Rebecca can’t decide which of her suitors to choose. In a dream sequence she sees three possible futures, one with each of Greg, Nathaniel, and Josh, but in none of them is she happy. It’s because, explains, the dream version of Dr Akopian, “you don’t know who you are”.
But we’ll get there by the end of a warm, affecting finale, which leaps forward a year to show us something of what the future will actually look like. As expected Rebecca, for now, chooses to be on her own, although the possibility of a future with Nathanial or Greg remains on the table. Not Josh, though, who has a new girlfriend. Which is good, because (a) someone falling in love with their stalker; and (b) he’s as dumb as a box of rocks, and she’s a Harvard grad, and no. Rebecca has confessed to Paula about the musical interludes in her head, and in the very last scene is about to give her first public performance as a singer-songwriter. (In passing, it should be noted that Paula’s journey through the four seasons of this show has been pretty remarkable in itself, and looked at in a certain light the central relationship of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been that between Rebecca and Paula.)
With which we are, sadly, done with this show, which from its very first episode has been a funny, moving, intelligent, humane, female-centric, queer-friendly, body-positive triumph. There’s a bonus finale in which the cast performs in front of a live audience, which as might be expected responds with wave after wave of fan-love. This also allows songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen to take a deserved bow; as I said last week, the quality of the songwriting throughout the run is almost miraculous, and perhaps unrepeatable: I’m going to hazard a guess that the next show to feature, say, a New Jack Swing pastiche about not being a lawyer, or an Oklahoma-esque romp about shipping, is a long way off. And, not that you asked, I think that my absolute favourite was season 1’s ‘Settle For Me‘, which is amusing and touching and at the same time communicates a profound truth. What a great show. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will be more than a footnote when the history of the Golden Age of TV is being written.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, in its penultimate episode, presumably wanted to remind us just how much we’ll miss it. And it succeeded; this was utterly lovely from start to finish. It’s the week of Rebecca’s three dates, and everyone’s betting on the outcome. Valencia thinks Rebecca will end up with Greg, even though it’s almost as if he’s a “different actor… a different actor in the legal and political sense”, she rushes to clarify. Paula’s on Team Josh, and Heather is rooting for Nathaniel. Just to twist the knife even more, White Josh leads the whole cast through a dazzling, all-singing-all-dancing Guys and Dolls parody, ‘Love’s Not A Game’, which for this viewer was tinged with sadness: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been turning out these mini-masterpieces with jaw-dropping consistency for four seasons now, and we’re nearly done. Also, wow. Wow.
Date number 1, with Josh, is sweet; he reconstructs their tent at summer camp. (I’ll put aside my reservations about guy-falling-for-stalker for a week.) Date number 2, with Nathaniel, is romantic: it’s a picnic in the hills. And date number 3, with “Greg”… well, “Greg” tries to come up with something, but then his car breaks down, so they decide to get takeout, and they bicker like a couple, and “Greg” tells Rebecca that she’s the love of his life… In a sense it doesn’t matter who Rebecca ends up with; when Original Greg left, the show’s OTP left with him, and what we’ve got now is a choice between three flawed options. I still wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up on her own, but I’m good with anything. Apart from Josh.
Rebecca is unexpectedly called by the husband of her old frenemy Audra Levine: she’s run off to Las Vegas, so could Rebecca please go and bring her back? As it happens, the whole of the girl gang is looking for an excuse to get the hell out of West Covina. Paula’s new law firm is lovely, but she’s under pressure to fit in, primarily by buying expensive clothes. Heather is fed up with Hector, who’s a child. Valencia isn’t getting the marriage proposal she wants.
And Rebecca – well, she doesn’t know what to do about her three suitors, going as far as to list their strengths and weaknesses on a white board at her pretzel place. Josh has gone as far as to tell her that he’s in love with her. Which I must admit I’m a little uncomfortable about: I get that this is all fantasy, and I get that the physical threat levels aren’t huge, but in essence Josh has fallen in love with his stalker. I should probably not worry about it.
Anyway, Rebecca persuades Audra to leave the bonehead she’s met in Vegas, and – with a delightful reprise of ‘JAP Battle’ – the two of them evolve a new understanding. And back home, she decides to go on one date with each of the guys, in the hope of making her mind up. I haven’t changed my position; I’m still OG Greg > Nathaniel > ”Greg” > Josh, and I still think she’ll end up with none of them. An amiable but unexceptional episode.
