The next time you feel life has cheated you, in your next moment of sadness or frustration with the world or your own lot in life, take a breath and recite these words:
“At least that wasn’t the last episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
Many a great television show has ended without the chance to wrap things up, and many others have created covert finales, designed to double as satisfying series-enders if a renewal order never arrived (ex: Gilmore Girls, or more recently, Sherlock). It’s an understandable impulse. To create something that’s forever incomplete must surely be frustrating, so you can forgive writers for wanting to play it safe.
Aline Brosh McKenna has no interest in that safety net and no time for nonsense. The co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and writer-director of “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?” knocks the season home with a perfect finale that pulls no punches. Whether McKenna and company were confident in the renewal of the series or simply didn’t care to play it safe matters little. All that matters is the result, a daring, sometimes shocking, deeply uncomfortable, and altogether moving hour that somehow makes time for a White Josh and Darryl subplot, a Slipknot-inspired take on “How Lovely To Be A Woman,” eight minutes with Dr. Akopian, and Hector’s mom, that lovely snowflake. It’s made all the sweeter because we don’t have to stand on a cliff of uncertainty, but can live with our rage until next fall rolls around, confident in a third season filled with the hellish fury of a woman scorned.
In other words: good god, what a great finale.
In a season with few lows, this has to be the highest of highs. “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?” gets so much done in its brief runtime that it’s easy to overlook exactly how much time it takes with the characters. Nothing here is rushed, as the episode explores the ways in which both Rebecca and Josh have grown, as well as the serious issues with which they’re still battling. Josh may not sprint into the arms of a pretty girl, but he still goes running for an ideal that’s sure to disappoint (what I wouldn’t give for a version of “Duh” that’s about Jesus). Rebecca may turn that self-loathing outward, but telling her Dad to get lost is one thing, vowing to destroy the life of another person is quite another (even if that person isn’t currently in a seminary, which is maybe not the best place in which to enact one’s revenge).
Each takes a hell of a journey over the course of the episode’s runtime, ending up about as far from the place they started as its possible to imagine, and yet it totally works. Contrived? Not at all. Crazy? Lil’ bit.
It’s also, it goes without saying, pretty damn funny—and given the dark places to which this installment goes, that’s really saying something. Much of the hour focuses on Rebecca’s relationship with her garbage father, the “Westchester Sperm Machine” (John Allen Nelson), as well as a mysterious figure from her past named Robert. They’re both, to put it plainly, the worst, and yet the episode remains surprisingly zippy. McKenna and her stellar ensemble balance all the darkness, up to and including every uncomfortably long hug and those terrible moments with poor Dr. Akopian, with plenty of biting humor.
The Chans nonchalantly watch Rebecca race past them sans veil. Hector can’t wait to watch his mother dance to “Brick House.” Valencia loves walkie-talkies. Best of all, a long scream cuts to the bridal party, where the screamer is revealed to be Heather, not Rebecca. It hits that perfect Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sweet-spot, where sometimes you’re squirming, sometimes you’re shouting, and sometimes you’re crying, but you’re nearly always laughing.
There’s much more to say about this episode—again, expertly written, directed, acted, costumed, shot, edited, and so on—but as with all season finales, this is an hour designed to make viewers look both backward and ahead. Rebecca Bunch and Joshua Chan (RIP, #BunchofChans) spent most of the first season denying some basic truths, and much of this season lying to themselves and others about what, exactly, would finally make them happy. Beyond that, the show has explored tropes about love, obsession, romantic narratives, female friendship, sexuality, coping mechanisms, and what happy endings look like. Take a look at this still from the episode’s climax and guess which trope we’ll be exploring next season:
That is one lightning bolt shy of The Craft, and that’s pretty damn exciting.
It’s no mistake that this episode begins and ends with Paula and Rebecca together, first raging, musically speaking, about something joyful, and then standing together on the edge of a new joint venture. The pilot ended with a vow between the two to bring Josh Chan into Rebecca’s life:
...and season two ends with a vow to bring him down:
Since the final moments of the pilot, it’s been evident that the Paula-Rebecca relationship was the show’s most important, and “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?” confirms this. In a season where Paula’s marriage nearly collapsed, it’s unsurprising that in Rebecca’s moment of grief and rage, Paula would be the one to clasp her hands and say, “What did you have in mind?” It may not be healthy, and it may not be sane, but these two clearly need each other, and whatever comes next, you can bet that’ll be in the mix.
Just as there’s no shortage of finales that play it safe, there’s no great lack of woman-scorned narratives, but somehow, when sisterhood and friendship are involved, they go from terrifying (Fatal Attraction, et. al.) to fun, lively romps (The Witches of Eastwick, 9 to 5, and so on). Which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will choose to explore remains to be seen—the solid money is on both, as well as on plenty of things we aren’t expecting—but one thing’s for sure: it won’t be reductive.
The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finale brought Rebecca Bunch to the edge of a cliff, twice. Once she looked out over the sea and saw a bright future ahead, where everyone loved her and she’d never have problems again. Once she looked down and saw waves crashing on rocks. Now she’s looking out, and there’s surely a storm on that horizon. “
- I cannot wait to hear the theme song for season three.
- Rachel Bloom should make this one her Emmy episode. Donna Lynne Champlin could consider it, too.
- Making Trent and his envelope a red herring seems like the perfect fate for that creepy dude.
- Glen-Gary-George Award: “Welp, that was a good eight minutes, we’re really getting there!” Michael Hyatt, god bless.
- “I can’t actually talk to you while your chest is twerking.”
- “Have fun flying coach, dick.”
- That medley was beautiful, surprising, sad, funny. Sums up the whole season, really.
- Lots of throwbacks to season one here, especially the pilot. That text to her dad is nearly identical to the text she sent Josh after moving, and even “This is what happy feels like” returned.
- Thanks for reading this season! See you in the fall. (I’ll also be doing another song list for this year, which I’ll share on Twitter next week.)
- Notice that Rebecca and Josh each made a healthy choice (telling off Dad, throwing the envelope in the trash) followed by a desperately troubling one (vowing to destroy Josh, joining a seminary).
- I’ll leave you with this: