Photo: Tyler Golden (The CW)

When Trent (Paul Maddock) showed up in the back half of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s first season, it was like someone threw a firecracker into some sort of especially fraught family dinner. Things were bad, tense, likely to rupture at any moment—then instead of the intended explosion, people scrambled, shrieked, and were thoroughly baffled. The same thing happened when Trent came back in seasons two and three, and each firecracker was progressively larger, spitting more sparks. We’ve only seen Trent once this season, and briefly, though he loomed large over that first episode and will, I’d bet quite a lot of money, be coming back. But there’s a new firecracker-in-the-dining-room in town, and he is adorable.

Advertisement

Trent and Tucker have quite a lot in common, narratively speaking, but the ways in which they differ are far more important, as “I’m Making Up For Lost Time” makes clear. Both are reflections of Rebecca Bunch, but at different points in her life. And there’s another big difference between the Trent and Tucker storylines: Rebecca Bunch.

The episode, credited to Elisabeth Kiernan Averick, makes terrific work of those parallels without ever referencing Trent specifically. It also gets into the ways in which Nathaniel reflects (and more importantly, doesn’t reflect) Rebecca. And it shows us a great deal about how our protagonist has changed, as well as a little of how she hasn’t. It’s all good, thoughtful stuff. It’s familiar stuff, too, and though Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has done incredible things with repetition—lyrics, visual and musical motifs, plot points, songs, and many lines of dialogue have reappeared, to great effect—these particular retreads don’t feel quite as electric. In short, Tucker may be a lil’ firecracker, but he’s not a narrative firecracker, and “Lost Time” may be a good episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but it’s not a great one.

That’s okay! There are pleasures to be found here, and in a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season with a little more momentum, this might feel like a lovely pause for breath (even with all the antics), rather than a slightly less ambitious version of something we’ve already seen. And that less than enthusiastic beginning shouldn’t give you the impression that the strengths of this episode aren’t to be appreciated. Let’s start with this one: Luca Padovan is quite the actor, isn’t he?

Advertisement

The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend casting team deserves all the credit in the world, because they’re five for five on kid actors with sizable roles. Padovan is every bit as good as Ava Acres (young-but-not-extremely-young Rebecca), Jacob Guenther (Chris the barfly—bring back Chris the barfly!), Steele Stebbins (Tommy Proctor), and Olivia Edward (Madison Whitefeather), and he sings as beautifully as Rebecca does in her own head. The singing is important here, but it’s not what matters most. For this episode to work, we have to believe Tucker’s lies, have to wonder how much he’s faking and how much is real. We have to believe his unhappiness. And we have to believe that he really does feel connected to Rebecca, in spite of everything.

Padovan is well up to the task, and by zeroing in on Rebecca’s more frenetic tendencies, he makes Tucker a distinct personality who is nevertheless immediately recognizable as a Bunch. And in one of the rare episodes in which Rebecca does little to drive the action, Rachel Bloom is predictably excellent, particularly a) when Rebecca’s stalking the Peter Pan director against her better judgment (a big step, that last part), and b) in the last act, when she figures everything out, keeps a clear head, and does right by her brother.

It’s that last act that bumps this episode from “yeah, that was all right,” to “pretty good!” Tucker’s involvement with Nathaniel is important because it emphasizes how inexcusable his conduct is. They’re both doing something deeply manipulative, they’re both betraying a trust, but the key difference is that one of them is a child. And the work Rebecca’s done, the things she’s learned—that’s what prepares her to notice the real similarities between herself and her brother, and to set him on a better, healthier path.

Advertisement

Much of this season has centered on Rebecca backsliding, gently or not-so-gently, only to (mostly) catch up by episode’s end. In the first episode, it about self-recrimination, self-obsession, and selfishness in general; she got perspective from a few sources and cleared her head. The second and third episodes both dealt with avoidance and deflection, and the third with a reluctance and/or refusal to be honest with herself and others. Here, it’s letting the desire to do something that feels good at the expense of others. There’s something comfortable and sweet about watching what once might have taken a season or more develop by episode’s end, but there’s no way the last season sustains this pace. Not everything gets wrapped up so easily. Not on this show.

This is as good a point as any to mention the hints we get as to what some of the less-easy things in the future might be—Naomi, the Professor, Greg—but there’s another example of something resolved in less than tidy fashion. Paula’s escape room adventure with her kids isn’t something you can slap a bow on, and as the “previously on” makes apparent, it’s been a long time coming. Yet even that storyline has a sunny side—watching Stebbins and Zayne Emory (Brendan) get into the spirit of the escape room and recount their ren-faire adventures is a delight, is it not?

All in all, the sweet-sad-sour tone of this episode is effective and engaging; yet it, like the episodes that precede it, seems to be laying groundwork, first and foremost. That’s necessary, and it can be entertaining. But even with all the thoughtful character work and inventive parallels, it’s hard not to feel like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is still doing some housekeeping. Let’s hope everything’s been well-tidied by now, so the final season can actually begin.

Advertisement

Stray observations

  • Was very glad to see Clark Moore back as A.J. Hopefully he’s sticking around for a bit.
  • Brendan Proctor did the dicks.
  • G-G-G Award: I don’t know. Let’s give it to the Proctor boys, I guess—they’re funny.
  • The Child Star song was fun, but boy, am I hungry for something with a little more heft. We’ve had some really entertaining music this season—“What’s Your Story?” is so weird and cool, “Seize The Day” is a legit great patter song and a smart way to deal with something that could easily seem passive, and I’ve had “Don’t Be A Lawyer” in my head for a hot minute. I know we’re not going to get “You Stupid Bitch” every episode, but something with a little extra emotional sting is overdue at this point.
  • “One Indescribable Instant” was not high on the list of songs I expected to hear again this season.
  • I don’t know if Luca Padovan was coached to sound like Ava Acres or if that was a coincidence, but whatever the case, it was uncanny at times.
  • Pretzels are a a funky treat for teens!
  • First end-of-episode sting in quite awhile! Very funny, nice cameo, but I sure do miss “I left my wife for a prostitute.” 

Advertisement