As a musical theater nerd with a penchant for dating sarcastic jerks, I sometimes feel like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was made just for me. And then they go and make a romantic-comedy-themed episode and give me no choice but to think that’s the case.
Because I love romantic comedies. Ironically, unironically — however you want to label it, it’s a love for consuming rom-coms for their comfort-food properties and also a love for over-analyzing them into oblivion. The same seems to be true of the team at Crazy Ex. “I’m Almost Over You” is a loving mockery, but one that understands why the tropes of rom-coms feel so good while still delivering perfect winks at just the right moment.
Romantic comedies are such a broad, easy target that mocking them can sometimes take on the tone of people still making “Kim Kardashian has no talent” jokes in 2019. Yet “I’m Almost Over You” still feels fresh, obviously because the jokes are so smart and knowing, but also maybe because the hero of the episode isn’t Rebecca; it’s Nathaniel, and also Maya. It’s a classic switcheroo that feels fun and random until it becomes brilliantly introspective.
While contemplating his feelings for Rebecca after seeing her get back together with Greg, Nathaniel casts himself as a ’90s-style nerd who needs to win the girl. He has everything you’d expect from a rom-com protagonist: a cocky best friend who’s only interested in sports and Nathaniel’s love life, a big but vague presentation at work, and, of course, an object of his affection who’s dating a total douchebag (in this fantasy, Rebecca and Greg are a “babe” couple on par with the people in the first episode of Tidying Up).
Maya is also lovesick, over a woman she dated in who’s in a new relationship. So she and Nathaniel partner up for a classic rom-com scheme: the fake relationship to make someone jealous. Over the course of the episode, we get a makeover montage and, more importantly, a karaoke scene, in which Nathaniel and Maya begin hesitant and then get the entire crowd on their side in an impromptu (but of course instantly iconic) performance. The fact that Crazy Ex showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna just happened to write 27 Dresses, which features the quintessential bar-singing scene (B-B-B-Benny and the Jets!), is just *chef’s kiss* perfection.
I could go on and on about the tiny details this episode masterfully lampoons — when else has there been a parody that captures the bleaker second half of the film, or that scene where the two leads are bonding in a montage while working together on a project all night? — but instead it’s more important to get to the genius twist. Because even as rom-com Nathaniel falls for fake girlfriend Maya, real Nathaniel is still in love with a different quirky brunette, real Rebecca. Who’s with Greg, and has a real shot and being happy.
Wrapping up plotlines in a show’s final season can seem rushed or heavy-handed, but Nathaniel’s romantic ending with Rebecca is human and nuanced. Recognizing that life doesn’t exist as a rom-com has been a fundamental theme of the show (all Rebecca’s scheming and shenanigans to win Josh are rom-com adorable, real-life criminal). It’s good to give Nathaniel a full episode to say goodbye to Rebecca, and it’s just a bonus for all of us that the episode was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
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