“Everything will be OK” is the kind of thing we tell someone when one of two situations has occurred: Someone is irrationally caught up in a minute problem, or everything will absolutely not be OK. Yet, the new comedy from Australian comedian Josh Thomas (“Please Like Me”) walks a thin line between these two situations — between being completely helpless and being just self aware enough to make it out alive — and comes out deftly chock-full of heart.
So, their dad is going to die. “Their” is three siblings: Nicholas (played by Thomas), a slightly hysteric gay kid from Australia visiting his father in America, his sister Genevieve (Maeve Press, “Evil Lives Here”) and their sister Matilda (Kayla Cromer, “Blood Orange”), who has autism and struggles with social cues. They don’t know their dad is going to die at first. But on the day that Nicholas is preparing to leave for Australia again, his dad (Christopher May, “The Hero”) tells him he might not want to get on the plane — who is going to take care of his sisters? Well, Dad has a list, but Nicholas is the obvious choice. Nicholas has a lot of issues, clearly; he shared all his issues on a date with Alex (Adam Faison, “Grace and Frankie”) in one breathless motion. Over banana pudding, they all decide that Nicholas will take care of the girls even though he is, admittedly, not the best choice. And then Dad dies, halfway through the episode.
One of the things that’s so neat about “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” is how candid it is. From the way the father explains his situation, to the kids’ reservations about Nicholas’ parenting abilities, everything is straightforward. In the mode of improv comedy, the characters accept events at face-value, as if none of it is out of the ordinary, as if their father isn’t actually dying from pancreatic cancer. Even character traits — from Nicholas’s sexuality to their father’s gross oversight in waiting to tell his children for so long that he was going to die — aren’t dwelled on. Every character is independent, with his or her own self-assured identity.
Perhaps this is helped most by Cromer’s stellar performance as Matilda. Cromer herself is on the spectrum. The sincere and honest treatment of autism on the show is a breath of fresh air. It isn’t something that gets in the way of the plot, and it doesn’t drag characters down. It is simply a component of the show, something characters are just aware of. Nicholas’s sexuality is treated with the same respect. Nothing is dwelled on.
They don’t even dwell on their father’s death. The funeral is a jovial, slightly awkward event, where Nicholas attempts to dodge condolences and Matilda delivers an unconventional eulogy. When they come back to the house, they’re all sad, but not because their dad’s dead. Instead they move forward, tackling their issues in the moment. The episode ends with the siblings dancing — Nicholas wants a hug, but Matilda doesn’t like hugs. Nicholas and his sisters stuff their hands in the condolences bouquets and toss the petals into the air, dancing as they fall around. And, honestly, everything seems like it’s going to be OK.