Rae has a new therapist, who reminds her that she has the same issues as other people her age. The problem is that she processes them differently. And in this season finale there is, more than ever, a lot to process: she has to finish her exams, decide what to do about Bristol University, deal with Finn and Katie, and cope with her friends going their separate ways.
First, the Finn issue has to be confronted. Katie tells Rae that whatever was going on with Finn – and it seems to have amounted to little more than a kiss – it’s over. But Katie nonetheless takes it on herself to deliver a few home truths to Rae, and although there’s a certain amount of brutality – and relish – in her manner, she does have a point or two, specifically about the way in which Rae’s actions affect those who love her: “You bring your problems onto him”, Katie tells her in respect of Finn. And her friends and family are too nice to say anything, according to Katie, but they all feel the pain.
This is brought home to Rae when she finds out that Karim has a job in Tunisia, but that her mother can’t follow him there – which she would like to do – because she needs to stay with Rae. “I can’t leave until you can”, her mother tells her. Which means that it’s finally time for Rae to confront her self-hatred once and for all. “I’m scared”, she tells Kester. “You and the rest of the world”, he replies, and with reason: he lost his position as a therapist a while ago, but continued to provide counselling to Rae anyway. But it’s time: if Rae’s ever going to move on, she needs to deal with the issues which have dogged her since the start of the show’s run (and, indeed, before).
I predicted and expected a Rae/Finn 4EVA happy ending. What we got was perhaps more satisfying: Rae’s not minded, yet, to forgive Finn for his Katie dalliance; although he could, perhaps, have played the We Were On A Break card were he minded to forgive himself for it. Rae, though, imagines a suicide attempt – beautifully soundtracked by Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ – and Finn coming to her rescue, then decides that she’s “going to stop waiting for someone to come and save me”. The real moment of revelation is not that she needs to help herself – she’s perhaps always known that – but that she can, and in the context of the whole series that’s probably the happiest possible ending.
So Rae finishes with her therapy sessions. And there’s no last kiss with Finn, but the courageous embracing of an uncertain but optimistic future, as Rae heads off to Bristol, acknowledging the “need to be ready to cope with whatever crap comes your way”.
I don’t think I’ve ever been equivocal about My Mad Fat Diary, but just in case: I loved this show. It was sweet, harrowing, charming, amusing, and thought-provoking, for which huge credit goes to writer Tom Bidwell. And the script was amply well-served by the predominantly young cast, which gave the show an appealing freshness and fearlessness.
Invidious as it is to single out particular actors, I’m going to do so anyway. Ian Hart was grounded, passionate, and oddly vulnerable, as Kester. The real stars of the show, though, were Sharon Rooney and Jodie Comer. Particularly in its final run of episodes My Mad Fat Diary became a study of the enduring power of friendship as much as anything else, particularly the core relationship between Rae and Chloe, and Comer – always excellent – moved onto a new plane. Meantime, of course, Sharon Rooney was magnificent from first to last, making the very, very most of the part. I can’t imagine it could have been done better.