This article contains information about the third season finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. If you haven’t yet seen the episode, you may want to do that first.
Let’s just open with this: “I have some things to say, and it’s gonna be brutal.”
That’s not me, your regular Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reviewer, talking. Nothing I have to say here will be brutal: this is a solid episode, and a few hiccups can’t diminish that. No, that’s Rebecca Bunch, unburdening her soul in an act of debatable morality, in the single most upsetting scene in an uneven episode that nevertheless sends the series in a direction that’s thrilling. That direction is a curveball, but also somehow feels inevitable. It’s as though this is where Rebecca Bunch has always been headed, and once again a season ends with Paula Proctor looking in Rebecca Bunch’s eyes as Rebecca prepares to make a big change.
Back to that act of unburdening, though. To be fair, who among us wouldn’t do just about whatever it takes to get a Trent memory spirit (or polter-guy, TM Greg Serrano) out of our heads? What’s best about “Nathaniel Is Irrelevant” is that even when Rebecca’s doing basically the right thing, she’s still somehow dealing with the consequences of three seasons’ worth of actions. It’s not Rebecca’s fault that Trent is stalking her, or that he’s threatening the lives of people she loves. But she wound up here because of her own choices, and as she told her B.P.D. therapy group, she somehow always sort of gets away with it. She covers it up, or it somehow works out, or she manipulates the emotions of those who love her. Occasionally she tells the truth, and is forgiven, but for the most part, these bullets get dodged.
It takes a male Rebecca Bunch to change that pattern. Paul Welsh doesn’t have nearly as much to do in this episode as he did in the last one, but Trent remains a narrative bull in a china shop. Here, he’s threatening to kill Nathaniel (via Instagram story) after showing up repeatedly, first in Rebecca’s head, then outside her office window and in that fateful makeout elevator. His early appearances are jarring, particularly when he turns up in the mirror, but from there, things escalate quickly. It’s not a smooth escalation, but Trent isn’t a stable person. It’s conceivable that he could resurface and almost immediately display some previously unseen violent tendencies; after seeing his Rebecca bunker, it’s obvious that he’s even more unhinged than we’d previously seen.
What’s less understandable is how abruptly the story shifts from there. This episode, credited to both Michael Hitchcock and director Aline Brosh McKenna, doesn’t pull off its abrupt pivot as nimbly as “Nathaniel And I Are Just Friends!” We’re still reeling from Paula’s heartstomping exit from “The Purge” when Trent pops up in that elevator, and from there it’s a race to the big finish, with few moments lingering and several big questions broadly ignored. There are still some major high points, that lovely Darryl and White Josh scene chief among them, but it feels a bit as though the series simply ran out of time. In what feels like no time at all, we’ve gone from Josh clocking Nathaniel for attempting to have his dad deported to Josh sitting in the front row of the courtroom, from Nathaniel racing home to check on Mona to singing a love ballad with Rebecca, from Rebecca trying to get Trent’s tracker working to pushing him off of a roof. It’s all beginning and ending, without much middle.
There are exceptions. Donna Lynne Champlin is as good in this episode as she’s been all season, first absolutely annihilating her folk ballad about the joys of pushing a human out of your body, then selling every ounce of Paula’s heartbreak and sense of betrayal. She’s terrific in those scenes, and in those final moments, but she’s best when she’s sitting on her bed, playing Rebecca’s voicemail over and over, too tired to do much but listen. It’s a fast arc, but an arc nonetheless, and with those scenes, the Rebecca-Paula relationship once again asserts itself as the most important in the show.
Had the show spent more time with the characters — more time with Rebecca in jail, more time with Nathaniel processing what happened, or even some extra time with Trent — it might make those big jumps easier to swallow. If nothing else, it would certainly make easier to overlook the plot holes and inaccuracies that pepper the final act. Maya, George, and Tim all saw Trent holding that knife. Not one of them thought it looked threatening? Rebecca’s a lawyer surrounded by lawyers, and not one of them thought to capture those Instagram messages before they disappeared? There’s no effort to subpoena Instagram? Rebecca didn’t think to send the cops to the creepy Rebecca bunker? Nathaniel — who is most definitely a part of the investigation, as it was his house and Trent was apparently trying to turkey-carve him — is allowed to represent Rebecca? Paula wasn’t answering her phone for Rebecca, but surely she’d speak to the police?
Then we arrive at that courtroom scene, and in lieu of a plea, Rebecca gives a speech. Typically, when the show does something that’s just not how life works, there’s a little wink or a nod. Think about “let’s leave it vague, it’s more interesting that way,” or the “don’t think about it” in the “Who’s The New Guy?” reprise. In “Josh And I Go To Los Angeles,” the judge makes a point of recognizing that Rebecca’s argument is unusual; in “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh,” Rebecca’s police escort results in the empathetic judge getting chastised (before admitting he left his wife for a prostitute.) There’s no sign of that here. This judge simply lets her monologue, and it’s a beautiful monologue, but that would never happen — and more specifically, I’m noticing that it would never happen, which is something that rarely happens with the far from realistic Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
At the end of the day, it’s not really important that all the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed. It bugs, but it really doesn’t matter that much. What matters is the journey these characters take, and while the actual (and mostly non-existent) middle might not have sung here, the beginning and the end are pretty special. Best of all, this ending signals a direction for the show that I can’t even begin to fathom. There’s one thing that’s clear, though, and that’s where Paula Proctor is standing.
The pilot ended with Paula and Rebecca holding hands at a party.
The season one finale ended, or nearly ended, with Paula and Rebecca holding hands at a party, strengthening their friendship.
The season two finale ended with Paula holding Rebecca’s hands atop a cliff, vowing to help her destroy Josh Chan.
The season three finale ends with Paula and Rebecca locking eyes, the former accepting the latter’s intention to be held accountable for her actions. They’re not holding hands, but I’m assuming the bailiff wouldn’t have that, anyway.
Paula has gone on every journey Rebecca has invited her on, and this one, whatever it may be, will be no different. When Crazy Ex-Girlfriend comes back, Paula Proctor will be by her side. Unless she really does wind up in prison, that is.
Episode grade: B
Season grade: B+
- Some other reading: here’s a piece about the reprises of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I wrote; here’s a list of the top 25 songs from the series to date, which I also wrote. I’m tired. Please give them a look if you have a moment.
- Speaking of song rankings, these are both total home runs.
- Only bad things happen in that mirror
- “So I carry to have this baby for free because I’m whimsical and random, but now I have to give birth a baby, uh, oops, so can you just hit me in the head with a hammer and wake me when it’s over like they did in the ‘50s?”
- “Sorry I’m late, somebody asked me to change the water cooler on the way in.”
- The Trent Is Getting Ready Award: Michael Hitchcock and Aline Brosh McKenna both pulled double duty for this episode, she behind the camera, he in front of it. Let’s give Bert his due. And speaking of:
- “Recently I apologized to all 10 of my children, because I haven’t been that present in their lives, and I feel a lot better!”
- “It’s not a group hang, I’m just having a few people over!”
- Thanks for reading this season. No renewal yet, but I’m betting I’ll see you again next year.