Last week’s episode of 30 Rock could have easily been the series finale with Liz Lemon losing TGS, being married and getting her two newly adopted kids (and Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney surrogates) Mike and Janet, not to mention Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) taking over Kabletown and Kenneth Parcell becoming the president of NBC. So what is this one-hour series finale about?
It seems only fitting that the series finale of 30 Rock contains a plot point that one more episode of TGS must be made because of a weird clause in Tracy Jordan’s contract. After all, this series finale basically feels like the equivalent of Steve Jobs’ infamous “one more thing” at Apple events. Tonight’s double episode finale of Hogcock! (a combination of poppycock and hogwash) and Last Lunch was about saying goodbye to these characters that we might not have been quite ready to let go, as only the creator and writers of 30 Rock could.
In many ways, the writers answered the long standing will-they, won’t-they relationship between Jack and Liz, but not the way some probably would have liked. But that’s never been what 30 Rock as a series is about (if you can pinpoint it to be about a single thing, that is). 30 Rock has been about love. The love for cutthroat success and conservatism, the love between two quirky nerds, the love between a woman and a cam-a-ra, a comedian and craziness, a small town boy and the magic of TV, a mentor and student, and more. Thankfully, this long seven-season journey has been filled with cartoonish humor, outrageous laughter, and some of the smartest comedy writing television has seen in the last 20 years.
Honestly, tonight’s finale of 30 Rock was no different than any other episode, and perhaps that’s the way it should be. The writers were bickering over something stupid, Jenna was obsessed with keeping her career alive as a superior actress, Tracy was desperate for help in his own crazy way, and Jack and Liz had a problem to solve. The difference this time is that Jack and Liz’s biggest problem was about almost letting each other go. In a fight that drives them stubbornly away from each other, we almost find Jack and Liz parting ways for good, simply because they’ve made each other better people. Jack has more feelings and Liz is more career driven, but when their lives arrive where they thought fulfillment would lie, they blame each other for not being happy.
For a show with as much ridiculous humor, non sequiturs and general nonsense as 30 Rock, this finale pulled at the heartstrings and allowed each of the chief characters to have a touching moment in the sun. From Jenna’s realization that the show is really over when her mirror is gone and she can’t see herself crying to Tracy confronting his abandonment issues as everybody gets ready to leave, the show uses these wacky characters for a heartfelt goodbye that the writers probably had more of a tough time with than we will.
In the end, Liz and Jack help each other work through their life issues, and as they move on to the next phase of their lives, they’ll continue to help each other. This whole time 30 Rock was about love, friendship and life, as any good TV show should be. It just happened to have a cast of great comedians, phenomenal writing, and a lot of Liz Lemon snacking. And of course, aside from all the feelings and heartfelt farewells, the real goal of this show was to bring laughter, sometimes in a very progressive way in its tackling of various feminine and racial elements of comedy and the entertainment industry, easily the best part about this kind of comedy series.
And because the show has been progressive, it seems only fitting that the finale is about saying goodbye, but only as a way of moving on. After the episode seems like it’s over (incidentally after the DVR would normally have stopped recording), a quick epilogue shows all of our main characters continuing their career in the cheesiest of sitcom ways: still friends, but with all the problems that arose in the finale happily solved.
But the real end comes when the series takes a cue from the infamous NBC series St. Elsewhere by pulling back to reveal all of 30 Rock took place in a snowglobe in Kenneth Parcell’s office of the distant future (where he hasn’t aged and a Cloud Car from The Empire Strikes Back zooms past) as the “real” Liz Lemon had been pitching this new show that takes place in 30 Rock based on stories her great-grandmother told her. And that’s exactly how you’d expect the brilliantly meta and sharp series to come to an end.
As Liz Lemon says, “Because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you. And I’m gonna miss you.” That’s my review of the 30 Rock series finale in a nutshell, and it just might be one of the most perfect series finales that I’ve ever seen. I love it so much that I want to take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant. (All right, shut it down).
30 Rock aired from October 11th, 2006 – January 31st, 2013 on NBC