, “Oh wait, this is the ending,” in the big rewrite, I was like, “We have to deal with Martha’s cast, and this big, unanswered question.” Not that it was really answered, but it could finally come off and have a big grand finale.
That’s the No. 1 question we get asked, like, “What’s going on with Martha’s cast? Where did it come from?” So like, let’s go out with it basically getting killed. Then, it just became, “OK, we’ve got to do this. Because if we don’t do this, and this is never answered…” Not that we satisfied it in a logical way. But it just became like, “This is an important part of the show.”
DEADLINE: Do you have hopes or plans to reteam with Zach Galifianakis, or any of your Baskets cast members, in the near future?
Krisel: It’s definitely my No. 1 goal, because I felt like Louie, Martha and Zach…I mean everybody, but those three, I would kill to work with all of them again, because they’re such next-level, great people. It’s rare to have super-great people who are just super funny on a level that’s so different. Martha’s comedy is so unique and special, and she’s such a great person, and I always look up to [Zach] as one of the best people, and a great role model.
It’s fun to have someone you work with [where] you go, “I just want to be like that guy.” He’s a good person; he’s so funny; he cares so much about what he does. So, yes, definitely—and Louie, too. Just great, introspective, stupid-funny people who are very smart. I love that kind of person.
DEADLINE: You have a couple of very exciting projects in the pipeline—A24 comedy series Moonbase 8, which reteams you with Portlandia’s Fred Armisen, as well as a Sesame Street film. What can you tell us about these projects? What’s exciting about them to you?
Krisel: Sesame Street holds a special place in my heart. Comedically, I grew up on that—Jim Henson, Frank Oz comedy—and everything I’ve done has been sort of a version of that. My whole goal in doing the movie is to give back what that really creative world gave to me, but also bring along the comedy that I love and have done over the years, and infuse that into Sesame Street. I feel like Sesame Street was always pushing the envelope in a really cool way, and I want to hopefully do something to honor that.
DEADLINE: Bo Burnham is writing the songs for that pic. What has it been like working with him?
Krisel: That has been great. You just want to work with really talented people on every level, because that’s what Sesame Street always did. They were always working with the greatest comedians and musicians of the moment, and Bo is that, too. He’s a really smart guy and really funny and doing weird, interesting things. I think that’s what Sesame Street always was, and should continue to be.
DEADLINE: Where are you at with these upcoming projects? Is it early days on both?
Krisel: Sesame Street is way early. I mean, it’s going to happen soon, but that’s pre-pre-production. It’s not even that far. And then Moonbase, I mean, that is like completed, but it’s not really. It’s just kind of trying to find a home still.