2 Broke Girls
Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Near the beginning of 2 Broke Girls‘ first season finale, aging hepcat Earl (Garrett Morris) tells sassy waitress Max (Kat Dennings) that he’s impressed with how far she’s come since she started working at the Williamsburg Diner — and, implicitly, since 2 Broke Girls itself premiered in September. But after 22 episodes filled with shallow supporting characters, little forward momentum, and some of the most cringeworthy — sorry, “classy dirty” — jokes ever committed to network TV, it’s tough to say how much progress Max and her CBS sitcom have truly made.

Sure, tonight’s finale proved that creator Michael Patrick King isn’t totally ignoring the harsh things critics have said about his show. Matthew Moy’s Han, for example, is no longer the butt of quips about his thick Korean accent; instead, his coworkers just make fun of his diminutive stature. (There was also only one rape joke tonight. Progress?) And Han even got a few lines in the finale that poked fun at how underdeveloped the show’s diner characters are: “You never ask about my interests,” he complains to former rich girl Caroline (Beth Behrs), adding that she and Max barely talk about anything but their burgeoning cupcake business.

Han has a point — but slyly alluding to a problem isn’t the same thing as fixing that problem. And though he managed to correctly diagnose one of Broke Girls‘ major issues, Han stayed mum about the show’s other failings: namely, its essential stagnation — have Max and Caroline really done anything to move along their business plan? Has either one truly grown or changed since the pilot? — and its tired, raunchy jokes, which are groan-inducing enough to make Chelsea Handler roll her eyes. (Tonight’s worst offender: Creepy Oleg (Jonathan Kite) has bought a town car. He tells the gang that as a chauffeur, his motto will be “lie back and I will ride you until you tell me to stop.” Shudder.)

Additionally, 2 Broke Girls‘ storytelling could still use some work. Characters are frequently saddled with bulky exposition (“That’s the couple whose sworn statement sent my father to jail!”), and Max and Caroline also have an unfortunate habit of explaining everything they do before they do it. Watching the girls sneak in through the Met Ball’s service area, don caterer uniforms, and stuff their ball gowns into a big steel box would have worked just fine; we didn’t need to hear them verbally describe their plan as they were putting it into action. I will award points, though, for airing this episode on the night of the real Met Ball.

And honestly? Despite everything, I still want to like 2 Broke Girls. When she isn’t flatly dispensing punchlines about hipsters like some sort of trendy Zingbot 3000, Dennings’ performance still transcends her material; Max’s quasi-serious scenes with skeezy Johnny (Nick Zano) were a highlight of the finale. And Beth Behrs has proven again and again that she might be this show’s real breakout star. Her Caroline is a real bright spot, thanks to the character’s resourcefulness and can-do spirit — though she really doesn’t need to keep reminding us that she used to be loaded.

During the finale’s last few minutes, Max and Caroline manage to convince Martha Stewart to taste one of their cupcakes. The business magnate takes a bite, praises the treat’s flavor, and walks away. The girls squeal in delight… and then the episode ends. At first, I was left scratching my head. Then I realized that this odd, abrupt conclusion is strangely appropriate for a wildly uneven season of TV.

I’m rooting for the Girls to get it together in Season 2. My optimistic Caroline side thinks that if every character gets fleshed out, Max’s Homemade Cupcakes actually gets off the ground, and the writers outlaw puns involving the word “come,” this show might finally realize its potential. But the cynical Max in me believes that 22 episodes should have been plenty of time for 2 Broke Girls to address its issues — and that if things hadn’t improved by its first finale, the series might be destined to stay a frustrating case of botched execution.

What did you think of the finale? Am I being too harsh — or are you ready to break up with the broke girls?

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