[This is a review of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 1, episode 18. There will be SPOILERS.]
Ever since the premiere episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend established the romantic comedy premise of Rebecca Bunch (series co-creator Rachel Bloom) leaving her high-powered New York City job to follow ex-boyfriend Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) to California, the show has actively worked to deconstruct both tropes within the genre and stereotypes about gender, sexuality, and race – all with at least one or two musical numbers per episode. Throughout the first season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has explored Rebecca’s pursuit of Josh, with the help of her new best friend Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), while attempting to steer clear of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” label.
In ‘Paula Needs to Get Over Josh!’ written by Rene Gube (who appears on the show as well as Father Brah) and directed by series co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna, Rebecca is released from the hospital, but her friendship with Paula has reached a breaking point. Instead, Rebecca focuses on attempting to have her fairytale moment with Greg (Santino Fontana) – in which they both profess their feelings for each other in a romantic setting – at Josh’s sister Jayma’s (Tess Paras) wedding. Meanwhile, Josh continues to feel jealous of Greg and Rebecca and attempts to take the next step in his relationship with Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz).
As with much of the entire first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the focus was on relationships in the season finale. But, like much of the entire first season, the romantic relationships were largely portrayed in the harsh light of realism while Rebecca and Paula’s friendship was depicted with the sheen of fairytale magic. The love triangle between Rebecca, Josh, and Greg played out in exactly the way viewers have come to expect – with Rebecca imagining her life like her favorite childhood fairytale movie (the made up film Slumber, which featured the song “One Indescribable Instant” in a momentous scene between the two leads), Josh confused about his own feelings but wanting to do right by himself and the people in his life, and Greg getting drunk and bottling up his emotions until he self-sabotages.
Even the conclusion to the love triangle, which finds Rebecca disappointed that Greg is unable to express his feelings for her and leaving the wedding with Josh (who had moments ago broken up with Valencia) swept up in the romance of finally getting the love story she wanted, has the disillusionment of real relationships. Greg, back at home and drunk on his own couch, is able to pronounce his feelings for Rebecca to himself, while Rebecca sits with Josh and reveals that he was her reason for moving to California. The audience – along with the characters – are left with a sense of confusion coupled with horror, which are the exact emotions on Josh’s face before the episode cuts to black.
The move to have Rebecca and Josh end up together at the end of the finale, though it’s exactly what Rebecca and Paula worked for throughout the entire season, manages to still buck rom-com convention. In the standard rom-com setup, Josh is simply an obstacle Rebecca would need to get past in order to end up with the opposites-attract characters of Greg. Instead, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend buys into its own fairytale, but that might not necessarily be the path that leads Rebecca to happiness. The conclusion of Rebecca going off with Josh – as well as his confusion about the situation juxtaposed next to her confidence – is a satisfying ending to the season.
Meanwhile, although the romantic relationships are messy and complicated – and destructive at times, at least in Rebecca’s case – the friendship between Paula and Rebecca has all the markers of a typical rom-com or fairytale relationship. In ‘Paula Needs to Get Over Josh!’ the tension that has been building between Paula and Rebecca ever since Rebecca realized she needed to get over Josh in order to find a fulfilling relationship comes to a head as Paula voices her resentment of Rebecca seemingly abandoning their shared Josh mission for Greg. But, when all hope seems lost, the fairy godparents – in this case, Darryl (Pete Gardner) and White Josh (David Hull) – step in and bring the two back together. Rebecca and Paula share a rom-com reunion, running into each other’s arms, and profess their undying friendship.
The contrast between Rebecca’s romantic relationships and her relationships with friends, family, and her hobbies like musical theater has been a recurring theme of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 1. In fact, the focus on Rebecca’s non-romantic relationships has been a refreshing exploration in season 1 as it works to deconstruct the ideology put forth by many rom-coms that women can only be happy if they’re in a romantic relationship, and that romantic love is the most important type of love. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend established early on that it would challenge these ideas and the season-long development of Paula and Rebecca’s friendship, especially its portrayal in the finale with many elements typically seen in romantic relationships, is the biggest challenge of the rom-com genre yet.
As for the musical numbers, both are perfect examples of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s ability to weave musical elements into the romantic comedy genre, without abandoning the show’s specific brand of humor. Paula’s 11 o’clock number, “After Everything I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For)” arrives right on time and works as a complete show-stopper. Then, the season wraps up with “One Indescribable Instant” – sung by guest star Lea Salonga – a fairytale number reminiscent of a Disney princess film, which is exactly what it’s meant to parody. Though Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has struggled at times throughout season 1 to fit its musical numbers into the episodes without it feeling clunky or unnecessary, both the songs in ‘Paula Needs to Get Over Josh!’ elevate the episode.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been one of the most underrated shows on The CW all season, even after Bloom won her much-deserved Golden Globe for her portrayal of Rebecca. Although the series stumbled at times to weave in its musical numbers with the narrative and tone of the episodes, and strike a balance between fun and cringe-inducing humor, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend quickly established itself as an entertaining and thoughtful comedy in the first episode and the show carried that straight through season 1 to the finale.
Of course, as one of the more underrated series on the network it seemed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wouldn’t receive a second season. But, since The CW renewed its entire slate of shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will be back to further explore and challenge the ideas established by the romantic comedy. Certainly, the show will at least portray what happens after Rebecca and Josh receive their fairytale ending – which, as we already know, isn’t exactly what either of them expected. Still, viewers can expect a second season full of even more deconstruction of the rom-com genre portrayed through entertaining comedy and musical numbers.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will return for season 2 on The CW.