“The Wedding (Part 2)” is pretty close to being the Modern Family episode its first half suggests it will be. It’s misshapen and incomplete on its own, and its proportions are wrong by design. It’s heavy on sweetness and light as much as “Part 1” was overstuffed with high jinks, which leads me to believe “The Wedding” was originally conceived to air as a one-hour event, but ABC decided against it. Obviously “Part 2” will be forced to stand on its own merits someday, as syndication demands, but “The Wedding,” much like a wedding, is the story of two independent parts that work better together.
Had “The Wedding” aired as a one-hour block, it wouldn’t be a fantastic episode, but it would hold up favorably against most of what the last two seasons have to offer. As two parts, the first fires a bunch of jokes and introduces 11,000 story elements, while the second isn’t particularly funny, nor does it bring all those stories to a satisfying conclusion, but it spackles its holes with sentimentality. While Modern Family has beaten the sentimental voiceover to a bloody pulp over the years, it’s more consistent at being adorable than it is at being funny, which works to the advantage of “Part 2.”
The episode does a fine job with the emotional beats of Mitch and Cam’s wedding, finally dealing substantively with the rift between Jay and Mitch and giving Jay an opportunity to redeem himself. After taking several ill-advised runs at a fatherly pep talk, Jay finally realizes this is a moment for deeds, as the snowballing wedding misery finds Mitch and Cam booted from one wedding location to the next, leaving almost nothing the way they planned it. But Jay saves the day and repairs his strained relationship with Mitch in one fell swoop by moving the wedding to his country club, and if his golf buddies are scandalized by it, so be it.
It isn’t an unexpected resolution, but it is a pretty satisfying one. Regardless of what a Modern Family fan thinks of the show’s creative progression, the sight of Jay and Gloria walking Mitch down the aisle is pretty swoon-worthy. The one thing “The Wedding” had to do well was iron out the issues between Jay and Mitch in a heartwarming way, and “Part 2” accomplishes that goal.
As for the rest of the stories introduced in “Part 1,” “Part 2” chucks them out or abandons them, which was to be expected considering how much was packed into the first part, but it still feels jarring. I just watched the episode and I can barely remember a thing about what happened with Cam’s parents. The episode pursues the Haley-and-Andy plot pretty aggressively before veering away from it at the last minute too, which is unexpected. Are the Modern Family writers trying to go the full Jim-and-Pam with this relationship? Because I have definitely come around on the idea of Haley maturing into a young woman who appreciates being treated with kindness, but I’m not so invested in that relationship that I can maintain my enthusiasm over time if it isn’t funny.
That’s a sentiment that extends to Modern Family as a whole, a general lack of enthusiasm about where the characters are going. Now that the show’s novelty has long since worn off and the scripts aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be, Modern Family will have to figure out how to build longer arcs for its characters if it wants to age gracefully. On the whole, “The Wedding” is fine for what it is, but considering how easy it’s been to forget Mitch and Cam’s wedding was season five’s overarching story, it’s an episode that calls attention to Modern Family’s real issue. The plotting is secondary to the jokes, which was fine when there were more and better of them, but at this point, Modern Family needs to refocus on its characters and tell compelling stories about them.
- Sal, after going into labor: “Sometimes when babies come this early…they’re black.”
- Gloria, attempting to appeal to Merle’s better judgment: “Don’t you see Merle? It was Christmas the whole time!”
- The Luke-and-Manny stuff was cute, if not actually funny.
- I love that Manny’s entire plot was: has a pimple. A pimple that wasn’t even mentioned in “Part 2!”