Going into its fourth and final season, expectations for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend were not high. Most fans were grateful the show even got another season with its record low ratings, and even when it did get the green light it was clear Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. When we started the series the flamboyant Rebecca Bunch moved across the country to West Covina, California to win back her ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan, and after a lot of wacky scenarios, we ended the third season with Rebecca pleading guilty to throwing her stalker off of a rooftop. It’s been a journey, to say the least, and during the last season finale, the show stopped at a crucial mid climax that still left a lot to wrap up in just one season.
But let this be a lesson to those of us who doubted co-creator and producer, Rachel Bloom (aka Rebecca Bunch) and her incredible team because the last season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend managed to put us through a constant emotional roller coaster while somehow still delivering a heartwarmingly satisfying ending.
Of course, best friend Paula comes to Rebecca’s rescue and has her stalker confess to the set-up early on, meaning we’re right back at the raison-d’être of this final season, namely to settle the matter of Rebecca’s love life once and for all. As mentioned, we began the series with her only having eyes for Josh, but she quickly falls into the classic love triangle scenario, first with Josh’s sarcastic best friend, Greg, and later with the self-centered but caring lawyer, Nathaniel. The back and forth romantic entanglement comes to ahead in this last season when Greg returns to town, as each of these dreamy suitors plans a personalized final date to prove their undying love and win Rebecca back, putting her in a romantic quadrangle that rivals The Bachelor, only with infinitely more humor and talent.
Still, Rebecca Bunch has come a long way from being the crazy ex-girlfriend who dropped her entire life in New York City to follow a boy across the county and win his affection in pursuit of happiness. In this season alone, she completely drops the law career she never really wanted to open a pretzel business, meaningfully supports her friendships with Valencia and Heather as they hit their life milestones, and recommits to therapy and bettering herself for real. Meaning now that she is literally surrounded by this flock of romantic suitors, all of whom she has histories with and legitimate feelings for, she comes to realize that no matter who she picks in any of these fairy tale endings, she will end up with the same feeling of emptiness and sadness that she’s been trying to escape for years.
It almost feels like a cruel joke. All these relationships and tender moments and none of them can heal her, it’s as if after all this there’s nothing she could do to really be happy. Cue Rebecca’s partner-in-crime and arguable soulmate, Paula, who swoops in to save the day yet again. Feeling confused and vulnerable, Rebecca finally lets Paula into her mind to see those colorful, excessive, sometimes bizarre songs that Rebecca has played out into her head from the start, and Paula instantly knows that this is Rebecca’s true calling. That the true love she’s been craving all along is in musical theatre and her enjoyment of writing songs, a guy has nothing to do with it. Rebecca knows that she’s right and that to progress in this new talent she has to be alone. She has to choose herself first, and she does so by gently turning down Josh, Nathaniel, and Greg.
Now, this isn’t some cliché faux “girl-power” ending. Instead, it’s refreshing because despite how it might seem, Rebecca doesn’t lose anything in this choice. She loves her songwriting work, her community of supportive friends and peers in West Covina, and there is still the chance that she ends up with one of these guys at some point in the future when she’s more stable (hopefully not Josh though.) The only difference now is that she isn’t defining herself by her romantic partners, or lack thereof. As Rebecca herself comes to realize, “love doesn’t have to be a person, it can be a passion.”
It’s a solemn but crucial way to wrap up a series that bounced from heartbreaking disappointment to cringe-worthy musical numbers, usually within the same episode. But much like Rebecca Bunch the madness was half the charm. In general, season four was therapeutic for us all as we watched Rebecca finally get it together. She stands up to her mother and set clear healthy boundaries, ends hostilities with her childhood frenemy Audra Lavine, gets back to taking care of her medication and treatment for her personality disorder, and even stops talking to the butter. For everyone who spent these four seasons rooting for Rebecca, it was a staggering yet welcome amount of character development in just eighteen episodes.
The icing on the cake, of course, was the fact that each one of the so-called loveable side characters following with Rebecca’s life journey achieves their own definition of happiness as well. Paula is working as a lawyer at a top firm and wrangles them into opening a pro bono branch for female inmates. Darryl has found a new compatible partner and has the larger family he’s always wanted. Valencia, once the picturesque wifey character, proposes to her beloved girlfriend and event planning partner. Heather and Hector are living blissfully as a married couple, now with a new jacuzzi. Even Josh, Greg, and Nathaniel all shed their toxic habits and realign their livelihoods to do the work they really love too. Although, as past musical numbers have made clear, there is no way any of them are happier than Nathaniel is being a lawyer at that zoo with that monkey, and that is fair. He deserves that.
On the whole, this final season is a gratifying goodbye, if such a thing exists. After three seasons of watching her wreak havoc and drama on her peers and herself, it was inspiring to watch Rebecca finally own up to all the damage she caused and try to make amends. By breaking free of the romantic destiny narrative, Rebecca could finally start to live a normal life and put the crazy ex-girlfriend label in the trash once and for all and start working on her happiness. For the small cult of us who have followed this show’s evolution, this last season was a superb final act for a one of a kind series. I’m sure we will each still have our own die-hard theories on who would have been the best partner for Rebecca that we will probably never let go of, and in that way I expect the show to live on. In the comments section at least.