Much to my dismay, the show that undoubtedly changed my life in various wonderful ways, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, recently came to an end. I have to say, while I had been surprised by certain aspects of the finale, such as the one year gap in time, and seeing Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) in a new happy relationship, I was not at all surprised at how the show came to an end for Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom, star and co-creator). In fact, from the very first episode—‘Josh just happens to live here!’—I had expected to see Rebecca discover herself, rather than discover the love of her life.
Rebecca’s story throughout these four seasons could be loosely summarised by RuPaul’s famous outro of ‘Girl, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’
Throughout the first three seasons, Rebecca Bunch’s story is almost wholly about the men in her life. She decides to move to West Covina, California, which just happens to be where her long lost love from summer camp Josh Chan lives, and of course that’s exactly why she’s there too. Rebecca makes this huge change in her life to follow Josh after meeting him on the street in New York, only to find that Josh has a very serious girlfriend.
Her story following this consists of schemes and plots to get Josh to fall in love with her, becoming sexually and eventually emotionally involved with Josh’s high school best friend Greg (Santino Fontana), switching between Josh and Greg an unhealthy number of times. And then, to throw another hurdle of confusion at Rebecca, when she is in a wonderfully romantic—if maybe slightly based around denial—relationship with Josh, in comes the new guy. Who’s the new guy? Rebecca’s new boss, Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster): the hard ass who is entirely focused on work and achievements. He mocks Josh and Rebecca’s relationship, and they get off to a rocky start, and yet somehow, with the help of those pesky Santa Ana winds, the new guy seduces Rebecca. She is constantly in a love triangle, stuck between men, throughout the entirety of the show.
The above is a skimmed version of Rebecca’s love life throughout the first three seasons, and of course does not come close to the complexity of the show. But, it brings me to my point which is that the first three seasons in my mind are completely focused on distraction. The subject of Rebecca and her happiness/ mental health are hinted at the whole way through the show, but instead of recognising this Rebecca distracts her self constantly with love, or with schemes, or sex, or proving herself to be something she is not. All three of these men come into Rebecca’s life as a distraction not only from one another, but mainly from the fact that Rebecca isn’t happy with herself and her life regardless of who she is dating.
In fact, we can find this in the very first episode. When we see Rebecca wake up in her New York apartment and we get a look at her laptop, she is reading an article entitled ‘How much sleep deprivation can we survive?’ This suggests at the very beginning that Rebecca is suffering from some kind of mental health problem causing sleep deprivation. Then, we get the butter commercial. It may sound crazy to think a butter commercial can be such a big clue to the plot, and this is hinted at in the show too, but the butter commercial is a representation of the fact that Rebecca is not and may never have been truly happy; it resonates deep within Rebecca, and at that moment we get an insight to how the show will eventually inevitably end, with her finding her true happiness.
The very first episode is full of clues that link to the finally. The episode literally opens with Rebecca performing in a musical number at summer camp. Now at the time, the audience may have been lead to believe that the lyrics to the musical number ‘I’m In love with a wonderful guy’ are hinting towards Rebecca’s love for Josh Chan, which could completely send you off track thinking that the signs point towards love and ultimately to Josh. That unfortunately is also where Rebecca followed the wrong path of believing that romantic love was her destiny. What that opening scene was really introducing to us was of course Rebecca’s passion for musical theatre. The show comes full circle: opening with Rebecca performing in a musical number, and ending with her performing her very own musical number.
An interesting thing to note in relation to the link between the pilot and the finale is Rebecca’s interactions with Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) in these episodes. Following the pairs first song together, a reprise of ‘West Covina’, Paula whispers ‘This is going to be so much fun…’ Then in the finale, during their last scene together, Paula sings the lyrics of ‘West Covina’ to Rebecca in its final emotional reprise, which is what leads to Rebecca discovering that they key to her happiness and passion has always been in her head. Paula tells Rebecca what she needs to do with her music, and again announces ‘This is going to be so much fun.’
This may seem irrelevant to some, but Paula saying the same line twice, after a reprise of the same song, is so significant. Both scenes are the beginning to two very huge and very different journeys. The first represented the reason Rebecca believed she was destined to be in West Covina and fall in love with Josh, and the second is the beginning of Rebecca realising what her true destiny is; why she was really destined to be in West Covina and her love for herself, and the music she has created.
Now, throughout the first three seasons, another thing you may not have noticed is that every single episode has a man’s name in the title. Up until Season 3 Episode 7 ‘Getting over Jeff’ every episode’s title has Josh in it. After that episode, we are met with five Nathaniels and one ‘Trent?!’
Season 4’s titles are all about ‘I’. The episode titles are another very clever mirror of Rebecca’s story, and another link to my point about distractions. It does raise the question of why Greg was never mentioned in a title of the show? He was referred to as ‘Josh’s friend’. One theory of mine is that this is because Greg often represented a healthy choice, which wasn’t the path Rebecca was following at the time. Rebecca never became quite as infatuated with Greg as she did with Josh and Nathaniel, most likely because she was drawn towards unhealthy decisions such as being in love with Josh when he had a serious girlfriend, or kissing Nathaniel in the elevator while dating Josh. Rebecca actually fought her relationship with Greg as she fought against healthy decisions, the most obvious example being when she slept with the vegan taco festival guy, even after an incredible date with Greg. Another reason Greg never came up in the titles may be because Rebecca didn’t fully get over Josh until she fell for Nathaniel. And Greg passed by as a wonderful romance but never the sole object of her affection.
