'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Continues to Smash Tropes in Season Three Finale

Crazy Ex–Girlfriend Season 3 Finale Photo
Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) and Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) sing a duet in "Crazy Ex–Girlfriend" on the CW.
“Nathaniel Is Irrelevant” isn’t the strongest episode of the season, but that’s probably because it has a lot of loose ends to tie up. In the Season Three finale of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) has to come to terms with his one-sided relationship, Darryl (Pete Gardner) needs to resolve the awkward aftermath of his breakup with White Josh (David Hull), and Heather (Vela Lovell) has to give birth.

But throughout it all, Rachel Bloom’s brainchild stays lovingly subversive with zany and self-aware musical numbers. We get a wonderful three minutes of Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) singing atop a flower-studded throne while wearing a matching persimmon-colored chiffon dress. “Tear, tear, tear / goes your vagina,” she blissfully sings. “Never will it be / its cute little self again / But the good news is / if you have a few more kids / the rest will basically / plop right out.” It’s got the gracious musical irony that’s become a “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” trademark, and will hopefully immortalize itself along with the episode’s second number: “Nothing is Ever Anyone’s Fault,” Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Nathaniel’s hilarious power ballad. “So it’s not my fault that / my parents messed me up,” they belt. “‘Cause their parents messed them up / And Adam and Eve were messed up by God / who was originally messed up by the Big Bang.”

“Nothing is Ever Anyone’s Fault” smashes the tragic backstory narrative crutch, but the finale also makes waves with Heather’s nonexistent birth scene. It’s almost a given at this point that in any show, if there’s a pregnant character, the season must end with them giving birth in some overwritten, overused, dramatic manner. I was secretly hoping that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was too smart to fall for that trope, and that they would just push Heather’s pregnancy off to a later season or have the birth happen off screen. But the show does even better: It takes the cliché and looks at it head-on. “I can’t believe how calm you are,” Darryl says. “On TV shows, pregnant women—they’re always crying, and screaming, and punching their husband in the face.”

“Yea, well, those shows were written by men,” Heather retorts. “I got an epidural remember? I don’t feel a thing.” It’s so satisfying seeing “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” laugh at stereotypes and actually create scenes that are all the more compelling without them. Most of Heather’s hospital moments are of her being her charmingly dry and charismatic self while doing crossword puzzles. After she has her baby, the show cuts to a shot of her glowing with sweat and pride: “Man. I killed that,” she says.

This jumpcut cleverly takes place right after Rebecca nearly did kill someone. What eclipses all of these subplots is how Rebecca continuously diverts the responsibility of her own actions. This behavior ultimately threatens her relationship with her best friend, Paula. In the previous episode, Rebecca lied to Paula in order to coerce her into a committing a federal crime. The guilt catches up to Rebecca in the finale, manifesting as a hallucination of her male doppelganger, Trent. She confesses to Paula under the pressure, and it becomes clear that the nearly-invincible friendship that has weathered three seasons of obsessive romances and questionable escapades may not survive this storm.

Champlin’s performance conveys much of the finale’s tension. Watching her wrestle with anger, hurt, and grief is like watching an exercise in restraint: Champlin doesn’t wildly gesture. She doesn’t yell. She doesn’t rely on dramatics. She barely even cries. Any tears remain suspended—just like the tension in the scene. It’s this stillness that is especially frightening and real—a true testament to Champlin’s acting ability.

After this gut-wrenching scene, Rebecca has to grapple with the culpability of her actions. In addition to lying to her best friend, Rebecca has also ordered a hit on her ex’s girlfriend, threatened the safety of another ex’s mother, and in the season finale, she pushes real Trent off a building (to be fair, Trent was about to kill someone else). Up until now, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has wanted us to chalk up all of Rebecca’s dangerous behavior to her Borderline Personality Disorder. But the finale pulls a twist. After nearly killing Trent (he falls into a pool), Rebecca goes to court. Under Nathaniel’s instructions, she’s to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

But she doesn’t. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this,” she says. “I may have Borderline, but I’m not insane. I’m responsible for everything that happened—all of it.” In this scene, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” immediately subverts the “tragic backstory explains all bad things” trope that plagues modern-day storytelling. “It’s my life, and I’m responsible no matter what illness I have, or what my parents were like,” she continues. “And let’s be clear—they suck.”

Rebecca’s courtroom monologue is touching, but it’s unclear whether or not it can neatly unpack all of the moral gray area the show has set up. Rebecca claims the necessity for responsibility amid differing circumstances almost too quickly, and it feels like there’s still more to talk about: Are all actions inexcusable, despite the circumstances? Does this gloss over and ignore the complicated landscape those with mental illnesses have to live through? Or does it hold everyone to a necessary moral standard?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but judging by the strong set of actors and writers the show has in tow, there may be a fourth season to answer them. So here’s to hoping for a renewal, for more trope and stereotype destruction, and for more brilliantly funny, subversive, visceral work by the team behind “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

—Staff writer Grace Z. Li can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.


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