Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has never feared dodging convention. From tearing down the mystique of getting ready for a night out and about, to the scary nature casual sexual encounters, the hellish experience of having children, the lies we’re told about “the one”, the build up of female friendship and songs about period sex, the series holds no qualms about talking about some real shit. From the name of the series, to the musical intro to the leading lady herself, they’re all takedowns of what we’ve seen in popular culture. In season one Rebecca landed the guy of her dreams, with season two she lost him and was thrown into a pit of fury, while season three found her on the rebound and then to the path of self-discovery in it’s very best season yet. It was often painfully truthful, ridiculously silly, sweepingly romantic and blush inducingly sexy. With game changing season finale last night, the series is once again taking a sledgehammer to the status quo as both it and its heroine will be challenged in ways they never have been before.
The biggest development of the season followed Rebecca’s suicide intent when she learns she’s been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and the thematic exploration of her character for the rest of the season is beautifully depicted as she must grapple with what it means for herself and her growth. While it doesn’t take the responsibility for her actions, or justify all of them, it grants a sense of context and a way to identify unhealthy patterns that subsequently derailed many of her relationships and/or lead her to painful, self-destructive actions. It was wonderful work by the entire creative team. It was respectful of those living with the illness and never patronizing or trite. The research had been done and rather than get a stereotypical depiction we got one that only ever added up once the pieces were handed to her.
The second, was her relationship with Nathaniel, someone many wrote off when he was introduced in season two as he seemed like he was there to be a replacement for Greg. However, as the season went on and the two interacted we couldn’t help but root for the pairing due to how well they complimented one another. Sure, some of those comparisons were destructive, but they owned up to one another’s missteps and failings and the relationship itself seemed healthy and wrought with chemistry. Rebecca and her happiness and her relationship with her female friends (Paula especially) are the more significant aspects of the show, but if we are to have a major romance in the series (and they’re love for that genre is palpable as much as they scrutinize it), Nathaniel is a likely candidate.
It’s these two elements that lead to the climax of the finale, where Trent (who had returned last week to torment Rebecca after she dumped him), threatens to harm Nathaniel. Having already ostracized herself from Paula by having lied to her, she has no one to turn to and takes matters into her own hands and when it looks like Trent is going to kill Nathaniel, she reaches out and pushes him over the edge of the building..
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has always been so many wonderful things. A raging feminist voice in television, a dark comedy, a swooning love story between damaged human beings, a deep and voyeuristic look at a woman’s self-discovery of her mental illness and a chance for some wonderful actors – Rachel Bloom in particular – to show a range they might not get the chance to demonstrate elsewhere. With season three they fully established themselves as one that’s fearless in its risk taking and confident in its town in a manner so few shows are.
We don’t see many Rebecca’s on television. We don’t see many Josh Chan’s, White Josh and Darryl Whitefeather’s, Paula, Valencia’s or Heather’s either. But Rebecca and her pain, her joy and declarative need to restore her ownership of her own life is so stunningly portrayed, so justifiably earned and so wholly refreshing that she feels immediately relatable. Few of us find ourselves in her hijinks, and not all of us can say we’ve gone through having BPD – but there are aspects of Rebecca that are poignantly true to our (my) experience. Despite the somewhat heightened reality she lives, she’s always felt decidedly real.
We are impulsive and we want Rebecca to (momentarily) listen to the sweet bullshit Nathaniel is singing to her; that nothing is really her fault, that she should once again get a pass for being manipulative and destructive because of reasons that are somewhat – admittedly – out of her control. But that tumorous mass of psychological guilt that’s been building and her earnest wish to propel herself back into Paula’s good graces makes her hesitate before calling the insanity plea of guilt. Instead, she proclaims herself ‘responsible’. The hands that pushed Trent off the roof and into the pool below (once again breaking every bone in his body) were her own. Sure, she did it because she was worried about Nathaniel’s fate, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was her action and she had control over herself when she did it. Similarly, she’s holding herself accountable for all of the other manipulative actions she’s pulled over her loved ones in the past and, in particular, her deceit of Paula – the one person who has determinedly been in her corner since she first moved to West Covina. By doing so, in such a big proclamation, she’s both potentially setting fire to the possibility of her and Nathaniel finding love together while also finding a sense of self-love in a move that will obliterate the life that she knows. But look at her assured smile in that last frame (and look at well Bloom sells it.) That is the face of a woman who’s feeling immense relief, of someone who has had the weight of her past lifted off of her shoulders for this momentary blink of time where she’s unquestionably honest and raw. I’m sure season four will rattle and shake with the usual twists and turns this show loves to take, and I’m sure we won’t see Rebecca in prison for too long, but regardless, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has made a seismic shift in its narrative and a bold and assured declaration that it, like its heroine, truly understands who they are.