After the perfection of last week’s “A Goon’s Dead In A Weary World,” which was an episode that hit all of the right emotional beats, while never skimping on the laughs, it almost seems unnecessary that there are still two more episodes left to close out the season. For the most part, “A Goon’s Deed” worked remarkably well as a series finale, but we all know that episode's ending wasn’t enough to fulfill Liz, and we all know that wasn’t the definitive end. As they say, the show must go on, and tonight, that show was one last episode of The Girlie Show.
Liz Lemon has become a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, on the mother message boards that she now posts on). Her children are off to school, and Criss is off to work as a dental receptionist, though, unfortunately, we got no bits of him exclaiming “Don Cheadle on a bed of rice!” But Liz Lemon isn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mom and soon finds herself restless, bombarded by the ultra-paranoid mothers that frequent the board and attack her for everything ranging from a gender-specific bike to her decision to have her children wear a helmet. It isn’t long before Liz is back at 30 Rock, waltzing into Jack Donaghy’s office (to the forever dismay of Jonathan), who correctly informs her that she needs some sort of outlet. It’s one of the basics for Liz’s character: She needs to keep herself busy. So she pitches a meta comedy to Kenneth who quickly shuts it down based on his list of TV No-No Words. Kenneth is, unsurprisingly, into the most basic broad sitcoms (oh, it makes me so happy that 30 Rock is still making digs at NBC even in its last few minutes) and quickly shuts down Liz’s idea. Liz turns back to the message board, only to end up planning a fistfight with a fellow mother at a local playground.
It turns out that the angry mom blogger she was meeting is, in fact, Criss. He’s frustrated with working in an office, and she’s frustrated with being a stay-at-home mother. The logical solution is for them to switch roles, and they do, which leads Liz to return to Kenneth, who informs her that, because of a strange clause in Tracy Jordan’s contract, the cast and crew of The Girlie Show are all contractually obligated to do one final episode.
Meanwhile, Jack Donaghy is having a personal crisis of his own. Echoing his earlier concerns in “Florida,” Jack is unsure if he’s even happy and his solution is to make the “Sigma Wheel Of Happiness Domination,” a chart that includes things such as hobbies, family, work, sex and relationships, etc. A quick montage proves that this is all incredibly easy for Jack to accomplish—even convincing Christian Nancy (Julianne Moore, unfortunately with the same accent) to engage in a group relationship with Elisa (Salma Hayek, fortunately with the same accent). But he soon learns that his work isn’t as unfulfilling as it once was.
In the lesser storylines, Jenna is trying to figure out her next step—a failed stint on Law And Order: SVU (hi Fin and Munch, always glad to see you in any episode of television!), a failed attempt at Hollywood cinema (she learns that all the women in Los Angeles are too attractive for Jenna’s fragile self-esteem to handle), and finally, Broadway. At the same time, Tracy is having a hard time dealing with the transition of Kenneth: The Page who did all of his bidding and Kenneth: The President, who is now too busy to quickly do all of Tracy’s bidding. He still does, of course, but to a lesser extent.
However, the centerpiece of the first half-hour is the conflict between Jack and Liz. Sure, a vast majority of the show has been about Liz’s endless quest to find a balance between career and a family but there’s always been a really heavy emphasis (and a lot of emotional resonance) in the mentorship between Jack and Liz. They eventually blow up into an argument as they realized that they’ve ruined each other. Liz has softened Jack to the point where he quit his job in search for something better; Jack has hardened Liz to the point where she learns that she needs to always want something more. By the end of the argument, Liz has all but written him off—something that manages to actually, truly shake Jack.
In the second half, “Last Lunch,” the staff works to produce one last episode. It’s a much sillier half-hour than the one before it, one that actually heavily features Lutz. Lutz is a great character, the total sad-sack punching bag used just sparingly enough to always be funny. He picks Blimpies for lunch, against everyone else’s wishes but even all of their attempts to screw him over fail. Lutz gets his triumphant moment (perhaps his only triumph in the whole season) by always remaining one step ahead of the crew. After a hilarious pratfall through the ceiling, crushing all of their sushi and dessert, Liz relents and allows Lutz to order Blimpies.
But for the most part, “Last Lunch” centers around the characters dealing with the end of The Girlie Show and, to a point, the inevitable end of some of their friendships. Pete, in true, odd Pete fashion, continues to drop subtle hints about how he’s going to fake his death. Jenna can’t figure out anything she’ll miss about the show—until she discovers her mirror being removed. Tracy is rebelling completely against making a last episode, though it’s clear it’s less about trying to get out of his contract and more about his realization that he’s not ready to say goodbye. And Jack, the oddest of them all, is exhibiting all the signs that he’s about to commit suicide. This leads to two perfect scenes. The first is Liz meeting Tracy at the strip club they visited in the pilot and, while admitting that it’s possible they won’t be friends after this, admitting she still does sincerely love him. The second scene is, if course, Jack’s suicide fakeout, which he staged as a way to prove that Liz Lemon would miss him in the future. Even Jack’s plan to sail away to find his bliss is a fakeout; after about two minutes, he comes up with another brilliant idea (see-through dishwashers!) and returns back to work.
If you thought last week’s ending was special, this week may have been even better. The entire cast/crew saying goodbye and the reconciliation between Jack and Liz are both hilariously scored to Jenna’s absolutely hilarious and incomprehensible “Rural Juror” song. It's a weird way to end the series, a way that only this show could get away with it. There have been plenty of road bumps through the entire series of 30 Rock, but it’s always been a show that’s cared about its characters, no matter how screwed up they were, and it’s always been a show that embraced the true weirdness of this world. It’s a show whose impact will be seen in plenty of future sitcoms—and there are already plenty on air that borrow the series' formula—and while it’s a shame to see it go, it’s great to see it go out on such a high note.
- In the tag, we get glimpses into some of the characters’ futures: Pete has successfully faked his death, if only for a bit. Jenna’s still being Jenna. Liz has found a perfect balance between working in television and being a mother—something that is sure to ease the fears of anyone who worried she’d have to choose one or the other. And, of course, Kenneth’s immortal.
- “You’re just an alcoholic with a great voice.” — Liz, to Jack.
- Other words on Kenneth’s No No list: “Justin Bartha,” “Shows about shows,” “Blog,” “Quality,” “High Concept.”
- One of the things I didn’t realize how much I’d miss about 30 Rock is the near perfect editing, in particular the smash cuts that help sell the jokes.
- I would, hands down, watch Grizz’s new sitcom. Any other spin-offs you’d like to see? I’m a big fan of a buddy cop show starring Lutz and Jerry from Parks And Recreation or basically anything involving Tracy Jordan.
- No sign of Dennis Duffy, which I may never forgive the show for.