Ugly Betty s4 eps 19 & 20

“Go ahead and unclench everything, we’re good.”

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.

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Ugly Betty s4 ep 18

Everyone manages to do my head in this week. 

Betty, Hilda and Amanda go to London – the kind of London that looks like an LA sound stage – and various stuff happens which culminates in Betty deciding to be true to herself.  Which apparently means turning down the best job ever. Okay.  Gio turns up momentarily and manages to be kind of annoying.  Well done, Gio.  Willi meanwhile is manipulating Stupid Tyler (an alcoholic who works in a bar – odd) as a pawn in her power play, using Stupid Daniel to further the plan, Stupid Claire having already set it in motion.  Justin is being a jerk to Bobby, and then to top all this annoyingness off, THAT GUY shows up.  No freakin’ way, show. 

I am so ready for this show to be over.  Not long to wait now with the double-bill finale tomorrow – I’m hoping that the writers will pull it out of the bag and remind us of why we’ve stuck around for this long.

Ugly Betty s4 ep 17

Betty’s braces are finally coming off but, because we haven’t waited long enough for that to happen, first we have to sit through a dream where she finds out what it would have been like if she had always had perfect teeth. 

If I had perfect teeth I would have been offended, given that, predictably, in Betty Land that means you’re a be-yatch, and everyone you love has a terrible life because of it; as usual, the moral is that Betty’s a martyr, beauty’s on the inside, blah blah boring blah.  Nice Amanda moments not withstanding, this was a pointless waste of an episode.

Ugly Betty s4 ep 16

Despite some fairly worn “life lesson”-type storylines – be yourself, love yourself and, er, it’s never too early for another Meade power-play – this was another surprisingly enjoyable episode. 

I particularly liked “The Bumblebee that needed Glasses” and Amanda talking to “Dr So-and-so” but there were a lot of laugh-out-loud funny moments, as well as some acutely mortifying ones.  And to add to that, there was plenty of actual plot, what with Betty, Amanda, and Justin all beginning to grow up a bit in different ways.

Of the three, Justin’s story was a bit too ham-fisted for me, but it gave us more of Marc being awesome, so it worked nonetheless.  Amanda’s little sub-plot was more engaging; it did promise a future brother-vs-brother showdown that I’m not entirely overjoyed about but hey, there are worse positions for a character to be in than having to choose between the male model and the media mogul, and I like that she took a step forward without her usual two steps back.  Betty meanwhile, went down her usual Betty route of looking for validation from a good-looking guy (although this one was seriously good-looking – kudos, B) and found out, for like the millionth time, that true happiness lies within or some such, but it was played with vim and charm and featured a guest appearance by the best business card ever, so I enjoyed it a lot.  That’s two really good ones in a row, then – keep it up, show.

Ugly Betty s4 ep 15

“Heyy!”’

What’s this?!? An episode where Wilhelmina is funny? Where Betty develops a spine and fights back a bit? And Amanda is a “bestie” instead of a bête noire?

Well, hurrah for that.  After weeks of thoroughly boring episodes, this week Ugly Betty got back to the business of being quite good. Wili’s attempts at being “easy-breezy George and weezy” were kind of hilarious, Marc’s scene with Justin was short but fun and I loved Betty standing up for herself for a change. Meanwhile, Daniel’s reaction to Tyler was unfortunately predictable but I guess we had to go there, and, for what it was, it was reasonably handled. Just stick to the theme this year and make it quick, writers.

On the negative side, I could’ve done without Betty’s irritating fireman (Hi dude from Mad Men!) but he did set up the highly entertaining restaurant scene so I forgive him. I can’t forgive Hilda though. The woman is a complete harridan. Who gets a life with lovely Bobby Talercio as a reward for her appalling behaviour. Nooooooo!

Ugly Betty s4 ep 14

Is it me?  Or has this show completely lost its mojo?

In theory, this episode, we had a perfectly fine batch of Fashion Week storylines.  Betty discovered a new designer and using Marc to bring her to Wilhelmina’s notice backfired badly,  Claire’s secret son came looking for her and Daniel learned that he’s too old to play with the models any more.  Unfortunately, yet again it was charmless (with the exception of Tyler who was adorable) and unengaging fare.  The only surprising thing was the surprise at the end, for which, kudos.  As for the rest of it, though – it wasn’t bad exactly, but I wanted to enjoy it; having to tolerate it yet again instead just isn’t good enough.

Ugly Betty s4 ep 13

And the mid-season slump continues.

Daniel and Betty fell out because he’s jealous that burrito-throwing cat-lovers read her blog or something, Wilhelmina employed a drag queen to fill in for her at public events, and somebody on the writing staff mistakenly thought it was a good idea to bring back Kristen Johnson’s tiresome “Helen” character.  Yawn.  None of it was funny, none of it was entertaining – none of it was anything worth writing about.  A complete non-entity of an episode.