Warning: This article contains spoilers from the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season finale.
On Friday night, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aired its final episode, the last moments of the show’s four seasons unspooling in the fashion co-creators Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom had always intended.
“We knew the last scene and the last couple lines,” McKenna tells EW. “Knowing the destination was part of the pitch.” And that destination? Despite spending the penultimate episode on three dates trying to reach a decision on her love life, Rebecca (Bloom), ultimately realized that what she needed to make her happy was not Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) or Greg (Skylar Astin) or Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) — but self-acceptance and the pursuit of her most secret dreams of becoming a songwriter.
“This is the song I wrote,” is the last line from Rebecca before we fade to black on this quirky musical series about mental illness, identity, and dismantling rom-com tropes. And that’s as it’s always been. “Everybody has a different way of making the outside of them fit the inside of them, and that really is what this show has been about is finding your place once you know what you want it to be,” says McKenna. “Women have been told in stories [relationships are] their terminus point, and Rachel and I both think that’s a weird thing to say to people.”
For McKenna and Bloom, it was crucial to impart to audiences that the end of Rebecca’s journey was about her own self-love, not a romantic conclusion. “It kind of doesn’t matter how great the guys are, she’s not ready to embark on that because she’s still trying to figure out who she is,” explains McKenna.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t hefty discussion of giving Rebecca both some version of a romantic endpoint in addition to her personal growth. “We talked about everything you can imagine and every guy you can imagine,” promises McKenna.
Indeed, the final episode offered up possible futures with all three guys, but Rebecca realized she was miserable in all of these scenarios because she still hadn’t done the work on herself. “There’s actually a world where she did pick a guy and then still wasn’t happy and then went on this journey anyway,” says Bloom. “The guy of it all felt weirdly ancillary, which was why it was a big debate. Why we ultimately chose to not have her go with anyone was that she was still very much a teenager until that moment, and then she could step into a relationship. But it wasn’t the point of the series. It never was.”
Still, for those hoping that Rebecca might also find romantic satisfaction in the wake of her journey to discover her calling as a songwriter, McKenna hopes the show’s final moments didn’t completely dash fans’ hopes. “I actually think we created space for shippers of all stripes,” she points out. “Josh is probably the least likely, and we wrote him that way. Nathaniel goes off and he’s back, we don’t know for how long. Life is long; she’s a young woman.”
For Bloom, it was about sending a message to young women counter to one she received from the media growing up. She cites the Sex and the City finale where Carrie Bradshaw goes back to Mr. Big as something she found very “damaging.” She elaborates saying, “Media is very impactful on young women and the way they see women portrayed. Seeing a bad relationship get rewarded in any piece of media leaves an impression on you, and so it was very, very important to me that no matter how we ended this, to be the antithesis of that. To not encourage a woman to stay in an unhealthy or unhappy situation for the hope of that happy ending.”
Bloom says by no means does she hope the show’s ending downgrade the value of having a healthy relationship or supportive partner. She points to her and McKenna’s lengthy relationships (Bloom has been married for 5 years; McKenna for 20) as evidence of how fulfilling and essential they can be in life. “We very much have been made better people by our partners,” she says. “[But] I want young women to watch the show and walk away with a feeling of I need to get to know myself, and I need to be grounded in who I am and what I really want and appreciate the escapism of romantic love, but not be sold that bill of goods.”
In fact, unpacking that bill of goods was always their intention — it’s why they initially made some of Rebecca’s challenges and schemes so over-the-top. “She was someone we felt like the audience could study from afar for a little bit and then slowly, she’s become somebody that you really understand and all her choices are less outrageous.” Bloom adds that it’s that sense of “acting out of the id” she’ll miss most, saying, “[I’ll miss] that kind of unbridled emotion and vulnerability and fragility. I care about her a lot.”
Since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend debuted in 2015, the romantic comedy has continued to evolve — and both McKenna and Bloom hope that the show’s legacy, as enshrined in its final moments, is one of fostering some of that larger cultural change. “Whether we’re symptomatic or a cause of this, there’s been a shift in the narratives of romantic comedies in general and the idea of these pat endings for romance,” says Bloom. “We are in this post-modern comedy era where everyone is now trying to subvert the classic narratives that we’ve been told, and I like to think we’ve been a part of it.”
It’s particularly potent for McKenna, who previously worked as a screenwriter responsible for rom-coms like 27 Dresses, Laws of Attraction, and rom-com adjacent The Devil Wears Prada. “We did our best to dismantle [the rom-com] every way we knew how,” she reflects. “We had a chance to really get inside some of those tropes, which was always our intention. But now, in terms of writing relationships and love stories, because the culture has changed, I think now I have license to write things in a much more grounded and nuanced, complicated way. Now, I’m not ever asked again to make women trip or apologize.”
And that should be a happy ending for not just the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team, but the pop culture world at large.