Monday, October 15, 2018

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4x01 Review: "I Want to Be Here" (Pirates of Penance) [Contributor: Jenn]

"I Want to Be Here"
Original Airdate: October 12, 2018

Welcome back to West Covina, friends! A lot has changed, and yet... not a lot has changed too. We catch up with our group pretty much exactly where we left off last season — Rebecca pleading guilty to almost killing Trent, and everyone shocked at her confession. "I Want to Be Here" focuses a lot on the progress that Rebecca has made (and wants to force herself to continue to make) as a person, but also very clearly points out that Rebecca has... *whispers* ... privilege.

Rebecca getting schooled on her privilege is one of the strongest things about the episode, especially because though it's played for laughs, it's important that our self-declared feminist recognize that while her intentions aren't necessarily wrong, they're not necessarily good either.


So as it turns out, the meta commentary of the judge saying Rebecca's confession wasn't so much of a confession as a speech, and most of it was with her back to the judge carries weight: the judge won't accept Rebecca's guilty plea. But our anti-heroine is insistent that she pay for the pain she's inflicted on others and all the damage she's caused over the years. She tells Paula and Darryl that she's going to continue to declare herself guilty and nothing they can do will stop her. As a sentence based on pure annoyance more than anything else, the judge tells Rebecca she's sentencing her to six weeks in jail.

As she enters, Rebecca's confident that she deserves what she's about to suffer through. So much so, in fact, that it's essentially all she repeats the entire time she's in jail. Rebecca's act of repentance becomes a bit too real for her to handle. So what does she do? She uses a musical number to try and project her own beliefs about jail onto her fellow inmates. As it turns out, the song doesn't resemble Chicago's "Cell Block Tango" so much as it resembles a bunch of tragic stories unfolding. And this is where Rebecca's privilege comes in: her entire life, Rebecca has been a privileged white woman. But in jail, that privilege is checked when she reveals that she doesn't HAVE to be in prison — she's doing it for the metaphorical penance!

Her inmates are rightfully disgusted. These are women who made difficult choices because they had no other options — they stole to keep themselves warm, or took the fall for a crime that they didn't commit because it meant that their child would have one parent to look after them. The women's stories are tragedies, not fun exploits for Rebecca to entertain herself with while she wastes time feeling good about herself and her life choices.

The realization of her actions strikes Rebecca harder than most things do. Even when she is released from prison later in the episode, she's not satisfied. She thought that pleading guilty to her crimes was going to be enough to prove that she's changed — to start fresh with her life. But the thing Rebecca failed to recognize was that her motives (whether explicit or implicit) are just as important as her actions. For her whole life, Rebecca had been blaming others for her choices and refusing to take responsibility. Now that she's willing to take the fall for her actions, she's realized that even that in and of itself isn't quite enough; she has to truly understand the consequences of the noble things she does. A noble thing is only noble if it's for someone other than yourself.

Ultimately, Rebecca's confession was sincere, but the aftermath was all about... Rebecca. Notice the episode titles this season — they're all focusing on "I." And while that's such an important mental shift (no longer is Rebecca's life controlled by the men she's dating or the friends she's surrounded by), it's only once Rebecca shifts her guilt into tangible action to benefit others that true change can happen. And I think that's a lesson Rebecca is going to have to continue and learn throughout the rest of the season. Her actions, good or bad, can be good or bad for those around her.

Rebecca Bunch decides that the best way to pay for what she's done is by paying it forward and offering free legal advice to her former inmates. It's a start, but it's something Rebecca will need to take her mind off other things that are falling apart.


That's pretty much the moral of this week's B-plot. Nathaniel is dumb for a whole host of reasons (at least he's pretty), but as I think I noted last season, I'm not quite sure if Nathaniel is in love with Rebecca as she is or who he wants her to be. He gets frustrated at the end of the episode because Rebecca doesn't want to just fly off with him for vacation. His patience is wearing thin with this whole "my girlfriend wants to fix herself and is putting it before us." Nathaniel loves Rebecca and vice versa; but do they love each other as they are? I think Nathaniel loves that Rebecca is an untamed mess, because he's an untamed mess. He spends most of the episode on a survival camping trip avoiding his feelings for Rebecca. (We see Nathaniel doing this a lot, so I'd like some more nuanced or varied storylines, please and thank you.)

If Rebecca gets better but Nathaniel doesn't, will she still love him? Will he still love her? He's all about running away from his problems but for once in her life, Rebecca wants to stay put and fix hers. She's got a real shot to do that now that she's out of jail; I just hope that she allows herself the chance to grow with or without Nathaniel. (I do like them together, I should note that, but I think that their relationship right now is pretty toxic because they're both unhealthy — two unhealthy people does not a healthy relationship make.)

Speaking of unhealthy, why is Josh still in this show again? He once played a pivotal role but now he's trying to self-diagnose via Internet quizzes because he thinks he's got a psychological disorder. Sighhhhhhh. The whole point of Josh's story is that he needs to make progress in his life, but that's been Josh's story for seasons now. I'd rather see White Josh, to be honest.

It seems like this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will focus on Rebecca's true growth and the growth of the remaining members of our squad. I sincerely hope we get developed stories for all of them before our final curtain call.

Musical notes:
  • I finally got on board doing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reviews just in time for the final season! I'll do my best to make all the review subtitles equally terrible musical theatre puns.
  • "It wasn't even a plea. It was more like a speech."
  • Heather and Hector's relationship continues to be wonderful, and I have missed them so much.
  • Bring on all of the Harvard references, y'all.
  • I have a feeling this was not the last we saw of Trent.
  • Who else loved the eleven-part harmony in "No One Else Is Singing My Song"?
What did you think of the season premiere of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Sound off in the comments below!


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