When ABC's The Muppets first premiered last fall the series didn't meet with wide acclaim. At best it received mixed reviews, with many finding it too cynical, even for a show that skewed slightly more adult in its humor. ABC either recognized the problem themselves or heard fans complaining, because executive producer Bob Kushell was replaced as showrunner by Kristin Neverman, who was tasked with retooling The Muppets for a soft reboot in back half of the season.
Neverman's aim was to bring the joy back to The Muppets and she did so by tweaking a few of its elements: Piggy would no longer be the bad guy, instead a new, human character was introduced for The Muppets to rally against, Kermit would no longer be so jaded, and less of a narrative focus would be given to the guest stars, allowing The Muppets themselves more time in the spotlight. Overall, these changes went a long way in helping the series realign its tone, readjusting several characterizations that had felt "off" since the beginning. (Though to be fair, the series had showed signs of improvement before its mid-season hiatus, particularly with "Going, Going, Gonzo.")
The Muppets season 1 finale, "Because... Love," again has Kermit and Miss Piggy's relationship squarely as its focus. However, unlike the earlier half of the season, which put the conflict between Miss Piggy and everyone else (but especially Kermit), here the whole gang is on the same side, working together to improve the show so they aren't canceled. It's obviously a bit of meta-commentary, but it also allows for Kermit and Piggy to interact without constantly bickering and perhaps rediscover why they hit it off in the first place.
After the episode before ended with Kermit and Piggy professing their love to each other (though Piggy's did come from a morphine-fueled high), this episode has their relationship back where fans are most comfortable -- on the verge of Kermit and Piggy becoming a couple, perpetually in a state of Piggy in pursuit and Kermit afraid to commit.
"Because... Love" spends most of its time with the couple in this will-they/won't-they limbo, but by the end of the episode Kermit and Piggy decide to again take a chance on each other. Or at least it seems like they will. Piggy passes out from an Ambien before she can actually answer Kermit, leaving us and him waiting for her answer. Which is a surprising move considering there's no guarantee ABC will bring The Muppets back next season. Though if they do, this finale suggests we may actually get to see a relationship between Kermit and Piggy thoughtfully explored (instead of being milked for drama).
And yet while much of the back half of The Muppets first season was spent bringing Miss Piggy and Kermit closer (after the first half pulled them apart), their relationship wasn't the most interesting one developing. Rather, it was Piggy and her wardrobe supervisor, Uncle Deadly, a sinister looking Muppet who, over the course of the season, grew to be Piggy's closest friend and confidant. Deadly is someone who can be in Piggy's corner and it stops her from feeling quite so alienated from the rest of the Muppet gang. It's a welcome change because Piggy's never shown being close to anyone but Kermit and it's produced some hilarious moments between the two.
But for an episode so heavily focus on its love story, The Muppets never forgets to be a comedy first. And there are great gags scattered throughout "Because... Love," from Kermit accidentally emailing out invitations that include a +11 instead of a +1, to Bobo asking permission to maul the next person who mistakes him for the bear from The Revenant, and the calzone gag during Piggy and Kermit's last-minute reunion. Even Jack White's appearance earns a few chuckles, especially when he and Kermit are rocking out to "I Fell in Love With a Girl."
The second half of The Muppets season 1 was certainly an improvement over the first, with Neverman's involvement giving the show a more positive and uplifting outlook. More of The Muppets were given time to shine -- especially Rizzo, Yolanda, and Pepe -- and the guest stars were limited, usually only appearing for a single scene or song (and here Jack White was the exception). It may have been a rocky first season, but it's clear The Muppets has finally found its footing. All it needs now is for ABC to be willing to give them a second shot.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for more info on whether or not The Muppets will return to ABC next season.