Channel: The CW
Recurring Cast: Rachel Bloom, Scott Michael Foster, Donna Lynne Champlin, Vincent Rodriguez III, Pete Gardner, Gabrielle Ruiz, Vella Lovell
Season Three of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend feels like the showrunners are finally making the show they’ve been wanting to make since they started. The last two seasons of this fun series have been amusing tongue-in-cheek comedies about an obsessive girl’s quest to win over her supposed true love, her misguided methods and destructive personality traits being lightened through the use of gags, story-telling and the odd musical number. However, Season Three of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend builds its story up to the point where it can unleash a torrent of hard-hitting, painfully honest and emotionally devastating story beats on the audience. The time for jokingly dodging around the issue of mental health is well and truly gone.
Rebecca Bunch has always been a worryingly unstable character. At first, her personality disorder was less a glaring fact and more the side-effects of an amusing sitcom set-up. She was that quirky weird friend at school who sadly grew up in a world that no longer abided by her games. However, over time the show grew more serious, the effects of the story emotionally draining the character. While the jokes were still there, when the laughing rolled to a close, the writers were clever enough to show just a hint of devastation on Rebecca. Yes, the story where her plan to ensnare Josh went to pot was hilarious, but the regret and grief on Rebecca’s face in the aftermath of it all was more than comedy; it was a real character beat that made Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the show it was. Yet, there was still a sense that her disorder was still just a part of the story. Season Three makes the psychology behind Rebecca’s actions the forefront of events. After a handful of episodes rounding up the cliff-hanger from last season (the build up to Rebecca’s return and her masterplan of revenge on Josh is wonderfully handled), the show begins getting specific with how Rebecca became the way she is. There is a midway point in the show where the seriousness of the events just hit you. The writers have spent two seasons getting you hooked on the character and now that the jokes are stripped away and you are essentially watching a character go through emotional hell, you are transfixed to the screen unable to look away. There are times when the show veers into areas that feel uncomfortable and it is hard not to feel impressed that the show felt able to make such a gutsy change in tone. It makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend feel totally different to the show you originally began watching, a beast that has hit maturity and will never quite be the same again. However, perhaps that is fitting for the message of the show, as we feel that a character who has been clinging to the youthful mistakes of her past finally makes that tricky journey into acceptance. There are actually a few moments in the show where Rebecca gets a shot at a relationship you feel she deserves, but you actually don’t want the character to go through with it, worried that her road to recovery will become distorted at this moment in time. Everything about the show is wiser, making tuning into watch Season Three an odd, but rewarding experience.
Of course, while Season Three is definitely smarter, the entertainment side is understandably reduced. The issue with the venture into depression and mental health is that it is really hard to cram in some jokes to go alongside the main story. Sub-plots just feel awkwardly out of place. As Rebecca comes to terms with herself, there isn’t a lot of room for the supporting cast. This no longer about Rebecca and Josh, or Rebecca’s friendship with Paula, or Darryl, but Rebecca facing her fears on her own. It means that a lot of the backing characters feel left out in the cold, striving for relevance in the show. Before Paula’s studying for law school or Darryl’s relationship drama went hand-in-hand with Rebecca’s journey, an interesting alternate way of looking at a single problem. However, now the sub-plots feel like a way of killing time, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend trying to feel like an ensemble piece, when really the show has moved away from that side of things. Then, there are the songs. This is definitely the weakest season for musical numbers. The problem with Season Three’s songs is, again, the show feels like it is now appealing to its own needs, rather than feeling like it has to please a wider audience. The songs are heavily based on actual musicals, rather than songs in general, to the point where each track can usually be pinpointed to the exact musical it is based on. While there are very rarely any bad tunes, some are fleeting senses of fun, never quite boasting the spark of staying power that Season One and Two managed to convey. There are very few tunes that feel like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend classics, perhaps with the exception of the brilliant ‘Let’s Generalise About Men’ and the catchy ‘Very First Penis I Saw’. Not even a guest song from Josh Groban really helps matters. Where Season Three’s music does succeed is the reprises. Now that the show has moved on in terms of tone, the writers bring back several songs from the past, now throwing new light and meaning onto the lyrics. The highlight of Season Three could very well be Rebecca Bunch confronting Josh for the first time after Season Two with a musical number that will have you clutching your sides with laughter. It is a great reminder that even when the show is determined to make things heavier, they can still master the comedy when the time is right.
Final Verdict: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sacrifices laughs for a more serious show. It will impress, yet potentially frustrate the fans.