This Life 202

This Life writer Alison Lea Bingeman breaks down “Perfect Day”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen This Life Episode 202, “Perfect Day.”   

Would you live your life differently if you knew you were running out of time? That’s one of the overarching themes of CBC family drama This Life, and it was a major focus of this week’s episode, “Perfect Day,” written by Alison Lea Bingeman.

“For me, what was so fun about writing the episode was asking, ‘How do we have fun when we allow ourselves to go out and kind of unwind a little bit?'” says Bingeman.

“Perfect Day” follows Natalie as she embarks on a day-long adventure with her friend Tia, who is also battling cancer. It also features big twists for Maggie, who shocks her family by announcing her marriage to Raza, and Matthew, who has a confrontation with David that forces him to face some uncomfortable truths about himself.

As part of our continuing series of interviews with This Life writers, Bingeman—whose other TV credits include Bomb Girls and 19-2—joins us via phone from Los Angeles to tell us more about the episode.

What themes did you want to explore when writing “Perfect Day”?
Alison Lea Bingeman: I think that what is really, for me, the foundation of the show is ‘What do you do with your life when you know your time could be limited?’ I think the theme of the first part of the season in particular is ‘How do we live with hope and live life to its fullest?’ and the idea of don’t put off to tomorrow what you should do today.  I think that’s really what Natalie is about. And certainly that’s the theme of Episode 2.

We’re all so concerned about getting stuff done and doing the right things and being the right person, but what about just going out and kind of unleashing a little bit? That’s what I really, really enjoyed about writing this episode, was [Natalie and Tia] being out there on those paddle boards on the water.

Was the biker’s funeral as much fun to write as it was to watch? 
I had so much fun. I actually pitched it, and everybody was like, ‘Yeah!’ We had a total gas with it.

A big moment in the episode was Maggie’s announcement that she and Raza got married. How did the writers decide that move made the most sense for her? 
That answer is twofold. One is that Maggie is a very spontaneous woman and she kind of dives in head first. She saw a situation where she lost the rent from her brother, and she had to give up her apartment, and then the situation with Raza came up and she was like ‘Why don’t we kill two birds with one stone?’ That’s the outward reason, but the reason beneath that—that maybe she’s not even aware of when she does it—is she has a longing for a certain love and affection. She kind of wants to have a husband and have a family, and this is sort of her version of being conventional . . . So it’s really sort of a deep need and deep impulse that she’s acting out on in a backhanded way.

This Life 202

What will Maggie’s decision to marry Raza mean for her the rest of the season?
I think the flip decision she made is going to come back and she’s going to have to face it on some level. There will be unintended consequences for her, let’s put it that way. Not that she’s going to get punished for this, but she will eventually come to see, ‘Oh, OK. That’s what I did, that’s what this means. I had no idea.’

Matthew and David had some very revealing scenes in this episode. Tell me about their confrontation. 
I think that Matthew is angry because he’s getting rejected, and he’s living with the consequences of his actions, with his affair. And really in the simplest terms, when he comes to give David a piece of his mind, in a way he’s giving it to himself. But it flips on him because David isn’t going to just stand up to him and be the bad guy. He’s like ‘Come on in, have a drink. This must be hard.’ And David turns out to be a real human being. But Matthew can’t sustain that with him, he’s locked down. That’s why the dustup happens at the end of that scene.

What we were looking for in that exchange was that Matthew goes back to a place of unacceptance of David and, therefore, of himself. He’s really tied up with self-judgment, but he can’t do it himself, he can only do it through David. That’s why that scene was so important, and that’s why it was so lovely to write.

After seeing David, Matthew told Nicole he wants to fight for their marriage. Is this a turning point for him? 
He’s in lockdown, but in a way he’s able to see by looking at his sister’s relationship—and what David was in that relationship—he doesn’t want to be that guy. That makes him go on his knees with Nicole, and it makes him realize how much he wants this marriage. And he wants to be forgiven—even though he can’t forgive himself.

But can Nicole forgive him? 
I think he’s going to have to go through a few more hoops.

Romy wants to live with Oliver when her mother dies, and Oliver was considering it until Maggie—of all people—told him he may not be up to such a big responsibility. Is that the end of the matter? 
All of our characters kind of come to realizations, and then they sort of fade back again from it, because it is may be a difficult realization. With Oliver, he wants to see himself as heroic, like the great uncle for Romy, and that sense that he can’t be that for her is going to be difficult. But it’s not over, that’s all I can tell you. It’s not over.

The last scene of Natalie watching family videos of David and the kids was very poignant. What do you think was going through her head at that moment? 
I think when we end relationships, to get through them, we make the other guy the bad guy. She saw at that moment that there was real affection, there was real love. And it’s a real bittersweet moment for her.

Do you have a particular character you feel you write or understand better than the others?
I love Natalie. I’m a mom and I’ve raised two boys who are similar in age to Caleb, so I really relate to her. But I would also say that I relate a lot to Maggie, because I was a rebellious young woman, so I totally get who she is and where she comes from and why she does the things that she does. And I love David. I actually love them all.

This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.