This eleventh and final season of Modern Family has contained a lot of apparent “lasts.” From the Last Thanksgiving to the Last Christmas, the show has continually reminded us that this is the end of its run. This week’s episode is billed as the family’s final trip to Paris. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but watching this season means allowing Modern Family a bit of creative license when it comes to being overly saccharine about its farewell.
There’s nothing all that different about “Paris” despite the location change. This is yet another episode where nothing truly meaningful happens, leaving the final season still devoid of direction. Every single bit of marketing material insists that Modern Family is headed towards a massive, emotional, tearjerker of a finale, and yet the actual episodes continually fail to provide any sort of narrative momentum.
If I asked you to pinpoint this season’s major narrative arcs, you’d probably struggle to come up with anything. For awhile it was all about Haley, Dylan, and their twins, and what that meant for the changing dynamic of the family, but they’ve largely been exiled to the corner of the sitcom world where they’re more a punchline than anything else. Without any central plot, the show is left to meander into its final hours.
Maybe I’m being too hard here. “Paris” isn’t a bad episode. It takes the idea of new possibilities, the ones inherent in a trip abroad, and upends them with the intrusion of capital “L” Life. Cam is excited to take Fizbo to the streets of Paris, only to run into the real Fizbo, the unconscious inspiration for his own act; Phil plans a romantic surprise, but is confronted with a fling from Claire’s past; the whole family is there because Jay is accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the closet business, but it’s later revealed that this is all a misunderstanding, and that his rival Earl Chambers is the one getting the award.
There are a smattering of good moments throughout the episode. Claire’s unintended Before Sunset-like rendezvous with a past fling takes a delightful turn when both him and Phil realize they share a love of magic, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson does some good work with Mitchell as a solo tourist, attempting to fit in before finally giving up and embracing his American-ness. The way the show flips the script allows for some funny moments in the name of thwarted expectations.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this entire season feels so listless. We’re getting seriously close to the final stretch of episodes, and it still feels like Modern Family hasn’t committed to any sort of endgame. We’re still languishing in middling storylines and mediocre episodes. There’s no momentum, no sense that any of this matters.
What’s frustrating is that Modern Family keeps suggesting that all of this is important. It keeps hinting at moments of personal reckoning, like when Jay considers that his life’s work might not be so meaningful after all. But there’s never any real conflict or resolution. The show is taking the easy way out, choosing complacency when there’s other, more complex options. The big message from this week’s episode is that family is more important than anything else, and that Jay’s work is only meaningful because it’s allowed him to have this sprawling family unit. But that’s nothing new or fresh or exciting. It’s the same old, same old, and it’s only contributing to an increasingly disappointing final season.
- “I’m going to have a lot of bread while we’re here, and I need it to be okay.”
- “Claire, you know this Guy?”
- “I’m a workaholic; I must be in the office 10, 12 hours a week.”
- “All I had to do was look good and have a lot of attitude. Paris is a giant gay bar.”