Full disclosure: I was already sobbing not even ten minutes into the season-two finale of Somebody Somewhere. Such an emotional outburst, of course, may well speak more about my own mental wellbeing these days, what with tears streaming down my face whenever I see characters on television emotionally mature before my eyes, offering themselves a kind of grace we should all crave for in real life, but I figured I’d flag that right away since this finale recap will sound needlessly hyperbolic. Because, seven episodes into its sophomore season, Somebody Somewhere has achieved that rare feat of having not just improved on its freshman outing but lovingly deepened and expanded the world it had introduced us to last year.
It’s fitting that for a show anchored in grief (season one centered on the loss of Sam and Tricia’s sister, Holly), “To Ed” would begin with a funeral. We barely got to meet Darlene, Sam’s singing teacher/coach, but she clearly hit a chord with teenage Sam and rustled up some hidden stressors for her in the present. Thankfully, the two had had a quiet and welcome reunion not that long ago, with Darlene giving Sam the tape of their last session, the one that had our wayward singer break down when confronted with a pat platitude about love. Still, Sam shows up at her funeral where, amid notes from former students and a lovely serenade, the show offers up a written Darlene quote that functions like the central thesis of Somebody Somewhere writ-large: “Without life’s minor notes, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate its crescendos.”
Week in and week out, I’ve singled out how this small town Kansas-set show excels when it focuses on small moments: the sisters on a grueling car ride with their mom, Joel reading a book on a porch, Sam alone at her kitchen table, the two BFFs bike riding or getting their steps in. In essence, this show is about life’s minor notes, with even the crescendos it depicts being particularly low-key, if not for that any less worth celebrating. Such is the case with Fred and Susan’s wedding, which rightfully takes center stage here, helping culminate a season-long interest in romance, relationships, and the intimate bonds we create with those we love.
But before said wedding, we get the scene that broke me.
At the funeral, Sam and Joel reconnect and set time to meet later, which leads to an awkwardness between them that must be as uncomfortable for them to experience as it is for us to watch. It’s funny to see both, at least, equally fretting over snacks. And so, just as their awkward small chat risks derailing their reunion, Sam takes a big breath and shares the kind of simple and unguarded apology such situations call for: “Joel, I’m sorry.” You can tell how hard those words are for her to say (heck, Tricia is later immensely surprised she was able to mend stuff with Joel in the first place), and her apology comes with an understanding of how her own emotions get in the way of letting folks like Joel into her life. She admits she doesn’t want to keep making unfair expectations of those around her so she can feel safe. (“I don’t want to do that anymore, and it’s your fault,” she bemoans.) It’s a touching moment that celebrates a vulnerability Joel’s long been encouraging in his friend, made all the more tender by their playful banter as they twist (inadvertently?) a Star Wars bit with their very funny “I miss you”/“I know” moment.
So, yes, all is well between the two friends as they head into Fred’s wedding, which in itself forces both Joel and Sam to confront their fears as they stand by their pal and help celebrate his loving union. Surprising no one, Sam’s rendition of “Ave Maria” was lovely and Joel’s words while officiating (making so many agricultural/horticultural metaphors we didn’t know we needed) was similarly affecting. Indeed, he may as well have been talking straight at Sam while saying “change can bring miraculous growth.” For the woman who sat right across from him, in a purple jacket and matching shorts(!) is far away from the shell of a person she was when they first met all those months ago. She’s remembered to lighten up and to embrace lightness within herself. (It’s what surprises Tricia about how she’s chosen to move forward rather than cling to regrets and grudges, as she’d done so often in the past.)
Which brings us to the one moment in the episode that I’ll be replaying over and over again. Yes, I’m talking about Sam’s full-blown rendition of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” We’d gotten a brief taste of what Bridget Everett can do with that iconic joyful anthem but to see her perform it in full, with such glee (not to mention to watch Joel/Jeff Hiller outright LOSE IT when seeing her perform it) was arguably the greatest parting gift Somebody Somewhere could have given us as they bid farewell to this impeccably crafted and achingly beautiful second season.
If only we could bottle this kind of joy for whenever we’re feeling sad or despondent about the world, our family, or even ourselves. Here is the kind of crescendo the show wants us to always celebrate: not, perhaps, the wedding as a key moment in someone’s romantic life (how heteronormative of you!) but a wedding song as an ephemeral moment where you and your loved ones can feel united in the sheer ecstasy that is dancing with abandon, as if no one (but those closest to you) is watching.
- Of course, in true Somebody Somewhere fashion, we end not with that raucous rendition (can we talk about Sam’s tasseled top?) but with Sam’s drunken attempt at a late-night hookup with her hottie neighbor, which feels like an apt way to close out a season where we saw Sam eventually throw herself into trying new things and violating her “NNP” (No New People) rule.
- An entire season went by and Somebody Somewhere deftly handled the loss of Mike Hagerty without outright doing away with his character. Fitting that this final episode would be titled “To Ed”; what a lovely tribute to a performer who helped shape the show into the love letter to being kind to one self it became. “He just saw me,” Fred says about Ed, and you can hear even in that small gesture show and character alike spotlighting their cast member while also making a radical statement about what loving and open acceptance can and should look like.
- Tricia remains a romantic at heart (“Love is just so beautiful”) and so it wasn’t that surprising to find she’d make for a great wedding planner, with even her subtle rainbow floral arrangement hitting that sweet spot between the extravagance she so adores and the simple decor Fred and Susan wanted.
- Also, who knew she also made such a great tailor? Because we all saw how ill-fitting Sam’s jacket was beforehand.
- If/when we get a third season, I will insist we get plenty more of Irma (Meighan Gerachis) and Tiffani (Mercedes White), who so clearly shine in the small moments each have been given throughout the show’s fourteen episodes.
- There are great end credits songs and then there’s the show choosing to close out the season with “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas.
- I love this show. It’s been a balm to watch and write about it week in and week out; thank god we can always go back and rewatch it if we ever need to remember how good it always made us feel.