'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend''s first normal episode

Monday, December 11, 2017 - 9:41am


The CW


When Rachel Bloom’s zany musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” premiered in 2015, the show made waves for its off-kilter humor and inventive songs. In season one, the title “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” seemed to be in reference to Rebecca Bunch, the show’s titular character. Bunch, a successful lawyer working in Manhattan, drops everything and follows her summer camp ex-boyfriend – the one who got away, dreamy Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III, "Designated Survivor") – to West Covina, California. She justifies the search in the name of love and happiness. Her short-lived romance with Chan was the last time she was “truly happy,” and because of that, Bunch reasons West Covina must hold the key to her personal fulfillment.

Seasons one and two skirt around Rebecca’s mental illness. It’s the topic of several songs (“You Stupid Bitch” and “The Villain in my Own Story”). It’s a recurring joke (“I’m not crazy, I’m in love”), and it is, of course, the title of the show. In the fire two seasons, however, this mental illness is treated with brevity and sarcasm. Though viewers can see how wildly unhinged Rebecca is, it feels safe to follow her along on the ride. Nothing is too far for our wacky heroine.

After Josh Chan left Rebecca at the altar at the end of season two, however, a shift occurred in both the writing and execution of the show. It was still funny and odd, but the indicators of Rebecca’s mental illness no longer felt hilarious and harmless. Rather, season three presented a woman going down a very dangerous spiral, and it was only a matter of time before she hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom occurred on an airplane, when Rebecca swallowed a mouthful of pills and chased it down with wine. This is not the first breakdown she’s had on airplane – in fact, 10,000 feet in the air seems to be a prime time for crises – but this is the first time she’s asked for help.

Season three has navigated the challenge of moving the storyline away from Josh Chan. Though this was always very much Rebecca’s story, the presence of Josh Chan was essential to the narrative. Much like the name of the episode preceding this week’s, “Josh is Irrelevant,” Rebecca finally faces the (literal) music and makes the choice to focus on herself. For the first time since the show began three years ago, Rebecca understands that her issues run deeper than a man, deeper than an unsatisfying job and deeper than a change of location. She has spent three seasons vying for the attention of Josh because she thinks he will fix her. This week’s episode, “Getting Over Jeff,” is the first time Rebecca acknowledges the only person who can fix her is herself.

In terms of musical numbers and comedic storylines, it wasn’t my favorite episode of the series. There were gems, of course – namely Paula’s supermarket banger “The First Penis I Saw.” Rebecca and Josh were not even in the same state, and it didn’t matter. This story is no longer about Josh. The episode felt episodic and tangential – as if it had to occur to tie up loose ends and move the story forward. It wasn’t written to be “the best episode of the series.” It was written to move the show forward, so that better episodes could occur. Daryl and "White" Josh broke up, finally accepting that the baby conflict was too big an issue to ignore. Heather struggled to find meaning for life after college. Josh got a job as a bartender and then got a staph infection. Paula almost cheated on her husband, but realized she loved him. Nathaniel and Rebecca sexted. Rebecca had a normal, healthy session with a therapist. She bonded with a father figure. She flew on an airplane sans mental breakdown. She had sex with Nathaniel.

In a series where life is so overwhelmingly crazy, “Getting Over Jeff” was the most normal episode yet.

It was an important episode, and a good mid-season finale. It established where the show will go next, and gave it room to grow. I can’t say I’ll be re-watching the episode again, but I can say I will be eagerly awaiting the next chapter of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to return early next year.

Also, “The First Penis I Saw” deserves a Grammy.