In this way, Review differed even from the show it was based on, the Australian series Review With Myles Barlow. That series derived much of its humor from the fact that Phil Lloyd’s life critic approached his job with a cold professionalism, eschewing any emotion that might otherwise get in the way of, say, killing a man. And fortunately for Myles, the show echoes this detachment by rebooting him to a complete blank slate at the end of every episode, respawning like a Grand Theft Auto character to run amok anew.

By contrast, most of Review’s comedy stems from the fact that Forrest does feel emotion, and is often overwhelmed by it. These ever-present glimmers of a conscience to be grappled with are what makes the traumas he endures—and causes—by choosing to ignore them far more lasting, both psychologically and physically. Early on in the show, Forrest gets divorced for a challenge and stays that way, with Suzanne’s confusion and frustration with Forrest’s inability to just snap out of it and come home providing the tragic through-line of the entire series. By the third season, his body is scarred with bullet holes, knife cuts, and even arrow wounds from the many times he’s put his own life on the line. And yet, despite these many hard-won lessons, Forrest never actually learns anything.


In the second season episode “Happiness, Pillow Fight, Imaginary Friend,” in one of the most devastating moments of the show, Forrest’s father sits with him and lays out a litany of the disasters he’s caused that saw him burning down the family house, getting marooned at sea, nearly dying of said bullet and arrow wounds (inflicted by his father at Forrest’s insistence), and finally, killing someone. “Through it all, I told myself, ‘Forrest is a good boy, and he always has been,’” he says. “But now a man is dead and you’re charged with killing him. What are your values, son? Did I raise you to have values where it’s okay to kill somebody? I hope not.” Yet even as his father decides that, for his own safety, he has to turn his back on his son, it takes the murder of Forrest’s imaginary friend, taken on at the behest of the show, for Forrest to break down over “the utter pointlessness and cruelty of everything that my life had become.”

That question—of what Forrest actually believes in, and whether there is any sort of moral compass that will eventually steer him away from the rocks he keeps willfully battering against—becomes the running quandary at the center of the series. It’s made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that Forrest does seem like a good boy (mostly by dint of Daly’s cheerful, lovably buttoned-up performance), yet he repeatedly puts his faith in a greater power that’s determined to see him inflicting and experiencing unimaginable pain. As Daly told The A.V. Club, “We talked a lot about Job in our writers’ room” during the making of this season especially, as Forrest rebounds from his near-certain death at the end of last season, convinced that God had spared him in order to continue his very important work.


But much as Job loses everything and finds himself covered in boils, just so God can win an argument, Forrest’s suffering is purely for someone else’s entertainment. In Review, “God” takes the form of Forrest’s producer Grant (James Urbaniak), who repeatedly, cunningly, passive-aggressively tests Forrest’s loyalty, all because he knows his torture is good for ratings. More indirectly, it’s heard in the viewers who send in their review requests, those trolling, whispering voices who tell him to do ghastly things for their amusement under the cloak of social media anonymity. There’s a reason why one of the prevailing fan theories throughout the series’ run was that Forrest was actually trapped in Purgatory, undergoing—and failing—moral tests in an endless loop, until he finally makes the decision to escape.

But even before the final season premiered, Daly shot down that theory. Forrest’s torment is entirely more earthbound and recognizable—one sadly reflective of the human condition in its blinkered devotion to our own self-determined duties and codes, often at the expense of loved ones, as well as our misguided belief that we simply don’t have a choice when we so often do, and our refusal to admit culpability in our own misery. Repeatedly, Forrest is undone by his vanity and his conviction that he’s building some sort of legacy, as well his unflagging, Andy Daly-ish optimism that this greater power determining his direction couldn’t possibly be malevolent. It’s what makes the end of the show so profoundly sad in a way not even dared by the Bible; even Job was rewarded with a bunch of pretty daughters, after all.


Instead, Forrest walks away with nothing to show for it, save for the cold comfort that, as his assistant tells him, he “got out of this dumb show alive.” He’s denied even the satisfaction of knowing that it all meant something. As he admits to his ex-wife earlier in the episode, “There is nothing that I could have possibly shared with the world” about undergoing obviously awful experiences that would have justified his losing everything. Yet, like most of his epiphanies, it’s fleeting and fruitless. And once again, it’s instantly undone by Grant’s slightest taunting of his pride. As the series ends, the irony of that central query posed at the beginning every episode (“Life: It’s literally all we have. But is it any good?”) becomes clear. Forrest has always been too caught up in reviewing life to actually live it. And now it’s over.

It’s heady stuff—a heartrending, absurdist morality play about the evil that men do to themselves that any serious French existentialist or Irish dramatist would be proud of, albeit one where a guy eats pancakes until he barfs. When Forrest, upon hearing of his show’s cancellation from Grant, threatens to kill himself, it sounds like a natural conclusion. Were this one of those aforementioned Irish dramas, Review would surely end with Forrest putting a gun to his head and the stage lights cutting out just as we hear the bang. Instead, the show somehow conjures an ending that’s even darker than that. Life goes on for Forrest MacNeil, and it goes on without him, indifferent to whether he thinks it’s any “good.” And we have to leave him now, still deep inside the delusion that it’s all because of the random whims of the universe, that he has no choice in determining his own fate. It’s the great cosmic joke that’s played on all of us, and like everything about Review, it’s both hilarious and harrowing. Five stars.