Well. I didn’t see that hiatus coming, although we’ll presumably now get a clear run to the finish line, and to Rebecca choosing one of her suitors. I suspect it’ll be a great big Empowering Finale in which she chooses herself, but we’ll get there soon enough. Meantime, as Rebecca prepares to take part in a musical revue devoted to the songs of a legendary songwriter, all three of the men in her life are doing what they can to get close to her: Josh takes a backstage job with the revue; Nathaniel ends up with a role in it; and “Greg” reopens his father’s restaurant in order to stay in West Covina rather than return to college.
It’s amiable enough, and there are a couple of other storylines floating around as well: Paula, who graduated top of her class at law school, is being courted by other law firms. This storyline showcases Darryl at his most needy, which isn’t my favourite Darryl. And Valencia wants her girlfriend Beth to propose to her, without ever quite clarifying why she can’t propose to Beth.
But the episode really takes off when the action switches to the revue itself. Rebecca identifies that the lyrics of her song, ‘Etta Mae’s Lament’, are, uh, “retro”. Indeed they are. One might even go so far as to say they’re #problematic (“Get me offa my back and standing up straight/So I can be the kinda lady you’re not ashamed to date”). And Valencia’s song, ‘I’m The Bride Of The Pirate King‘, is, if anything, worse (“He hits me but he don’t mean any harm/His slaps are part of his pirate-king charm”). Both are appalled, but when Rebecca rewrites her song to make it a little more woke the revue’s producer makes it clear that she has to sing the song as originally written. Mind you, it gives Nathaniel a Moment, in which he perhaps edges ahead of the other boys in the race for Rebecca’s hand.
Most of this week’s action takes place at the hospital where Paula is recovering from her heart attack. Rebecca is there to support Paula, and is also on prescribed medication herself after last week’s events. She’s somewhat ambivalent about that, but is reassured by Dr Akopian, in a full-on ‘La La Land’ song-and-dance number featuring some actual cast members from that movie, that everyone’s on antidepressants, so no big. (This show is making quite the contribution to breaking down the stigma around mental illness, incidentally.) Josh, Nathaniel, and “Greg” all turn up at the hospital as well, intending to see Rebecca. But they come into contact with an infection which requires them to be quarantined, meaning that their bickering about who deserves Rebecca more can turn into fully-fledged violence. Or whatever you call it when it’s a fight between Josh and “Greg”. And Darryl, in the waiting room, meets April, in what looks like it might be a fledgling romance until they find out that their daughters know each other and don’t get on.
Paula needs to get out of the hospital in order to sit the bar exam, but she isn’t discharged in time, and if she signs herself out there might be problems with her health insurance. So Rebecca, Valencia, and Heather resolve to break Paula out. It means so much to Paula to be an attorney, realises Rebecca; what do I really want to do? Not Rebetzels, that’s for sure. I assumed that, like every show written by a writer, which is of course all of them, Rebecca’s dream would be to be a writer. It isn’t, although it isn’t a million miles away.
By the end, Rebecca’s confessed to “Greg” about what happened last week, so they’ve decided to take some out. And Josh has been firmly friendzoned. Which means that, all of a sudden, Nathaniel can see a path back into Rebecca’s life. As I’ve said before, if I have to pick among them I’m Team Nathaniel, so fill your boots, dude. An episode long on charm, as might be expected, but I didn’t think there was quite enough substance to it.
After four seasons of trying, Rebecca finally manages to persuade one of her suitors – “Greg” – to accompany her to Raging Waters, a waterpark. “Greg” visibly hates it – in a very real sense, I am “Greg” when it comes to waterparks – which, in turn, leads to an argument, as Rebecca thought for some reason that he would enjoy himself when he got there. (“Greg”’s musical explanation, the Springsteen-lite ‘I Hate Everything But You’, is just – “Even more examples!” – great.)
But the tension between them very quickly spirals out of control; as “Greg” observes, Rebecca hasn’t been going to therapy, and it affects her behaviour for the worse. He is, perhaps, a trifle mansplainy about it, but he’s also right. So they each go home on their own, and it’s then that the real trouble starts: Rebecca gets drunk and, still barely in control of her moods, heads over to Nathaniel’s house to try and seduce him. I am, of course, on Team Nathaniel, but not like this. He resists; as does Josh when she tries the same with him.
