Sunday, November 19, 2017

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 3x06 Review: "Josh Is Irrelevant." (A Diagnosis) [Contributor: Anne]

"Josh Is Irrelevant"
Original Airdate: November 17, 2017

In interviews, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend showrunners Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom mentioned that the last three episodes were some of the most pivotal and important episodes thus far — and the ones that they were most excited to write. That enthusiasm has paid off in huge dividends. I’ve been an advocate of this show from the very beginning, but with “Josh Is Irrelevant.,” the sixth episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s third season, it’s hard not to draft the petition for Rachel Bloom and company to take home their deserved armful of Emmys. The show is on its hottest streak ever.

What stands out to me the most of this season is the thoughtfulness with which everything is handled. As a heavily serialized show, consistency and care go a long way in building trust for the viewers. And although I was never in this boat, the consistency and care demonstrated over two-and-a-half seasons established a solid foundation for converting skeptical viewers to stalwart fans. This show is good — meticulous, empathetic. So what if it’s a CW musical dramedy called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; in the end, all of these initial hurdles for casual viewers are necessary, lovable parts of the show’s DNA.

The best scene of this episode for me was when Dr. Akopian read to Rebecca the list of symptoms associated with her diagnosis. As she does, Rebecca recalls specific moments throughout the three seasons that fit those symptoms. That’s the kind of consistency that I would call “thoughtful.” Mental illness is so misunderstood in society, and often misrepresented in television and movies. It is sensationalized, stigmatized, and generalized. But the situation is a lot more nuanced than that, and by a) making a solid case for Rebecca’s diagnosis while b) making her empathetic along the way, the character is fully-fleshed and her diagnosis intrinsic instead of drama for the sake of drama.

So there’s thoughtfulness of the story and its pacing; there’s thoughtfulness behind handling a topic as sensitive as mental illness; there’s thoughtfulness of all the character’s decisions, in a way to make even our protagonist — who is objectively not the best person — into someone we really love. These threads all entwine again and again while watching this show and make even smaller moments feel well-constructed.

Here’s another favorite of mine: Did you notice that the staging of the reconciliation with Darryl at the end of the episode is exactly the same as the episode where Rebecca is yelling at everyone? That they hug in the same place where (I guess) days before, Rebecca was doing everything in her power to push her friends away.

Or a third little moment: That Rebecca apologizes for “inconveniencing a lot of people,” the same phrase that was said by her mother in the pilot in reference to her last suicide attempt?

With these small choices, the show makes clear it understands itself, repeating for emotional emphasis and nuance. There’s little threads to pick at and consider. With the hugging scene, there’s obviously stark contrast between what Rebecca believed during her friend-convention — that nobody loved her — with what she knows now to be the truth. That’s so moving given Rebecca’s history of abandonment and loneliness, and resounding for viewers with mental illness to experience. With the second, it’s easy to hate Naomi for the comment — small phrases like that can stick around — but we just got off an episode where Naomi was driven to desperate, misguided measures to make sure her daughter didn’t kill herself. No one in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is worth hating, or unworthy of redemption.

Speaking of, I think moving forward I am the most excited for Josh’s plot. Josh has been vilified even when he logically did not at all deserve Rebecca’s treatment of him. As a viewer, I too hate Josh a little bit. But Josh is simple and passive and immature in a callous way. And unlike Rebecca, he’s never really had to confront his issues because he moves onto whatever next distraction he can find for himself. Now that Rebecca has declared him irrelevant, and it is Josh on the outside looking in, his “effortless normalcy” is going to require some effort.

I can’t wait. I’ve never really seen a character like Josh before on TV, and definitely have never seen an easygoing character like him have to deal with his own anxiety. And once the show gets to that point, there will be huge relief. It’s been incredibly obvious to anyone watching that Josh is imperfect to say the least, and over time we’ve seen even Rebecca realize he is not worthy of obsession. Finally, we get to see Josh grapple with the consequences of his (non-)actions.

“Josh is Irrelevant.” is a major turning point for the show and for the season. There are so many paths to happiness, and I’m excited about which ones Rebecca will take. She’s had tunnel vision on Josh for so long, and by finally putting her obsession to rest and recognizing that there are more important things on her plate, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend world expands. At the same time, while there is a turning point for the show and season, I’m confident the show will deliver continued quality, catchy songs, impeccable acting, and a wait between episodes that always feels far, far too long. See you all on December 7th!

Stray Observations:
  • Nathaniel obviously went through some stuff this episode, huh? Critically, I thought it was well done, and Scott Michael Foster brought his serious acting chops as always to this alpha tool Mr. Darcy-turned-soft. But my pea brain didn’t love the family scenes as much as I should have. That said, I did love how his mother offered roses for Rebecca. I thought that was sweet and matronly.
  • (Pea brain also is obsessed with Nathaniel and Rebecca, even though neither of them should probably be in a relationship right now. But God, did you see his smile when he made her laugh at the end of the episode? I hope they kiss again, and often.)
  • (Pea brain also loves Scott Michael Foster, and would go with him to Rome at a moment’s notice.)
  • The songs! “A Diagnosis” and “This is My Movement” both very well-sung and quite beautiful, although “This is My Movement” felt out of place in this episode. I get that they were trying to lighten the mood but with the serious emotional depth and earnestness on Rebecca’s end, “Movement” felt clunky.
  • I care so much about Rebecca and her story that Paula, Heather, Valencia, and Hector take a serious backseat when I rewatch episodes. But I loved, so much, Rebecca waking up to find #gurlgroup4evah sleeping outside her door. It really is amazing when you consider none of these girls were friends with each other in the pilot.
  • I hope Josh keeps the puppy. It was darling.
  • This is my first review in a while! Crazy Ex-Girlfriend makes me feel like glitter is exploding inside me, so hopefully I’ll be back for the next episode, which has a very juicy title if you are a spoilers fiend like me.


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