I Have So Many Feelings About Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 4

How does Rachel Bloom do it? Seriously, there are very few shows that can continue on for as long as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has and still be watchable. Season 4, which is to be the final season, picks up with Rebecca in jail(somewhat ironically to my mind given that Season 1 opens with Rebecca in a corporate law job – two different kinds of prison, you know.) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is, at its core, a show about performativity. The reason a musical format works so well for the show’s concept is because the show’s thesis boils down to the fact that we are all putting on acts out of the desire to be loved and wanted by those around us. Rebecca performs a corporate lawyer, performs a coy, blushing girlfriend, performs a woman scorned, and now performs the seeking of penance.

But “I Want To Be Here” is the sharpest critique of performativity the show has put out yet. It features a “Cell Block Tango” style number of Rebecca in jail trying to eke out the stories of her fellow female inmates’ crimes, and finding out that it’s more likely for a woman to be in prison for meth in her boyfriend’s car, accidental manslaughter, or for a black woman to be on a ridiculously long sentence for shoplifting than it is for the romance and drama of “Chicago” to play out in real life. Yet “I Want To Be Here” also acerbically criticizes the way when a privileged person realizes their own privilege, the public exploration of that privilege becomes a privilege in itself. Rebecca is a white, wealthy young woman who went to Harvard, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reminds us that privilege is never as simple as being a have or a have-not, Rebecca has severe mental trauma and extremely difficult life, but her privileges afford her the opportunity to “choose” jail and penance when her fellow inmates certainly had none. 

Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Image courtesy of the CW. 

Aside from Scott Michael Foster’s hiking outfit and scruffy, beat-up face making me feel…things, the B plots of this episode all seem less individual and more tied into Rebecca’s overarching narrative. But that doesn’t mean there’s no nuance; Nathaniel gets a particularly interesting character exploration. After Rebecca chooses to plead guilty, Nathaniel sets off into the woods for a “Death Wish Adventure” survivalist cleanse. Nathaniel’s character is such a brilliant satire of “cleanse” culture as a way of processing emotions – George (whose friendship with Nathaniel is adorable, by the way) postulates that maybe Nathaniel’s extreme physical activity isn’t a healthy way of healing but in fact another form of self-harm. It’s just another way Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna both heartbreakingly capture and sharply satirize the messy ways that the adults of 2018 deal with emotions.

Likewise, when former focal point of the show, Josh Chan, decides he must have some kind of mental disorder and self-diagnoses through the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend analog to BuzzFeed quizzes. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has to work to keep Josh relevant now that his and Rebecca’s destructive relationship no longer exists, but I find it so interesting that he remains in the narrative instead of just being written out. Despite that he’s not too bright, he is a reminder of Rebecca’s past and there’s something very real and touching about getting to see where he ends up – because even your lazy, immature ex-boyfriend you never want to see again still has to move on with his life, and the brilliant thing about television and media is that you get to see stories continue after they would have ended in reality.

Rachel Bloom and Scott Michael Foster in Crazy-Ex Girlfriend. Image courtesy of the CW. 

It is unfortunate that so many people are put off by the title of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, because what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does is make you realize where titles like those come from and how the women we mock in pop culture play out in the women we are in real life. Everything, even things as private as grieving and penance, are governed by our notions about who we want to be. There’s a beautiful moment after the episode’s second song, “No One Else is Singing My Song” wherein Nathaniel makes the choice to go back in the tent instead of sleeping on the ground, Josh asks the stranger at the bar for a recommendation for a therapist, and Rebecca chooses to leave jail. This season’s titles do not follow the original “Josh Is…” title cards of the first two seasons, nor are they as sporadic as the last few of season 4. Instead, this season’s episodes start with “I…” For Rebecca, starting with simply “I” instead of “Josh” or “Nathaniel” means taking ownership of her own life from the outside in. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s “I Want To Be Here” is available to watch online on the CW and the show airs 8/9 central every Friday.