Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has offered up many surprises in its first season. White Josh and Darryl. Water supply conspiracy theorists. “Heavy Boobs.” But as it starts careening toward the finish line, the series unveils a surprise that many would have never suspected: Rebecca Bunch seems surprisingly stable, a little espionage and hospital visit not withstanding.
That, more than anything else, makes the very charming “Why is Josh in a Bad Mood?” feel just a little bit ominous. Not all will be well, and not just because this is television and happy people in healthy relationships communicating effectively make for very boring stories. A mere two episodes ago, Rebecca was on an airplane, drunk-dreaming about her psychiatrist as she prepared to impulsively move across the country for the second time in under a year. Problems don’t just disappear, as evidenced by Rebecca’s first impulsive move across the country not somehow magically solving everything.
That’s a long way of saying that the odds of Rebecca winding up season one happily and healthily dating Greg, being friendly with Josh, and baking with Paula are basically zero, and making it seem that any of those things is likely is a hell of a way to build tension. The result is a place-setting episode that doesn’t feel like one, since the protagonist seems to be doing much, much better than she has for the rest of the season. That’s reinforced by the two songs, “I Gave You a UTI” and “Oh My God I Think I Like You.” Does either sound like impending doom? No. One’s just a really charming little up-tempo number about the urethra, and the other is essentially a song about how scary it can be to realize you actually might sort of care about someone. Those aren’t end of season songs! Those are happy early days songs!
But a third musical number exists—my favorite of the evening, though all three were great—and his episode’s ill omen lives in “Angry Mad.” It’s not merely the fact that when the third point in a love triangle is unhappy. It’s that he’s that unhappy. He’s Kevin Bacon in Footloose’s warehouse-of-rage unhappy. Brilliantly choreographed by Kathryn Burns, Josh’s session in the dojo manages to be both very funny (those angry interjections!) and a note of warning that the season finale isn’t likely to be peaceful. It helps that Vincent Rodriguez III is such a tremendous dancer, though that’s not news. If you’ve got a cast member with that kind of skill, best find a way to use it whenever possible.
Josh isn’t the only one that’s unhappy, and that’s where the episode falters. Paula’s breakup with Rebecca-and-Josh was probably never going to be simple, and Donna Lynn Champlin sells the hell out of everything she’s given, but much of what occurs between Rebecca and Paula in “Why is Josh in a Bad Mood?” feels like something we’ve seen before. Given the episode’s final moments, it seems likely that there’s only more coming down the pipe. Last week, the Paula-Rebecca shift felt like a really terrific move from a storytelling perspective. It’s perhaps more emotionally realistic for Paula to have a hard time breaking the habit, but I’m not sure it’s more entertaining.
Speaking of realism, there’s one thing Paula and Greg have in common that I’d like to take a second to point out. While Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not, in any way, a realistic piece of art—and not just because of the singing and dancing, though that’s certainly a part of it—I do think it does a terrific job of coloring nearly all its characters in shades of gray. That’s part of what made Valencia’s most recent storyline so welcome, as she often seemed to be the only character who was perhaps a bit narrowly drawn. It’s worth remembering that the show has never made any attempt to paint these people as wholly good or bad. They’re all messed up, and messed up people do shitty, selfish things. So do people who’ve got a lot figured out, for that matter, but often it’s those who struggle who act least rationally. So yes, Greg can be a real asshole, and yes, Paula has done some things that are frankly criminal. (So has Rebecca.) But I think what we’re supposed to take away from these characters is that they’ve all got baggage, and they’ve all got a capacity for ugliness, but they’re also kind, generous, honest, thoughtful, nurturing, and other good things. Heroes and villains are for Beach Boys songs and fairy tales. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is for the mess in all of us, and yes, for a closing line in an episode that has roughly a baker’s dozen jokes about semen, I know how gross that sounds. Ah, well.
- “Flambé your cockatoo. I’m funny.”
- Tonight’s Hector Award, for a person with a small role who nevertheless steals the show: Dan Gregor as the doctor and standup comedian. Obviously. As of several weeks ago, it’s been established that Father Brah and Hector both get lifetime Hector Awards, but even if they didn’t, that tag was inspired, as was “pee-hole.”
- That said, both the checkers scene and Hector’s Kenny Loggins moment were choice.
- I’m really surprised they got away with most of that stuff on the CW. Seriously, there were so many blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em semen jokes, and the pushing-the-head bit was very, very funny.
- Welcome back, Heather. Vela Lovell may not always have much to do, but she sure does make the most of her scenes.
- Before the finale airs, I’ll be writing up a list of all the first season’s musical numbers and analyzing them as a whole. I’ll share the in the final review, but in the meantime, feel free to remind me which songs I was foolish enough to underestimate or ignore below.
- “I’m on a Broadway schedule.”
- Boy, was it good to see Santino Fontana get a musical number that wasn’t in some way about Greg being miserable.