Season finales are a bit of a strange beast, especially for sitcoms. Sometimes they’re standalone episodes, and sometimes they’re neat and tidy ways to wrap up all the storylines that dominated the season. Modern Family encounters a bit of a problem with its seventh season finale though, as there haven’t really been any memorable or predominant storylines. While a few “major” plot points popped up throughout the season, the show was quick to move away from most of them. So potentially meaningful, and emotionally fruitful moments like Alex going to college or Claire taking over for her Dad at work were never given the space and time to really grow.

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The seventh season of Modern Family is going to be defined by its lack of character progress and overstuffed episodes, and that’s evident in the finale, “Double Click.” The episode is crammed with supposedly emotional moments, but the lack of focus that’s hindered this season does the same to the finale. How can the emotional beats hit home when the build has been so lackluster, or even nonexistent? “Double Click” feigns emotional depth but it’s all a façade, an attempt to tidily wrap up a season that’s been a mess of half-baked subplots and undercooked character moments. Finales aren’t just about tying up the season’s threads; they should pay off the work of the previous episodes and set up the next season, all of which “Double Click” fails to do.

One of the biggest issues with this season has been the show’s insistence on cramming every single character into each and every episode. That’s left little room for storylines to breathe, meaning that a certain complexity and depth has been sacrificed. “Double Click” is no different. Here’s a look at the plot points of the episode: Alex is back from college and nobody notices, Claire is worried about firing an employee, Jay is back to work but feels incompetent, Gloria is planning a trip to Juarez for a wedding, Cam and Mitchell are spending the summer apart after Cam takes a job as the assistant defensive coordinator for the Missouri State football team, Phil realizes Luke is probably sexually active, and Haley finds out that Andy is prepared to turn down his dream job in another city because of her. It takes “Double Click” a third of its runtime just to establish those plot points, which means that the follow through (aka. the most important part) ends up feeling rushed.

So, when Haley decides that Andy should take the job and that they’ll make things work, their teary goodbye at the airport doesn’t have much of an impact because there’s no room in the episode to explore their emotions with the appropriate attention to detail. Andy’s barely been present this season, and Modern Family has done little to show that Haley and Andy are in a meaningful relationship. If the emotional crescendo of “Double Click” is to make an impact, then the work needs to be put in. You can’t just stage a scene and hope that the emotions resonate; there needs to be a foundation to work from.

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The same can be said of Phil finding out that Luke was sleeping with a girl in his bedroom. It’s a storyline with a lot of potential, as it’s really about Phil reckoning with his son growing up. The mention of Family Camp Day and Luke’s relative disinterest is meant to illuminate this point, but again, it gets lost in the mess of storylines. There’s too much going on in “Double Click” and that’s to the detriment of the episode’s more relatable subplots. There’s potential in Phil confronting new emotions, and Haley dealing with the uncertainty of her first true love, and Cam and Mitchell choosing to spend time apart, but it’s just too much to tackle in a 22-minute episode that also spends time on reductive gender divisions between Jay and Gloria. There’s no way to cover all the subplots in “Double Click” with the nuance and attention to emotional detail that’s needed for it to be a memorable finale.

It’s almost as if “Double Click” is crafted backwards, with the writers working from the final scene where everyone in the Dunphy household has had a bad day and communes at the dinner table, and trying to find ways to get to that sentimental beat. What happens then is that the whole emotional arc of each character feels contrived, and no spontaneous trip to New York can really fix that. “Double Click” does at least succeed with Cam and Mitchell, as their story requires a little less heavy lifting in terms of conveying their mindset and intentions. So, when Mitchell and Lily realize they’ve been particularly selfish while Cam has done everything in his power to prepare to be away from them, it’s a moment of reckoning that feels real and earned. That makes the moment when they show up at the airport and surprise him with the plan to go with him to Missouri for the summer all the more emotionally rewarding. It’s simple A-to-B-to-C storytelling, and the finale doesn’t have enough of it.

“Double Click” is a fitting end to the season though. The seventh season has seen Modern Family lose more than a few steps, both in terms of comedy and drama, thanks in large part to a lack of focus and a tendency to cram too many plotlines into a single episode. At the very least, “Double Click” is representative of this messy, often tedious season.

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Stray observations

  • If Phil could name a perfume after Andy, it would be “Initiative.”
  • “Maybe we should change it to very defensive coordinator.”
  • “What’s wrong? Is it Whitney Houston’s birthday again?”
  • “I know we didn’t get to finish our conversation earlier because of Alex’s surprise pop-in.”
  • That’s a wrap on reviews of the seventh season of Modern Family. It’s definitely been rocky , but perhaps the show can just reset on this season and come back fresh next year. Until then, catch up on The Carmichael Show, Black-ish and The Detour for some fresh, inventive laughs. Cheers, readers.

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