Gearing up for Its Final Musical Number, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Remains One of TV’s Best Portrayals of Mental Health
Like its protagonist Rebecca Bunch, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has always existed in open defiance to the rules that govern the world it exists in. Surviving multiple seasons as one of the lowest-rated shows on broadcast television, the musical comedy doubled down on its surreal fun-house version of reality while simultaneously offering one of the medium’s rawest takes on mental health, neither of which are particularly conducive to mainstream success. Rachel Bloom’s Bunch has never let imminent failure get in the way, which perhaps explains why the show enjoys such a rabid cult following better represented through Netflix streams and YouTube clicks than the increasingly archaic Nielsen model.
This current age of television has been benevolent toward beloved yet under watched shows, giving them final seasons to wrap up their stories rather than detestable cliff-hangers. With the finish line in sight, the early episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s fourth season take stock of its hero’s journey while recognizing that there’s plenty of story left to tell. The days of stalking Josh Chan are long past, but the underlying motives that brought Rebecca out to West Covina remain. This dynamic is perhaps best reflected in the show’s new opening, which bears no mention of its title while still evoking the same sense of uncertainty toward Rebecca’s own identity. Josh was never really the end goal, but rather a placeholder for the void that Rebecca has been unable to fill in order to achieve contentment with her life.
Season four manages a strong balance between Rebecca’s arc and those of the rest of the show’s stellar cast. Daryl Whitefeather remains a singular force in TV’s portrayal of male bisexuality, a man unafraid to be tender and vulnerable as he takes stock of the things that matter in his life post-coming out. Josh and Nathaniel are similarly emotionally exposed, existing in open conflict with the “tough guy” image society often expects men to inhabit. Heather and Paula take backseat roles to the rest of the cast in the early episodes, but both exhibit a sense of belonging and purpose that was absent from their characters at the start of the show. These people have all come a long way, with plenty of road left to travel.
The extended eighteen-episode order gives Crazy Ex-Girlfriend plenty of time to explore its cast before it’s time to start wrapping up the narrative. Aided by a strong offering of musical numbers, Rebecca demonstrates growth while remaining unsure of little beyond perhaps an understanding that her elaborate schemes won’t make her happy. She’s always worn her flaws on her sleeve, endearing herself to the audience through her sheer humanity.
Life is hard. Singing about it won’t change the circumstances that make us sad, but music, comedy, and companionship can offer the kind of solace that gets you to the next day. With grim ratings, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend spent most of its run looking like a show that didn’t have much of a tomorrow to call its own. It defied the odds while staying true to what’s made it such a treat for its loyal audience. As Rebecca & co. dance and sign toward the finish line, I’m grateful that such a genuine portrayal of how hard it can be to live inside your own head managed to go out on its own terms.