February 17, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”


Something nagged at the first two seasons of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, and it’s right there in the title.  Rebecca Bunch (series co-creator Rachel Bloom) was lovable and hilarious, but she was also, well, unhinged.  Bloom and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna largely played Rebecca’s manipulations and stalking, and the damage she did to other people’s lives along the way, for laughs, and the show was so tuneful and imaginative that it mostly worked, but from time to time there would be the suggestion of a darker and perhaps more satisfying series (possibly the version that had originally been developed for Showtime) in the background.

In Season 3, Bloom and McKenna dropped the hammer, as Rebecca discovered that she suffered from borderline personality disorder, bringing her to the point of a failed suicide attempt. As generations of parents have told their children, it’s all fun until somebody gets hurt, and this season, people on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend got hurt.  That included Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), the subject of Rebecca’s obsession, Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) her more recent romance, and her best friend and partner in crime Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), as well as Rebecca herself.  It was an admirably ambitious move for a series whose niche until now had been bubbly meta-narrative.

This was, to put it mildly, a different kind of musical, and the seams sometimes showed.  Even though the season’s musical numbers were unfailingly delightful and often inspired, they sometimes felt shoehorned around the main story instead of carrying it, because it’s hard to build songs into therapy sessions and halting attempts at recovery.  The attempt to make Crazy Ex-Girlfriend more of an ensemble than a Rebecca show was something of a mixed bag:  Vella Lovell made Heather’s pregnancy a comic goldmine, but it was tough to get invested in the surrogate pregnancy itself, which involved Rebecca donating the egg for Darryl (Pete Gardner), which in turn broke up Pete’s relationship with White Josh (David Hull).  Bloom and McKenna also couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with original Josh, once his place as the object of Rebecca’s fixation was over, and I’m still not sure I followed the office machinations that led Rebecca to become her law firm’s managing partner.

Tonight’s season finale, written by McKenna and Executive Producer Michael Hitchcock (who also recurs in the cast as one of Rebecca’s co-workers), and directed by McKenna, raised the stakes even higher.  After Rebecca’s own stalker Trent (Paul Welsh) reappeared and Rebecca, defending Nathaniel, pushed him off a hotel balcony (he broke every bone in his body but didn’t die), Rebecca abruptly decided that she couldn’t blame her actions on her psychological disorder, and pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against her.  This allowed for a sharp duet for Rebecca and Nathaniel about assigning blame to people like Hitler (the episode’s earlier number, in which Paula sang to Heather about the realities of childbirth, was a hysterical set-piece as well), and Rebecca could certainly use a sense of personal responsibility, but the twist seemed contrived, even by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend standards.  If it was too easy to use Rebecca’s illness as an excuse for everything she did, it was also too easy to treat the disorder as an afterthought.

These are, too be sure, high class problems for a series to have, and quibbles aside, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stands with The Good Place as the most distinctive and daring show on broadcast television.  Bloom’s talents seem limitless, as this season showed off her dramatic acting abilities, and the cast around her is phenomenal.  Even if particular decisions don’t pay off, one can’t wait to see what the show will do next.  The ratings this season, as they’ve been pretty much from the start, have been awful, but having survived 3 seasons, and having already announced its plan that Season 4 would be the last, one assumes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will come back, especially since CW plans to expand to a sixth night of programming next fall.  (And if for some reason the network didn’t bring the series back for its fourth season, Netflix, which streams the previous seasons, might well pick it up.)  With the freedom that a final season allows, Bloom and McKenna may have only started to shock their fans.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."