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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Bachelor’s After The Final Rose was better than this entire season

Illustration for article titled The Bachelor’s After The Final Rose was better than this entire season
Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

It’s funny how you know something is going to be brutal going in, and yet, once it happens, it’s even worse than you could have imagined. We’ve all had this sinking feeling for weeks that Matt was going to pick the wrong girl. Even then, seeing him break Michelle’s heart on national TV was so hard to watch. She wanted them to be world-class warriors together, she had the same overall life goals that he does, and he told her “I don’t think I can get there with you,” and then offered a weak “Sorry” on his way out the door. I actually screamed at my TV.

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Matt seemed really thrown by his mother’s commentary that love wasn’t the be-all, end-all, that feelings are bound to fluctuate and change. Somehow, this seemed like a revolutionary concept to him, that the way he felt about these women may not be the same in a few years. “Is love enough?” is a good question, and those of us who have been married for awhile know that it’s not. Love may not be able to surmount health problems or financial difficulties or other life hurdles, but it hopefully gives you the foundation to deal with those problems together—that’s the whole point.

It seems inconceivable that these aren’t things that Matt would have considered before going on national television to look for a bride, because it’s not like the whole point of this program is a secret. Obviously, he is not okay with his parents’ fractured relationship and his upbringing, and that is something that is worked out more effectively in therapy, not on a TV show. But Matt always seemed like he was trying to be as honest as possible throughout this entire process, and when it comes right down to it, The Bachelor is a completely artificial and manufactured way to find a life partner. He probably went into this with decent intentions, but at the end couldn’t go through with the lifetime commitment part of The Bachelor finale. Honestly, it’s surprising that anyone does.

Nevertheless, we all knew that Matt was more into Rachael than anyone else, so him picking her at the end was not a surprise to anyone who was paying attention even slightly. The lack of proposal was kind of a shock, but the triumphant music at the end was not enough to sell this anti-climactic commitment quasi-ceremony.

Fortunately, “After The Final Rose” was nothing but climactic. First off, it gave Michelle a chance to say her peace, and reveal that Matt wouldn’t even give her a few minutes when she fell apart after their breakup (Related: Matt is now dead to me.) And even when she confronted him, he still wouldn’t offer a possible reason for why he would be so cruel to someone he professed to care about. Still, it was all almost worth it for Michelle getting to roast him a bit: “I hope you come up with more phrases than ‘Thanks for sharing.’” BAM. Michelle is a queen.

That conversation was a lot more fun than Matt’s with Rachael, or even Matt’s with Emmanuel Acho. But although a little stiff at first, Acho did an amazing job, digging in and and asking the tough questions. These are not the queries Chris Harrison would have asked, and Acho was much more insightful than Harrison’s weak platitudes and greeting-card quips (even Neil Lane offered better relationship advice). Matt talked about the tremendous responsibility he felt as the first Black Bachelor, “to take on the weight of everything going on in the country… that’s what I started to feel like my presence represented.” Acho went after Rachael, asking her what she had done to educate herself about racial issues since her online scandal, even though her non-answer was akin to Kate Couric asking Sarah Pain what newspapers she read. If we didn’t already think Rachael was the worst, this conversation proved it, as she seemed to really have absorbed very little growth despite losing her very public boyfriend over this, and then had the gal to say that she felt “blindsided” when they broke up. What the hell did she think was going to happen? Good riddance to Rachael, but it’s hard not to feel bad for Matt at the end, unable even to look at her, and definitely not taking Acho up on his “one last embrace” suggestion. But, I have a feeling he’ll get over this all soon (if the rumors are rue, with gate-crasher Never-Been-Kissed Heather).

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Moving on: Michelle and Katie are the new Bachelorettes! Good choice by the franchise to make another person of color a lead almost as soon as possible, and Katie should help steer the ship away from bullshit toxicity toward what it should be about: love and romance. Michelle really got the shaft this season, and she seems really delightful and fun, so… fingers crossed. At the end of one of these bullshit seasons where no one ends up with anybody anyway (looking at you, Pilot Pete), I always kid myself that maybe this time I won’t watch, that’ll show ‘em! But with these two Bachelorettes, I probably will. Let’s face it, I probably would have anyway. Maybe we’ll see you then.


Stray observations

  • Lot of sighing on this episode.
  • Emmanuel Acho kept saying he’s “sitting in” for Chris Harrison, which makes it sound like his departure is temporary?
  • I hope Matt’s beard makes it a lot easier for Michelle to get over him.
  • They still used Chris Harrison’s voice for the promos, right? Weird.

Season overall: C-. Not really Matt James’ fault, I think the producers were worried that he was kind of on the boring side of nice. So they packed the contestants with a bunch of volatile personalities, which made this season much more about toxic drama than romance. This has happened before, and I wish to god the producers would just learn a lesson from all this. Nobody wants to see Queen Victoria on their TV. Even Matt knew enough (mostly) to stay away from the Mean Girls.

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Season finale: C. Pretty anticlimactic overall, and even though we knew it was coming, Matt choosing Rachael over Michelle was a travesty of the highest order.

“After The Final Rose”: A surprising A-! Emmanuel Acho did a really incredible job as host, opening up important questions about race that hadn’t ever been asked in The Bachelor’s 24 other seasons. Let’s hope the franchise stays on its commitment to addressing its race-related issues, because this season can generously be called a mess. But the casting of Matt James did at least open the door for other Black Bachelors, a move that was long overdue. Wonder what Mike Johnson is up to nowadays?

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Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.