The show very cleverly involved the audience in Rebecca’s journey by distracting us with character romances, too. This distraction took place in the form of #TeamJosh, #TeamGreg and #TeamNathaniel (even #TeamJason in some cases). Fans and social media were overtaken by their favourite guys, which is why many didn’t expect the ending we were given, and expected Rebecca to pick one guy from the three dates, and live happily every after. Even me, who knew the whole time what Rebecca needed, I found myself hoping and praying for a world where Greg and Rebecca end up together. How could anyone not fall for Greg?
Rebecca’s happiness and her mental health, which should have been the real concerns, were mentioned frequently throughout the show, however often they were unnoticed or ignored by Rebecca and the audience because of the exciting new development in her relationships.
There are various scenes where Dr. Akopian (Michael Hyatt) brings up Rachel’s issues and tells her she deserves happiness and we often see Rebecca understanding and even acknowledging this in her appointments until a text from Josh or a new idea ruins any form of progress. The authenticity in relation to mental health in the show is something I truly love. So many fans have spoken out about how much they relate to the the many aspects of depression and to Rebecca’s personality. As someone who deals with anxiety and depression myself, I find it incredible that the show confronts these topics, portraying a character with a number of health issues in an appropriate and inoffensive manner, while making the audience laugh at the same time.
Multiple songs in throughout Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also link to the topic of mental health. There are very obvious cases such as ‘Then Darkness’ or ‘A Diagnosis’ that come later on once Rebecca starts to explore her problems, however in ‘West Covina’—the very first song Rebecca sings—we have‘I am not having a nervous [breakdown]’ which could be passed off as a joke, but actually is exactly what Rebecca is going through with this life change.
‘A boy band made up of four Joshes’ from Season 1 in my opinion represents Rebecca reaching out for counselling and guidance but doing so through her yearning for Josh, because she knows that she needs love in her life, and subconsciously knows that she needs help too; chasing this man is the only way she knows how to express her feelings. From Season 2, ‘Tell me I’m okay, Patrick’ stands out as an obvious cry for help, too. Not only in relation to her wedding, but in her life too.
The theme songs to each season are also very significant. I am often reminded of an interview between Rachel Bloom and The Hollywood Reporter where Rachel states that the show itself follows the themes of Season 1: Denial, Season 2: Love, Season 3: The spiral, and Season 4 being renewal and starting from scratch.
Rachel doesn’t link this to the theme songs in the interview but they definitely follow this pattern. ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Theme’ from Season 1 is based around denial that Rebecca moved to West Covina for Josh, Season 2’s ‘I’m just a Girl in Love’ is based around Rebecca’s infatuation with Josh Chan, however is also very much linked to denial too. Season 3’s theme ‘You Do / You Don’t Want to be Crazy’ is very reflective of Rebecca’s mental state in that season because it’s very all over the place—a bit of a mess, you might say. It represents the spiral of emotions that leads Rebecca to her lowest point emotionally. Then in Season 4 we are met with the refreshing ‘Meet Rebecca!’ And that is the renewal of Rebecca as a person and her being introduced to herself for the first time. Even with ‘other Rebecca’ and her numerous anecdotes, it is refreshing to see a theme song based around Rebecca.
Another interesting point is that characters throughout the show often mirror Rebecca’s journey in their own. Josh distracts himself with different women in order to hide from his fear of commitment. And Paula distracts herself with Rebecca’s love life because she’s in denial about the problems in her own marriage. The characters often push each other in the wrong direction to keep themselves distracted from their own lives, which is why Paula was so insistent on Rebecca and Josh ending up together during Season 1.
After considering all of this, I was no longer shocked by the time gap in the final episode. Because that’s such an accurate representation of the fact that it takes a long time to face your mental health problems and overcome them. It wouldn’t have been realistic for Rebecca to pick a guy and be happy with him without finding herself, and it wouldn’t have been realistic for her to have realised everything she had in the finale any sooner than she did. Everyone we know and love in West Covina, California needed that year in order for us to see them finding their happiness. It’s another piece of brilliant authenticity from the shows writers.
If you have reached the finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I recommend giving the show a rewatch. You will be surprised by how often the show’s ending is hinted towards, and you will gain an understanding as to why you should of been #TeamRebecca the whole time.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show I will rewatch for my entire life and I’m sure of it. It’s musical brilliance and subtle relations to mental health and very original and clever humour make it the most unique show I’ve ever seen, and if you haven’t seen it then well this article has completely “spoiled” it for you, but I think you will adore it anyway.
One extra note: The only thing I found to be missing from the finale was that there was no update on Trent (Paul Welsh). There is a Trent-shaped hole in my heart, as he was such an extreme character that I feel wasn’t awarded a proper ending. That being said, this could be because Trent has worked on his own life too, but even still, I hoped he’d make an appearance.
And here’s one final favourite song for you: