Jaime King, Wilson Bethel/The CW

“Do you think all small towns are like this one?”

“I’d like to think so, but something tells me probably not. I know I love ours.”

Why do you fall head over heels for one show and not another? There exists a very particular alchemy between television show and viewer, one that is difficult to explain but feels a lot like falling in love. The initial infatuation, the growing obsession, followed by the inevitable cooling off period before settling into a more comfortable, sustainable relationship—all akin to your very own television romance, and all existing because something about a show clicks with something inside you as a viewer in a way only you can understand. Over the last four years, Hart Of Dixie was this show for me.

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Debuting at a time when The CW seemed about as far away from its WB roots as it could possibly get (the last WB show remaining on its schedule was One Tree Hill, which aired its final season that same year) (editor’s note: as pointed out by percysowner below, Supernatural also remained from The WB and is still airing to this day) and the entire network was struggling to discover an identity of its very own, Hart Of Dixie snuck onto the scene the odd man out on its own network, like the strange little WB throwback it was. This quirky little romantic comedy about a big-town doctor who moved to a small Alabama town was a complete 180 degree turn from most of the programming The CW was attempting at the time—in 2011, the network was far more interested in courting young teen girls with flashy soaps like Gossip Girl and 90210 or supernatural love triangles like The Vampire Diaries—and throughout its run, it never did quite fit into the schedule. But the reasons it didn’t fit in were all the reasons I loved it: Its huge heart, its unabashed dedication to telling happy stories about generally happy people, its embrace of quirky small town life that went to almost fetishistic levels. All were the perfect storm to create something unique and the television landscape and absolutely, totally delightful.

Despite never quite fitting in on its network, Hart Of Dixie still managed to thrive, carving out its own (modestly rated) little happy niche wherever The CW decided to put it that season. The main reason for this is that the show never wavered in its dedication to what made it so great: Its ever-expanding cast of wacky, flawed, over-the-top (but still very human) characters. From the first frame of Zoe Hart as an ambitious surgeon in New York City to her final shot, happy and content as a small-town doctor, Hart Of Dixie never lost sight of the people in its universe and their fundamental characteristics, all while leading them on very satisfying emotional journeys over four seasons. Zoe started as a neurotic, slightly crazy, career-obsessed doctor with very little interest in community or relationships and ended as someone who embraced love and community—but she still remained neurotic and slightly crazy. Wade started as a fiercely loyal, charming, carefree ladies’ man with little interest to do anything above and beyond the bare minimum and ended as someone who owned his own business and was in a committed relationship—but still remained fiercely loyal, charming, and carefree. You can easily trace almost every character’s evolution from pilot to finale like this, each getting their own lovely little heartbeat of character-based stories.

For all the characters who grew and changed over the years, however, none did it in finer fashion than Lemon Breeland. Lemon had a rough go of it in season one, stuck in buzzkill story after buzzkill story as the uptight foil whose life was turned upside down when Zoe got to town and inadvertently interfered in her relationship with her fiancé George. But after her breakup with George, Lemon’s character suddenly blossomed into the richest and most interesting on the show, as she explored what her life was going to be once everything she expected it to be fell apart. It was a stunning course correction by the writers, assisted by some great work from Jaime King—who completed Lemon’s transformation while still retaining the essential prickliness of her character.

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Season four has been all about wrapping up the show’s many loose ends, and as Hart Of Dixie is consistently the happiest show on television it feels right that the show should strive for every character’s ultimate happy ending. The biggest thing the show had to navigate was getting its two main couples back together in a way that made sense as a season arc and still set up a great finale. This required some serious compression of the timeline but placed both couples in a perfect position here, with Zoe and Wade ready to have their baby and Lemon and Lavon newly engaged after years of denying their feelings. The story between these two couples in the finale is all about the evolving dynamic between these four friends, with Zoe showing growth by not wanting to upstage Lemon at her engagement party and Lemon showing growth by letting go of her controlling tendencies a bit simply because she is so happy.

Everything about this finale is about Zoe’s journey coming full circle since the pilot, which the show nods to by having a new, big-city lawyer take over George’s old practice and having this new lawyer be the spitting image of Zoe when she first arrived in Bluebell. That Zoe sees this specter of who she used to be and doesn’t like it, that’s Zoe acknowledging just how much Bluebell and the people in it have changed her for the better. When the new, big-city lawyer immediately gets embroiled in a love triangle with the other two new people in town, that’s the show acknowledging that even though Zoe was the main character in this tale, Bluebell was really the star, and its story will keep going on and on. It’s the perfect way for the show to honor all the things that made it so special.

But Hart Of Dixie wouldn’t be Hart Of Dixie if it didn’t go out with a little bit of wackiness. The show was always full of capers, pranks, schemes, and shenanigans, and the finale ends with perhaps its biggest series of crazy events yet. Zoe going into labor during this episode was a given, and of course once she went into labor it would set off a series of wacky dominoes the show needed to knock down. It starts because Zoe realizes she wants to get married to Wade before the baby is born, which leads to them getting married while she’s being wheeled into the delivery room with all of their friends and family crowding around the gurney. (This makes no sense, but just go with it because it’s cute.) It’s sweet and special and would be enough for a satisfying finale, but Hart Of Dixie isn’t done. After the baby is born—named “TBD” because he’s early and they haven’t decided on a name yet—the episode turns into a musical number complete with choreographed dancing, starting in Zoe’s hospital room and sprawling into a time-jumping musical montage that shows Lemon and Lavon’s wedding.

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The final musical number ends with the entire town singing and dancing in the middle of the town square, and it’s cheesy and over-the-top and tremendously silly, and yet it’s almost impossible to imagine the show finishing its run any other way. Hart Of Dixie is a show that celebrates small town life, small town people, small town shenanigans, and small town love, and everything about this final number embraced the joy it always found in telling stories about those things. Like Zoe and Wade discuss in the final scene, Hart Of Dixie always loved Bluebell the most. And Bluebell, you will be missed.

Stray observations:

  • The show was not technically cancelled by The CW, but everyone involved with the show creatively is treating this like a series finale so that’s what I’m calling it. As much as I would love to watch stories about these characters until the end of time, it was kind of the perfect ending.
  • TAYLOR TOWNSEND.
  • The only thing wrong with this finale? No Don Todd’s Monster Golf Safari!
  • Did the montage imply Annabeth moved to Nashville? That was unclear, but I liked AB telling George she didn’t want to always uproot her life for a man. Wonder if she ended up doing that after all.
  • Favorite peripheral character? Mine will always be Dash. I love a man who loves gossip.
  • Favorite storyline ever? I loved the arc where Lemon and Wade ran a business together. Their friendship is my favorite.
  • “They brought a pet raccoon!” “He’s mean to that raccoon!” Hart Of Dixie humor in a nutshell.

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