SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s series finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
It’s time to say goodbye to West Covina — at least for now. The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season finale aired tonight and instead of going out with a full-out musical number with a fanfare of joy, creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna delivered an intimate show that played like a love letter to fans while celebrating the unique storytelling and heroine of the CW comedy. But if you are looking for a party, don’t worry. The CW aired Yes, It’s Really Us Singing: The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Concert Special! after the finale which was essentially a wrap party for everyone to celebrate the show.
Yes, the finale had its fair share of quirks expected from Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch, but it was thoughtful and heartwarming — like saying goodbye to your best friend who was a drama geek in high school. McKenna, who co-wrote the episode with Bloom, also directed the finale titled “I’m In Love” which was supposed to tell us who Rebecca ended up with: Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) or Greg (Skylar Astin). It’s very reminiscent of the time when Felicity had to choose between Ben and Noel — except a lot more musical.
The episode starts on Valentine’s Day in the future and Rebecca is about to do a performance at an open mic night where she will reveal her chosen love to an audience of her loved ones and total strangers. This feeds into a flashback one year earlier where Rebecca is in a therapy session with Dr. Akopian (Michael Hyatt) — which turns out to be a dream Rebecca is having while drinking green juice on the toilet.
Rebecca’s dream is kind of like A Christmas Carol scenario where she sees her future with each guy but turns out she isn’t happy in any scenario. She shares her dream with Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) and also reveals to her how she escapes to her own musical fantasies in her head to deal with her issues. She even welcomes her into this private musical world of hers — and this is when things start getting a tad bit meta.
Instead of thinking she is out of her mind, Paula fosters these flights of musical fancy and encourages her to write these amazing songs in her head — and that leads to a montage of her trying to learn how to write music. Turns out she really didn’t know how to sing. After all, they were just her internal musical fantasies.
In the final moments of the episode, Rebecca is gearing up to perform her song but before she does, she gives love to all of her friends and essentially gives an update of all the core characters’ lives in the past year. It is then revealed that she is ready for a full grown relationship — but does not “end up” with Josh, Nathaniel, or Greg. She chooses herself. Right before she starts playing her song, the show ends leaving us satisfied — but the door is still left open for more of Rebecca’s story.
Deadline sat down with McKenna and Bloom and they talked about the meaning of these final moments, why they chose to end it this way and the legacy they hope the musical comedy leaves behind. They also shared their plans for the future of the show including a potential revival and a Broadway musical — but before any of that, they are going to Disneyland to celebrate the finale.
DEADLINE: Now that the show has come to an end, do you see it as bittersweet or more like the release and relief of sending a grown child going off to college?
RACHEL BLOOM: I feel like — this shows how little I have dealt with grief in my life — it’s the best version of this show and everything good must die. It feels a little bit like a happy grief…like grandma was old and she had a good life. Aline has actually sent a kid off to college so that may parallel might be good for her.
ALINE BROSH MCKENNA: Yeah — I feel liberated but I feel very nostalgic even though it was last week. Like I find myself going, “Oh my God! Remember that guys?!” and people point out to me that it was a week ago (laughs).
DEADLINE: For the finale, I was expecting a huge musical number, but it was personal, intimate, and unexpected. Was this the ending that you had planned all along?
BLOOM: Yes, it was the ending we planned from the very beginning. When we say that, we’re talking about broad strokes. The last sentence [of the episode] was the last sentence for almost six years which is pretty crazy. We knew she would be in that club but there have been so many unexpected things along the way that we could have never pitched. Ultimately, this was one woman’s journey with her inner-life and own happiness and that is a very intimate story.
MCKENNA: It’s a first-person story and we always knew the finale was going to be a little more intimate. Frankly, we spent more money on going to Vegas for episodes 15 and 16 and doing a big group number. But this is also a highly technical episode as well. We had the dream sequence and the turntable number and both of those had intricate work.
DEADLINE: While writing the finale and even throughout the course of the series, how did you balance what you wanted for the show with pleasing your loyal fan base?
MCKENNA: I don’t think we worry so much about that honestly. We’re happy that they like it and we love our fans, but we’re never really going by that. We knew that people were going to be astonished by the Greg [recasting] but they have really gone with us and that is what we really trust more than anything.
BLOOM: All you could do is make the show that you would want to watch most of the experience of making a show isn’t fan reaction, it’s in a room with other writers, in the editing room and talking with people who work on the show. Pleasing the fans is kind of nebulous — I don’t know what the fans would want. Fans are a symbol of the quality of the show and all you could do is make the show that you want. And I think we have a lot of similarities with our fans. Our fans are from all different walks of life and there’s a reason why the majority of the fans, from my point of view, are musical theater, Harry Potter geeks with anxiety. That is similar to me.
DEADLINE: What are some series finales that you will never forget?
BLOOM: It’s weird because I love the series finale of the original Roseanne because it justifies shitty writing in a way that was really, really smart. I loved the series finale of Mad About You because it shows the realities of a marriage and wraps things up in a way that felt like the show.
MCKENNA: I loved the finale of The Americans. Interestingly, the finale of The Americans was also low-key, emotional, and personal. I really related to that approach.
DEADLINE: In your finale, Rebecca finally makes a decision — but she doesn’t choose any of the guys. It reminded me of the episode of Beverly Hills 90210 when Kelly chooses herself instead of being with Brandon or Dylan.
