People are terrible.
That’s not a new thing for TV, obviously, or for storytelling in general (Odysseus is the worst). Still, there’s something sort of refreshing when a show where people occasionally burst into song is so willing to let its characters—including the protagonist—be so awful. And in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s second episode, there’s a lot of awful to go around. Early in the life of any series, it can be tough to tell whether what’s coming through is what’s actually intended. After a blissfully confident pilot, it’s not easy to tell if it’s the show saying these people are rotten, or if it’s asking us to believe that they’re not.
The lion’s share of awfulness goes to Rebecca, of course. Rachel Bloom is an incredibly appealing performer, a handy quality to have when you’re playing someone who makes terrible choices that negatively impact those around them while refusing to acknowledge the reality of their lives. Granted, this is obviously a desperately unhappy person (the credits, new this week, even include the lyric “she’s so broken insiiiiiide!”) and the central premise of the show is tied to that unhappiness, so it should come as no surprise that Rebecca continues to be self-destructive and delusional.
Still, it’s only the second episode, and already it was incredibly gratifying to see Rebecca get called out on some of her bullshit. “I’ve never met anyone in my life who lies to themselves as much as you do,” Paula yells at her in an incredibly satisfying moment. Perhaps that’s what makes the songs so refreshing: They’re the only moments in which Rebecca seems to be honest with herself.
“I wanna kill you and wear your skin like a dress / but then also have you see me in the dress,” she sings in “Feelin’ Kinda Naughty,” the episode’s highlight. As with “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” “Naughty” is both a look into Rebecca’s head and a razor-sharp sendup of pop music, this time playing with both the sexy baby voice and the pillow fight-filled world of “I Kissed a Girl” meets “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” All dressed up for a boudoir photo shoot, Rebecca flounces through a dream world while singing about trapping Valencia (triple-threat Gabrielle Ruiz) in her sound-proofed basement and doing everything from making her spit into a chowder to using her baby teeth to make a retainer (“I want your smile!”). It’s deliriously creepy and smart, but beyond that, it’s one of the few instances where Rebecca isn’t totally full of shit.
All friendships can be complicated, and that’s true of female friendships in particular. Both of Rebecca’s get pretty twisted this week, though it’s her fixation on Valencia that takes center stage. It isn’t just that Rebecca protests, over and over again, that Valencia is just a really cool girl who likes interesting things. It’s that she blatantly ignores any number of red flags, the biggest one being that her amazing new friend is pretty terrible. Once Valencia warms up to Rebecca—although it takes what seems to be free legal work, some wine, and a free box of water to make it happen—she seems to genuinely want to connect, but before that it’s one nasty comment (“Why is Greg talking to a homeless?”) after another, and each and every one gets ignored.
Speaking of ignored, Donna Lynne Champlin’s Paula has a rough week herself. Though she’s got both feet planted in reality, Paula isn’t there to merely be the good, neglected friend. In one episode, she manages to admit she’s using Rebecca as a surrogate daughter, scream at her in the hallway of their mutual workplace in front of clients, ignore a phone call from one of her apparently terrible children who may have stabbed one of her other terrible children, and blow off an old friend (Gina Gallego as the totally silent Mrs. Hernandez) when the shiny new one comes back with her tail between her legs and her metallic mini on the dustbin. Yes, she’s Team Rebecca, but there’s a fine line between being supportive and being an enabler, and the show hasn’t made clear into which category Paula falls.
There’s a great chance that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is as smart as I’m hoping it is, and that we’re supposed to see these people as delusional, self-centered, and often kind of mean. I’m totally ready to watch that show. But if we’re supposed to love them, then West Covina has a problem.
- The taxidermied cat in “Feelin’ Kinda Naughty” would have been hilarious even without the creepy context.
- Let’s not let the men off the hook. Josh is obviously awful (and a terrible, terrible liar), but Greg, our probable future love interest, also does some really rotten stuff this week. “Bras are in aisle one,” dude? Really?
- “What’s up with your resting Maggie Smith face?”
- “You smell like roasted corn.” “What?” “I SAID YOU SMELL LIKE ROASTED CORN!”
- “Grah-cefully exeunt… pursued… by a bear.” Thanks for The Winter’s Tale reference, CW!
- I had mixed feelings about “I’m So Good At Yoga.” Gabrielle Ruiz was excellent, and it had several of the episode’s best lines, particularly the all-class sigh of “Rebecca Sucks.” It’s also another instance of Rebecca being honest with herself, in this case about her own insecurities. But it also seemed pretty tone deaf? I don’t know. I’d love to know your thoughts, internet.