And what a weird way to end it.
Veering wildly from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the main focus on the ridiculous, the Smash series finale began with verve and confidence but ultimately floundered thanks to all its misplaced priorities, just like the Smash series itself.
It feels like a very long time since the glorious pilot.
The opening sequence of the very last episode kicked things off with pizzazz: I was a bit bemused at the start of “Under Pressure” and I started to giggle when I realised the entire cast – the ENTIRE CAST, that’s Derek, Eileen, EVERYBODY – was performing it together, but by the end of the song I was loving it. It was their last shot at unashamedly full-throttle musical madness, they took it, and it was fabulous.
In fairness, all three songs this week were great. “The Big Finish” was indeed a big, if very meta, way to finish (I’ll come back to that in a minute), but the Hit List company’s acapella “Broadway Here I Come” was absolutely gorgeous – far and away the highlight of the night, I’ve been breaking into snatches of it ever since. And bemoaning the fact that Hit List didn’t win Best Musicial or Best Score because, EFFING JIMMY aside, it’s an infinitely better musical with an infinitely better score overall than Bombshell is.
But “The Tonys” was more about sugary sentiment than anything else; even the Smash writers can’t have wanted to inflict more than one mildly threatening Jimmy acceptance speech on us, so they gave poor dead Kyle Best Book instead and let Tom, Julia and Eileen walk away with the rest of the spoils. Despite all the dialogue Kyle actually wrote having been thrown out in favour of Jimmy’s songs, the story Kyle wrote having been re-written by Julia, Derek and even Richard Francis from the New York Times ….. is it really Kyle’s Book at all any more? Still, the standing ovation was sweet.
Sweetness was what the episode was aiming for, throughout, I guess: suddenly, it all became less about musicals and more about matching everyone up before the curtain came down. Ivy pulled Derek out of his pity party, and he declared his love for her in his awards speech, with the promise of forever in that final scene of him tenderly cupping her belly. I assume this means a new and improved Derek, but I liked the old and naughty one. Jimmy confessed his sins and his love to Karen, and went off for 6-18 months to learn how to “become the person she saw in him”, kisses and tears to help him along the way. Nobody-cares-anymore Nick turned up again, to resume his role as the love of Eileen’s life, whether he wants to be or not. And in perhaps the most bizarrely misjudged love thread of all, Julia went back to Michael Swift. Michael Swift! W. T. F?!?!
(NB – I haven’t mentioned Tom’s kiss with Patrick because I really don’t get what was going on there.)
The whole thing was less of a Big Finish, and more of a Big Mush, then, but that’s Smash for you. Still, Karen and (Tony winner!) Ivy’s farewell number was a nicely bombastic and apt way to end things: “Just give’em that big finish, and leave them wanting more.” Yep. I loved Smash, even if I didn’t always like it. Sure, it was often ridiculous, frustrating and sometimes just bad, but it was fun. I’ll miss the music, I’ll miss Jack Davenport’s Derek and Megan Hilty’s Ivy and I’ll miss writing exasperatedly about it every week. I’m sorry it never quite made good on its early promise, but I’m sorry it’s over too. (Sniff.)