‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ excels in a sharp mid-season finale
Since the premiere of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” ’s premiere on the CW back in October, star Rachel Bloom (“Robot Chicken”) has consistently proved her knack for singing, writing and acting in one of this year’s best new shows. By infusing witty original songs into its musical comedy genre, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” explores the imaginative mind of Bloom’s character, Rebecca Bunch. So far in the first season, Rebecca has grown from an unhappy, overworked New York lawyer into a more emotionally involved character in West Covina, Calif. She clearly still denies many of her actions, constantly repressing how she moved to the West Coast just to be with her high school summer fling Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III, “Hostages”). Regardless of her motives, Rebecca’s underlying neurosis and her quest for happiness builds a strong foundation within the show. This past week’s mid-season finale, “My Mom, Greg’s Mom and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves!” feeds viewers another round of strong character development and musical numbers in a typically pleasant fashion.
The holiday theme of the episode plays out nicely, but for Rebecca and Co., the holidays are far from nice: Rebecca receives a visit from her domineering single mother (Tovah Feldshuh, “Flesh and Bone”) for Hanukkah, in hopes of mending the boiling tension between the two; Greg (Santino Fontana, “Frozen”) dreads spending time with his mother (Mel Harris, “Thirtysomething”), who left him and his dad when Greg was young; Josh yearns for the glory days of being a kid at Christmas (who wouldn’t?). While these characters cope with their problems during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” showcases their situations as a vehicle for their growing self-awareness.
Since the pilot, Rebecca’s strained relationship with her mother has been slowly building to a climax — their tense interactions only shown through flashbacks, a phone call and a brief FaceTime chat. But now that Rebecca’s mother makes a complete appearance, we see their dynamic in action. In her first grand entrance, Mrs. Bunch belts out the episode’s first musical number “Where’s the Bathroom?” where she makes rapid-fire critiques about Rebecca’s home, taunts her physical appearance and inquires about her sexual orientation. Through her fast-paced delivery, Mrs. Bunch’s overbearing personality and critical behavior toward Rebecca become evident, and the song clearly reflects Rebecca’s harsh upbringing.
Following Mrs. Bunch’s formal introduction, Rebecca does everything she can to impress her disparaging mother. She lies about how she works at a refined law firm and how her best friend is a stuffy British woman, played by Rebecca’s actual best friend and confidant Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin, “The Good Wife”). Though Rebecca’s “mom-pleaser” attitude may be a gag in the episode, her constant attempts to win her mother’s approval unveils a deeper, much more psychologically troubling truth. Coupled with her depression, Rebecca might be tackling reactive attachment disorder. Rebecca explicitly admits to her “mom-pleasing” ways, yet she perpetually lies to her mother about her work life and friendships simply because she still aches for the approval she has always wanted.
In contrast to Rebecca, Greg embodies the opposite — a “mom-hater,” if you will. He reluctantly goes to visit his mother, whom he calls by her first name “Shawna” and brings along Rebecca’s neighbor Heather (newcomer Vella Lovell) for support. Much to Heather’s surprise and Greg’s dismay, Shawna and her “privileged” family are genuinely welcoming people. But instead of acknowledging how thoughtful and caring his mother is, Greg continues to resent her, solely because she abandoned him and his father. Greg has too much pride in recognizing his mother’s kindness, whereas Rebecca has too much anxiety in overcoming her mother’s coldness.
Of course, Rebecca and Greg eventually learn from their mistakes; Greg accepts his mom and her generosity to spend time with him and Rebecca accepts her mom as well, though she still doesn’t see how her mother continues to deprive her of happiness. The only small flaw within the midseason finale is Josh’s subplot. It’s oddly short and primarily used to connect with the last sequence of the episode: Josh’s yearning to celebrate Christmas as a kid is fulfilled when he rejoins his old high school breakdancing crew at West Covina’s annual Winter Wonderland event. This, however, leads into the second musical number, “California Christmastime,” which is equally hilarious, campy and clever.
After eight spectacular episodes, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” ends its mid-season finale on a high note. Though it isn’t the best of the season, it deftly ties together three subplots, two refreshing musical numbers and one charming protagonist — making for an overall emotionally satisfying episode.