Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season Premiere: Will the Fourth and Final Season Fulfill?

 

 

Warning: SPOILERS

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has done what few TV shows dare to do: quit in their prime.

 

Many popular TV shows, like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Supernatural” continue to air over many seasons, turning to unnecessary drama and time-jumps in a desperate attempt to create new storylines and retain viewer interest. Unlike these shows, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was designed to have a predetermined beginning, middle, and end and a set timeline that would allow the show to conclude before its quality could dwindle.

 

The idea that the writers have already developed a self-contained story arc and characters that would develop in a fulfilling, meaningful way over a mere four seasons, was appealing to me. As much as I love “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” I was excited to hear that its fourth season would be its last. I was confident, that unlike other TV shows, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” would fill all of its plot holes in a satisfying conclusion and end before I would decide that the show was no longer worth watching.

 

However, going into the premiere of season four, I was skeptical. The final moments of the season three finale involve Rebecca pleading guilty or “responsible” for attempting to murder stalker ex-boyfriend Trent. The prospect of a prison story line seemed like a TV show once again relying on a cheap trope and utilizing a setting that tends to appeal to mass audiences. From a show that subverts so many popular cultural narratives from addiction, to mental illness, to sexism, and to LGBT+ issues, I expected more. Further, Trent had too drastic of an effect on the events that ensued. Trent was originally presented as a side character, a comedic element that was only relevant as a plot device and as a foil to Rebecca.  I thought that this was a much more effective use for his character, and that he deserved to be left in season one. He’s funny and adds an interesting element to the show, but only in small doses.

 

The first episode of season four, which premiered on Friday, October 12th on the CW, consisted of three main plotlines: Rebecca (played by Rachel Bloom), as she struggled with repenting for and owning up to her actions; Nathaniel (played by Scott Adam Foster), who embarked upon a “death-wish adventure” in the attempt to recover from the pain of losing Rebecca; and Josh (played by Vincent Rodriguez III), aware of his own obliviousness and convinced that he has some sort of disorder like Rebecca.

 

Although Rebecca believes she deserves to be in jail, she does not have to be. In fact, she convinced the judge to give her jail time rather than drop the case. I was glad to see Rebecca struggle with true guilt for the first time after three seasons’ worth of questionable behavior and hurting others. This characterization of Rebecca was refreshing and helped her maintain some likeability, but jail felt too drastic and unrealistic. An interesting, important, and perhaps long-overdue episode was the discussion of Rebecca coming to terms with her privilege. Although implied throughout the previous 3 seasons, it would behoove such a progressive show to not explicitly acknowledge this. This discussion of identity, and having multiple identities where some are oppressed while some are not, is much more nuanced than other explorations of identity I’ve seen in the media. I’m excited to see where the show goes with the exploration of Rebecca’s identity, in the sense that, she largely benefits from systems of power, yet, as someone with a stigmatized and relatively unknown disorder, the culture of ableism works against her.

 

Nathaniel’s story line was…. classic Nathaniel, attempting to be “bad-ass” and “manly,” then realizing that he does not need to inflict pain upon himself in order to cope. I found that this subplot didn't thrill me due to its lack of cohesion with the rest of the episode. George as his sidekick of sorts annoyed rather than amused me. He, like Trent, serves more as a gag, and his increasing prominence on the show feels like too much and takes away from exploring more deeply the main characters that viewers are already invested in. I do hope the writers continue to explore Nathaniel’s character as a case-study on the unlearning of toxic masculinity.

 

As for Josh, his dwindling presence on the show makes sense from a storytelling standpoint, due to his decreasing relevance in Rebecca’s life and thus represents her moving on. However, from a viewer’s standpoint, this is disappointing because of how likable Josh is as a character and because viewer’s are used to his presence on the show. Although, over seasons three, and now four, he has become portrayed as less likable and more flawed, seen in this particular episode of him co-opting mental illness as an excuse because it serves him. Again, this represents how Rebecca’s perception of him is becoming less idealized and romanticized.

 

It would be a crime to discuss an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend without addressing the musical numbers. “No One Else is Singing My Song,” performed By Rebecca, Josh, and Nathaniel, had all the makings of a quintessential Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song: catchy, smart, and has a punchline yet a raw and powerful message. Namely, this song discussed how people may feel alone, yet  others around them going through similar struggles and are able to empathize. The performance was relatively stripped down; no fancy sets or costumes were used. Uniquely, Vincent Rodriguez III was featured on a performance that did not capitalize on his dancing skills. Although less theatrical than the songs that give the show its charm, I did not feel like this particular song was lacking because the vocals were so compelling.  

 

“What’s Your Story?” was a Chicago parody long awaited by fans. However, the awkward costumes, Bloom’s repetitive “ra-ta-ta” led this song to underwhelm. Although it fell flat, it did so on purpose. The lackluster, cringy performance effectively shed light on the unfairly harsh realities of the criminal justice system and countered other media narratives of glamorized crime.“What’s Your Story?” was a powerful message about the prison system and was an efficient way to provide insight into Rebecca’s changing perceptions of being in jail. However, when this song serves as half of the musical numbers in the episode, it contributes to an overall disappointing episode from a musical standpoint. Especially when compared to the early episodes of season three, many of which were packed with three, high-quality, iconic musical numbers.

 

In general, it felt like the writers were introducing too many new dynamics for this season to be the final one. Darryl did have his baby, which satisfied one character arc, but I am nervous that loose ends will remain after the show’s final episode.

 

The season four premiere exceeded my unusually low expectations for the show. This episode was strong enough to satisfy those who were already fans, but perhaps not compelling enough to convert new viewers. In this sense, although solid as an episode, it falls flat as a season premiere.