I was a bit worried when I sat down to watch Ugly Betty’s swansong, to be honest. It’s been a year – or three – of ups and downs for the show as seasons 2, 3 and 4 have given us a smattering of great episodes, some truly dire ones and a lot somewhere in-between, so, for those of us who stuck around (despite the tv schedulers’ best efforts to drive us away) in the face of Hilda’s screeching, Willi’s machinations, and Betty’s parade of complaints, the past few months have been an exercise in hope rather than expectation. I hoped the end would be worth it. I can relax now. It absolutely was.
Mind you, the signs weren’t great to start with. The focus on Hilda? The return of Henry? The destruction of Tyler? But, against all odds, part one of the finale double bill turned into something marvellous. Hilda’s wedding was surprisingly sweet and tasteful. Marc’s manoeuvring (“And we’re circling and mingling!”) was hilarious. And the handling of Justin’s coming out was quietly, absolutely, perfect.
Even the foundations of the “Detty” story were sensitively dealt with, making the only disappointments Henry and Tyler; one tiresome, one melodramatic, both annoying. But neither anywhere near enough to derail a brilliant start to the finale.
Part two then picked up the baton and ran with it, concentrating on (as we knew it would) happy endings for everybody. Without doling out detailed spoilers, every character got just about what you wanted for them (unless, like me, you thought Willi should have been punished a bit for the hell she’s put everyone through over the years, or, like Jed, you wanted a slow death for Hilda. Nae luck for either of us, J.) But what could have come across as pat and twee was done with such care and warmth and affection for the characters that it worked anyway. Beautifully.
As for the key to it all, the relationship between Betty and Daniel? Well, that would be telling. But, suffice to say, I wasn’t sure when I sat down to watch for the last time exactly what I wanted to happen between them, if anything. It felt like, when they sat down to write for the last time, that maybe the writers weren’t sure either. So they found their way to an ending that was more of a beginning. A suggestion rather than a resolution. And I loved it.
There have been some grumblings though that, in the end, the show’s final message was too retrograde. That Betty only found her happiness when she fixed her hair and her clothes and lost her braces. Maybe the grumblers have a point there. But you know what? Betty’s short. Betty’s curvy. Betty wears glasses. Betty’s from an ethnic minority. And Betty was the lead on a US prime-time network TV show. Retrograde? Nah. Goodbye, Betty. We’ve had our good times and our bad ones and it’s not been perfect, but – here comes the cheesy bit – it’s still been kind of beautiful.