If this third season premiere is evident of anything at all, it’s that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will never be as good as it once was. All the intense drama, suspense, gut-bustingly funny musical numbers…all that is gone. I mean, it’s still there, in some instances here and there, but the show will never have the intrigue and the appeal it had during it’s first season. And think I have figured out why:
The whole reason to watch the first season, aside from the characters, humor, and musical numbers, was consistently wondering if Josh will ever find out the real reason Rebecca moved back to West Covina. It was this show’s version of wondering if Hank from Breaking Bad will ever find out if Walt is Heisenberg. Of course, if you’ve seen that show, you’ll remember the writers strategically waited until the end of the fifth season to make that reveal. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did it at the very end of the first. While the reveal was one of the show’s funniest moments ever (that musical hit at the very end of it had me howling), I fear this is what has completely killed the show’s dramatic intrigue.
As is evident by this episode, titled “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Wants Revenge,” Bloom and her writers are struggling to come up with interesting plot lines to fill an episode, now that Rebecca constantly having keep the truth away from Josh is no longer part of it.
The premiere in a nutshell: Coming off of Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) leaving Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) at the altar to become a priest at the end of the abysmal 2nd season finale, Rebecca is now devoting her life full-time to getting revenge on him in any way she can. Her first plan is to send him cupcakes filled with feces. When Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) and the rest of her friends and co-workers tell her it’s a bad idea, she instead turns to making a “fake” sex tape with a Josh look-a-like in which he blurts out “I hate Jesus!” to send to those in charge of his future priesthood. And….that’s basically it.
Nothing about the plot of this episode is surprising or feels like something we haven’t seen before on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Rebecca doing something irrational, something dirty, and her friends trying to tell her what she’s doing is terrible. And herein is lies one of the problems: Rebecca Bunch is becoming less interesting of a character as the series progresses because she doesn’t change.
I know that’s the point – that she’s a crazy person with no self-control who reacts irrationally to everything that doesn’t go exactly the way she wants it – but if you’re going to have a television series with multiple seasons and overarching stories, character development is a must. Sure, her goals and her circumstances have changed, but after two seasons and over 40 episodes, Rebecca Bunch is essentially the same character that we were introduced to in the pilot back in 2015. And now that the show’s suspense and key dramatic hook has completely gone out the window, what was once brilliant and unique is now kind of plain and tedious.
The other thing that seems to be lacking at this point in the series is a reason for the musical numbers. Of course it’s a musical show, but what I mean is that the musical numbers don’t ever serve the story any more. Take the opening number of this episode, a song all about wondering where Rebecca is – fair enough, a sensible start to the episode seeing as she ran away (even though the lyrics are terrible and the melody is lazy). But then the second one “Let’s Generalize About Men” has nothing to do with the plot of the episode – it comes about when all our female characters are just sitting around talking about how terrible men are.
Like, sure, it’s a decent tune, and I get it, but why does it need to be here? What does it add to the episode that I wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t there except for maybe another thing to buy on iTunes for 99 cents? I’m not saying every single musical number has to delve deep into the characters’ psyches or move the story hugely along, but it’s very clear that by now the showrunners are using the show’s dedicated format of having at least two musical numbers in every single episode to eat up run time.
Another hill this episode can’t climb is getting me to care about Daryl (Pete Gardner) and White Josh’s (David Hull) relationship. I’m sorry – I know the making of their romance has been one of the backbones of the show previously, especially with Daryl admitting to himself that he is bisexual, but at this point, I could not possibly care less about them or their shenanigans. Nothing interesting is happening there. In this episode, their subplot involves Daryl taking some of White Josh’s homemade protein bars and turning them into a brand name product and selling them. First, White Josh is mad because he feel like he got taken advantage of, but then later, he isn’t and they make up. Quality storytelling, right?
But the episode isn’t all a downer. The majority of the jokes land and are pretty funny as usual. Even though the number itself is a waste, the “your sons are gonna be rapists” line at the end of “Let’s Generalize About Men” made me chuckle, and having Vincent Rodriguez III, who plays Josh, very obviously play the Josh look-a-like was a pretty clever gag.
And the episode is interesting enough in the story department to keep your attention for 60 minutes with commercials, even if it doesn’t and probably will never have the same intrigue and uniqueness it once did. All the performances are fine as expected – no one shocks or surprises or disappoints. When it’s about the plot and moving the story along, it’s interesting to watch. When it’s several minutes of characters sitting around gossipping or rambling about something completely irrelevant, not so much.
It probably sounds from this review like I hated this episode, but I didn’t. It was fine overall, I suppose, but I just wish the show had some way of getting its edge back. I fear that the show that I once called one of the best shows on television will stay on this path of being just okay and disappointingy surface level from here until it ends, whenever that will be. It really, really blew it’s load too early with that season 1 finale reveal.
Here’s hoping, I guess.