Meantime, Paula is suffering a meltdown of a different kind: she’s burning several candles at several ends, and suffering from physical symptoms which look like peri-menopause. When she finally makes it to her delightfully acerbic doctor, though, he takes a matter of seconds to diagnose her and phone the ICU: she is, he informs her, having a cardiac arrest. Paula is appalled. “I have stuff to do!” she pleads. “Cool”, replies her doctor. “Then put dropping dead on your to-do list for today”.
By the end Rebecca has reconnected with Dr Shin, who – in the face of her reluctant acquiescence – prescribes her some medication, and Paula is in recovery. It’s not the most joyous Crazy Ex-G, but it connected as satisfactorily as any episode this season.
Nathaniel, obliged to watch Rebecca and Greg being happy together, is suffering the pain of unrequited love. As is Maya (Esther Povitsky), whose ex-girlfriend is now with a woman who chews her hair. While trying to decide what to do Nathaniel daydreams himself into a rom-com pastiche, in which he and Maya conspire to make their ex-partners jealous, while maybe falling for each other. It’s a cute idea which, unfortunately, overstays its welcome by about 35 minutes, although it confirms yet again that Esther Povitsky is one of the best things in the show.
This episode perhaps didn’t represent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at its best, but it was so charming that it was impossible not to love it. Rebecca is no further forward with the three men in her life, none of whom wants to discuss that evening when they all ended up either on her patio or in her house. She, in turn, wants nothing to do with Hebecca, her biological daughter, which Darryl is unable to accept, so he pushes her into babysitting one night. Hebecca never cries, Rebecca is told. Except, of course, when Rebecca is left to care for her, when she won’t stop. This confirms Rebecca’s expectation that Hebecca hates her, and also plays into her feelings of inadequacy.
However, Greg comes over to “talk”. And not only can he soothe the baby, he can soothe Rebecca as well; and, after he confesses that he still has feelings for her, they kiss. And then have sex. The thing is, though, I would have been wholeheartedly behind this were it Rebecca and Greg. Actual Greg. OG Greg. Skylar Aston is doing a decent job, but he’s not playing Greg; he’s playing someone who played Greg. And that makes a difference, to me at least.
Meantime, Paula is hosting a games night, ostensibly for no reason, but in fact as a secret celebration of her graduating from law school, something she doesn’t want anyone to know about. I’m not entirely sure I followed Paula’s tortured logic here, but in short she seems to be more comfortable not being the centre of attention. There may be a gendered aspect to this. Anyway, the game to be played is Trial By Fire, a version of Celebrity featuring famous people who have been in court. Can I say that I would totally play this game?
Josh and Nathaniel are paired together, though, which is problematic; there’s the whole Rebecca thing, and the fact that Josh is unreasonably dim. Scott Michael Foster – having, incidentally, a great week – makes the very most of his opportunity as Nathaniel to show irritation (“No, Josh, as a baby. Marvin Gaye was murdered as a baby. All the music that he made that you love? He made as a baby.”), then remember that he’s trying to be a nice guy, then actually be a nice guy. He and Josh bond, as guys the world over will, over sports. Or, at least, sports analogies. This being Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, they do so while performing a Rat Pack pastiche.
Nathaniel’s night comes to a sorry end, though, when Rebecca and Greg drop in post-coitally to celebrate Paula’s graduation, and he overhears Rebecca telling Paula that she and Greg did it. My order-of-endgame-preference, incidentally, is Greg > Nathaniel > “Greg” > Josh. Which I think means I’m on Team Nathaniel.
Most of this episode is terrific. Rebecca’s storyline – in which she distracts herself from her feelings about her three exes by trying to sleep with Jason, the dude she connected with online – is a head-spinning mixture of feminism, guest stars, double-entendre-as-metaphor, romance, and gynaecology. Also a terrifically meta joke about Neil Patrick Harris, and colossal amounts of shade being thrown at ‘Cats’. It’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at its full-tilt best, and it’s perilously close to genius.
In the margins of that, Greg and Nathaniel meet-cute at the gym and start to hang out, both not yet knowing that they dated Rebecca. White Josh watches in horror as the inevitable day of revelation approaches. This is fine, even if I’m now pretty sure that New Greg isn’t as good. But Darryl’s plot, in which he’s feeling unloved in his workplace, and is at his neediest and whiniest, is no fun at all.