Generally speaking, dramas use their penultimate episodes to deliver the biggest surprises in terms of plot and character. That leaves room for the comedown, for the show to settle all of its stories and wrap up any dangling threads. Sitcoms usually work in a different way; it’s all about the finale. Next week Modern Family goes off the air forever with a two-part finale. Thus, this week’s episode is a lot of setup. It’s putting in place the building blocks for what looks like a finale about change and the struggle that comes with it. Thankfully, “I’m Going To Miss This” isn’t just setup, it’s also partly rewarding in its own right.
Well, not all of it is rewarding. As I’ve mentioned in a few recaps from this season, the show’s taken a bit of a strange path in its final season. Outside of Cam and Mitchell adopting a new baby, there hasn’t been all that much change for these characters. The show’s been weirdly in its usual groove, throwing out random comedic storylines and never really committing to anything long term. That extends to this week’s episode, where Claire and Phil get stuck, well, being Claire and Phil.
You see, the kids threw a party while Claire and Phil were away on a trip, and now, with an Easter party planned for the twins, the kids are scrambling to hide what they did. They try to keep their parents away from the scene of the crime, telling them to take a nap while they do all the work. But Phil and Claire—well, mostly Claire—take offense to the suggestion, wanting to prove that they’re grandparents in title only, that their youthful vivacity is still intact.
Thus begins a rather excruciating collection of scenes where Phil and Claire try to set themselves apart from the older grandparents at the party while also failing to connect with the guests younger than them. It’s all the stale jokes you can imagine; the older crowd gets jokes about bad backs and comfy shoes, while the younger crowd uses lingo that Phil and Claire can’t keep up with. It’s all incredibly corny and unfunny and I can’t help but think there’s more for Phil and Claire to do at this point. Hopefully next week’s finale, where they’re meant to head out on that trip they talked about in previous episodes, results in something more substantial.
Jay and Manny’s story from this week isn’t nearly as bad. The two end up challenging each other to a wine tasting competition to prove who knows more about wine, a competition spurred on by Manny’s recent meeting with a wine club. There’s a lot of the usual generational conflict that’s predictable, but there’s also a climax that makes it all worth it. It’s pretty cliche in itself, but essentially Manny and Jay have a good time during their tasting, and briefly agree to not see who the winner is so that they can retain the purity of their evening. Of course, Manny goes back to see if he was the winner, and Jay revels in that. But that’s the point. They share this competitive nature, and while this isn’t any sort of earth shattering emotional reveal, it’s a welcome denouement for Jay and Manny’s relationship, which the show never really figured out how to handle beyond the obvious comedy of opposites failing to get along.
That brings us to Cam and Mitchell, who are anchoring this final season. Their journey, from considering a move back to Cam’s hometown to adopting a new baby, has provided this final season with its only moving arc. Now, the baby is two weeks away, they’re moving into their new house, and Mitchell is predictably freaking out. I can’t say this episode digs into ideas of handling change in an sort of significant way, but it does manage to boil down that idea and apply it specifically to Cam and Mitchell. The episode does a good job of showing how these characters handle these types of circumstances: Mitchell freaks out, Cam remains calm, and then when the baby comes early and they have to bring him home, they both panic. That leaves Lily to be the one with psychological insight, showing them how they always panic and end up fighting with each other before coming together in the end to do what they need to do.
It’s a great coda for the series’ penultimate episode. It’s touching and sickly sweet, and affirms that while the rest of the show seems to be stuck with meaningless storylines, Cam and Mitchell are getting an appropriate send-off. Here’s hoping they stick the landing next week.
- “That was your last eye roll in this house.”
- I made it through that whole review without mentioning python eggs.
- “We got this.”
- Next week, folks. See you then for the two-part finale and my final words on Modern Family.