Historically, the season finales of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have been major paradigm shifts, upending the entire preceding season with something less akin to a twist and closer to an illumination. Last season’s flashback to Rebecca’s ill-fated romance with her law professor Robert yielded the scene in which Rebecca’s mother quoted the theme song in a courtroom to a judge: “She’s just a girl in love. She can’t be held responsible for her actions.” The result was that the entire season was a magic trick; it was Houdini; it was The Prestige; the answer was hidden in plain sight the whole time.
Season 3 has been just as strong as the first two in terms of humor and song quality (stronger than the second season with regards to the latter, probably), and yet something about the finale lacked that “jigsaw puzzle” completeness I have come to expect from the show. It’s not that this episode wasn’t a valiant effort—wrapping up loose ends and reframing what “crazy” means into a new context—but the strings show a bit now. The show doesn’t seem as infuriatingly, breathtakingly easy as it did previously, when it was fully apparent every plot beat had been planned in advance.
Even after Trent’s departure, Rebecca is still haunted by her stalking ex (is it fair to call him an ex?), having classic Lifetime-movie style dreams where she sees his face in her mirror instead of her own. It makes sense: he literally snuck into her house and hid under her bed, not to mention built a creepy storage facility stalker-center dedicated to her, but a sleepless Rebecca comes to the conclusion — with the help of her BPD support group — that he’s a manifestation of her guilt. There’s plenty Rebecca does have to feel guilty for: She’s lied and manipulated people, sure, but it doesn’t quite seem fair to do what the show’s been doing, which is equate her behavior (with regards to Josh) with Trent’s.
The parallel there had been obvious with the last episode, with Trent’s little speech about love kernels, and now their trajectories are following the same arc: Trent is back in West Covina, a “scary, sexy man,” bent on revenge, who wants Rebecca to feel as badly as she made him feel. (Again, yes Rebecca did attempt to torture Josh, but he did leave her at the altar…Are Trent and Rebecca really the same here?)
As a way to assuage her guilt, Rebecca confesses all of her misdeeds to Paula, Josh, and Nathaniel via lists she prints out for them. For Josh, the biggies are assisting in the attempted murder of his grandfather and deportation of his dad (even though both of those were really Nathaniel, and Rebecca attempted to call them off immediately). For Paula, it’s the fact that she lied about Trent having blackmailed material on her. This becomes the crux of their relationship conflict over the episode, combined with Rebecca’s inability to take responsibility for her own actions—but again, it doesn’t quite feel like a natural emotional core to the Rebecca/Paula relationship. Though that scene is worthwhile in that it gives us the incredibly satisfying moment of Josh Chan punching Nathaniel square in the face. God, that was satisfying for some reason I can’t even put into words.
Of course, since Paula is mad at Rebecca, she isn’t willing to help when Trent says he’s going to ruin her life. It’s a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario biting Rebecca in the butt, even though you’d think at this point Rebecca would have material to go to the police. After all, he did break into her home, and he does have a storage locker full of stalker material.
Heather, meanwhile, is going into traditional “end of season” labor, with Darryl hovering and surrounding himself with friends as a buffer to his loneliness in missing WhiJo. Of that squad, Auntie Paula sings a folksy ode to all of the disgusting things that happen during the miracle of childbirth.
It takes a pregnancy-brained Heather longer than usual to figure that out that Darryl is lonely, but she invites White Josh to the hospital after the baby was born so the two can reconcile—and so WhiJo can talk Darryl out of the terrible name “Hebecca.”
Even after inadvertently revealing his infidelity with Rebecca, Nathaniel and Mona are still making it work and are planning on moving in together, even as Nathaniel makes his feelings about her clear while superficially describing a rug: Beautiful, perfect, but he’s not in love with it. His sentiments are underscored by a musical cue in the background as he watches her set up for a housewarming party: “Settle For Me.”
Instagram messages from Trent to Rebecca set the plot into motion: He stalked Nathaniel to his party, and he’s going to kill him just to hurt Rebecca, so she can experience losing someone she loves like he had to (his final photo has the words #Motive on them.)
Rebecca runs to the rooftop party to see Trent in a terrible wig, posing as a waiter, and standing over Nathaniel holding a knife. Not thinking, Rebecca pushes him over the edge of the building.
He survives (although he’s back again in a full-body cast). And Rebecca is taken into custody. From the outside, it looks as though she followed her ex-boyfriend to a party she wasn’t invited to, and then attempted to kill another of her ex-boyfriends who was working there perfectly legally as a waiter. Those Instagram stories? Gone. And Rebecca knows she really messed up and will probably go to jail for a long time.
It’s Nathaniel who meets Rebecca in prison. He broke up with Mona, he loves Rebecca, and he comes bearing a solution:Plead insanity. He doesn’t think the court will buy her defense without any proof (although, to non-lawyer me, it seems like there’s plenty of proof. Trent’s history of stalking and blackmail? His storage garage? The fact that he was wearing a disguise and got hired at that catering job that day? Him breaking into Rebecca’s house? That he was holding a knife to go over some basic contracts?) But anyway, Nathaniel wants to be her knight in shining armor again: “None of this is your fault. You don’t deserve blame for any of this!”
Because she’s mentally ill and has been traumatized by her mom, he explains via song, she shouldn’t have to take responsibility for what happened. The philosophy gets a little muddy when it’s extended to John Wayne Gacy and Hitler, but the basic idea is like emotional determinism. What is morality if you’ve been conditioned to screw up?
Rebecca is on board, and is ready to plead insanity at her hearing—until Paula walks in. Seeing Paula, who has almost always served as a moral anchor point for Rebecca, causes her to reconsider. “I didn’t mean to hurt Trent, but I did hurt him,” Rebecca says. She talks directly to Paula when she says that she wants to change, and that this time is going to be different. Promising that she’s ready to take responsibility for her actions, Rebecca pleads guilty.
And that’s the end of season 3, everybody! Hope you didn’t get too attached to that theme song. Next season maybe we’ll be channeling Regina Spektor?