Crazy Ex-Girlfriend just concluded a terrific second season. I interviewed Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna about the season, and I have my own thoughts about the year, and what went down in the finale, coming up just as soon as my chest is twerking…
“Josh Chan must be destroyed.” -Rebecca
Bloom and McKenna have a four-season plan for Crazy Ex, which means that “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?” would (assuming the CW’s charity towards the lowest-rated show on broadcast TV continues past next season) be the series’ mid-point. And one hell of a mid-point it was.
Until now, the show’s title was reflected in a relatively benign way by Rebecca, who was damaged and needy and self-involved and weird, but who almost always tended to hurt herself far worse than anyone around her. (As the creators noted in our interview, most of the supporting characters have gotten the courage to make big and necessary leaps in their own lives thanks in part to their friendships with Rebecca.) This, though, takes us into the more classic definition of the title, with her as a woman scorned looking to hurt Josh through any means necessary.
Had the series started there, or even gone there a year earlier, I’d be worried that it might fall prey to all the bad stereotypes about this, even within a comic framework. But the creative team has earned the benefit of the doubt by now that they can make the situation be a lot more nuanced than it seems when Rebecca is standing on the cliff, flanked by her squad in full support. And the season, and finale, built up well to the big, terrible moment, with Rebecca investing so much of herself and her misguided belief in what will finally make her happy — marrying Josh, reconciling with her heinous father — that of course she was going to break in two when her picture-perfect, pop culture-inspired, life-altering day went so awry.
Taking the story in this direction does a couple of very smart things. First, it takes the show out of the will-they/won’t-they hamster wheel that was Josh and Rebecca’s relationship, which was fun for a while but on the verge of exhausting itself creatively. Where having Rebecca be in a long-term relationship with Greg or Nathaniel — two guys with their own demons who can keep up with the way she thinks and talks — could have provided more material, it didn’t feel like there was similar room to grow between these two, since Josh is so fundamentally sweet and straightforward. And having Josh end things not because he found out about Rebecca and Nathaniel’s kiss, or even the truth about her and Robert from Harvard, but because of something he wanted to do on his own, allows her to be comically vengeful about something where she’s largely not at fault.
Second, the revenge plot provides a legitimate reason for Rebecca’s friends to all be together with her, and each other, on this. One of the season’s best arcs involved Paula and Rebecca’s estrangement, as Paula began to realize how one-sided their friendship had become, while Rebecca gravitated towards more contemporary peers in Heather and Valencia. (Even though both of them kept understandably wondering why they were friends with her.) The other three had more or less made their peace with Rebecca, if not with each other, by the time of the wedding, but now there’s a legit — if crazy — reason for them to be on the same page, at least until we see exactly how far Rebecca wants to take this plan.
So where the season one-ending cliffhanger of Rebecca and Josh hooking up left me concerned that the show was backsliding to the territory of its bumpy early episodes, I feel incredibly confident that this is a promising new direction. It helps, of course, that this terrific season proved those old cliffhanger fears misguided. Bloom and McKenna are every bit as aware of what the show is and who its heroine is as Rebecca is deluded about how the world works and what her place in it is. Season two dealt with the push-pull of (as Darryl dubs them) ReJoshecca ChaBunch, but a lot of it (the best of it) was about Rebecca and Paula’s friendship, Paula coming into her own professionally even as her marriage hit an enormous bump, Nathaniel buying into the firm and trying to make it more professional, and a whole lot more, on top of Rebecca coming dangerously close to major emotional breakthroughs before her romantic obsessions got the better of her.
I love this show like Rebecca used to love Josh Chan, and it hasn’t let me down the way he just did to her. May we enjoy the next two years together in musical comedy psychodrama bliss.
Some other thoughts:
* Top five songs from the season (and thus not counting the online-only long version of “Period Sex”): “The Math of Love Triangles” as an easy top pick, followed in some order by “You Go First,” “Remember That We Suffered,” “(Tell Me I’m Okay) Patrick,” and “We Tapped That Ass.” (“Love Kernels” had the best video, but other songs were better.)
* Josh bailing on the wedding also makes me completely rethink Nathaniel, who seemed to be introduced mainly as a barrier to the Josh/Rebecca ‘ship. I imagine there will still be some romantic sparks there, especially now that she’s single, but there’s a lot more the show can do with him now, especially since Scott Michael Foster has fit in so well with the group.
* Since this will likely be the last appearance of Rebecca’s father on the show, it’s now or never to remind you of John Allen Nelson’s days as one of the early Baywatch lifeguards, in a montage that, based on her behavior in this episode, would give Rebecca very complicated feelings:
* Over the course of the season, Darryl and White Josh went from casually dating to something a bit more serious, which of course means there has to be new conflict, which we get here with their split on the question of marriage, and Darryl’s interest in having another kid with White Josh. I am in favor of anything that gives Darryl more screentime, so I approve this plotline.
* Josh entering the priesthood also likely means more time for Father Bra. And while the concept was mostly introduced in the finale, there have been enough references over the seasons to Josh being a more spiritual guy than Rebecca that it also doesn’t feel entirely out of left field. We’ll just have to see if he’s really up to the celibacy part of the deal.
* Though Josh never opened the dossier, Trent giving it to him certainly played a role in his uncertainty about the wedding, so I think our favorite crazy ex-fake-boyfriend has to consider that a win.
So go read the Bloom/McKenna interview, and then tell me: what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org