BLOOM: That was the question with us: What does choosing oneself mean? We always knew it would end up with her making her inner life external, but what does “I choose me” mean? Aline and I are in very happy relationships and those relationships are a very important part of our lives. That’s why it’s really important in the end that we show she wasn’t ready for a relationship until she stepped on stage because, until then, she was still that 16-year-old girl at summer camp. She wasn’t ready to go into a relationship in an equal way which is what you need for a healthy relationship. It was always important that she be ready for a relationship — to give the idea of that hope. We’re not saying she’s alone forever. We’re saying, that this person is finally an adult and can go into a relationship with equal footing. As Aline said, Rebecca doesn’t see herself “ending up” with someone. It’s part of our lives — a rich part of our lives — but it’s only a part. I think we can have our cake and eat it too.
MCKENNA: Yeah, if someone is in a relationship that doesn’t work out, you don’t go around saying, “Wow, you f*cked up your ending! You’re done!”
DEADLINE: The ending didn’t feel definite. You’ve mentioned before that a musical might be in the future and that you would basically just rehash the songs from the show. Is that idea still floating around?
MCKENNA: There’s no timeline on it though. We’re good with what we did [with the finale] so there’s no rush. It’s also on Netflix so people can enjoy that for a while!
BLOOM: I think also with musical theater on Broadway, people are forgetting that when you musicalize an existing piece of work, you have to musicalize it only if you can add something new or improve upon it. And now, Broadway doesn’t keep that in mind. The reason why we would rehash the show for a musical isn’t because we want to rest on laurels. There’s a version of this show where it is a long TV show and then there’s an equally as interesting version where it’s a finite two and a half hour plot where you streamline things and obviously some things get cut out. So the idea is for it to be a companion piece to the TV show that does something different which is why I think musicalizing television shows is so much more interesting than musicalizing movies because movies already have that plot streamlined into two and a half hours. With TV shows, there’s a lot to pick from and it’s a different narrative structure. That will eventually be very interesting for us.
MCKENNA: You’re so smart!
BLOOM: Oh my God! Thank you so much!
DEADLINE: The show had its distinct point of view, but it also was very inclusive when it came to storylines related to women, people of color, the LGBTQ community as well as topics like mental health and alcoholism. How important was representation to you when it came to the narratives on the show and how did you not make it seem like you weren’t just checking boxes?
MCKENNA: It was all about the writing and being specific. To depict things accurately is going to be better and more interesting. Whether it’s someone’s [cultural] background, mental illness or alcoholism, we’re always careful to make sure that we’re really doing it justice.
BLOOM: I feel creating art in some ways is kind of like when you see the contestants on Shark Tank and they come in with their inventions. They are trying to fill a gap. They say, “This is a problem and I’m solving it.” When we first started writing the show, we were really looking for what we haven’t seen on TV that is true to our lives. Aline said, “A sporty bro who is Asian.” That’s the type of person we know — especially in a show set in Southern California. That was just so much more interesting and dynamic to us than a white surfer. I’ve seen that. We wanted to make it more specific. When we cast [Vincent Rodriguez III], we changed the character from Josh Chang to Josh Chan so we linked it to the fact that he was Filipino. Your culture is a massive part of who you are and even in that episode, the idea that he has this warm, loving, big family that Rebecca doesn’t have, it is really important. That is why it was really important to have a Filipino writer (Rene Gube) on staff because you get specifics. That’s why we talk about diversity on writing staffs — we’re talking about diversity of experience and its writing characters authentically.
DEADLINE: Rachel, you mentioned at PaleyFest you already have a plan for a revival 10 years down the road. What would you like to see happen with Rebecca and the gang?
BLOOM: What I find interesting that we set up is that in some ways this show was a prequel. And I don’t know if this revival would 10 years down the road — that is just what I said because that’s usually when you want to come back for something. The whole show was meant to be a year or two — it ended up being a little longer — in a young woman’s life where she changes everything and becomes the adult that she’s meant to be. Because of that, what’s interesting in the year that is the series finale we see someone who has no formal musical and writing training, chucks it all and pursues her dream. That’s funny and it’s quite funny and interesting. You get little glimmers of it with her learning the piano and her voice teacher. The most interesting thing is we purposely left out the song she plays at the end at the open mic because that’s her new sound. She doesn’t play “West Covina” or any of the song we heard before because those are comedy songs. Rebecca is not a comedy songwriter. The comedy in those songs come from the gap between what those genres are and what Rebecca is. Aline and I, at this moment, don’t know what her song sounds like. So that’s what’s interesting to me — finding her sound now that we know who she authentically is.
DEADLINE: What kind of legacy would you want Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to leave behind?
MCKENNA: I always feel that you don’t know because others will tell you. People still want to talk to me about The Devil Wears Prada and We Bought a Zoo has become a funny meme that Jimmy Kimmel made fun of at the Oscars (laughs). You just don’t know. The culture will tell you. You can only do what you want to do and leave it to others to judge what it will be.
BLOOM: Yeah, like someone in the cast could end up being a serial killer and that’s what we’re know for! And we can’t control that. If we find out Vella Lovell was murdering people the whole time, that would be the legacy of the show. We would be watching the show to see what clues there were.
MCKENNA: That is such a good point.
BLOOM: Yeah, you just don’t know.