“Raising Hope” has built up enough goodwill over its two seasons that the occasional misstep can be forgiven. Like the one the show took with its two-part season finale, which concluded Tuesday (April 17).
On one hand, you can respect the show going back to its early episodes and reminding us that the adorable Hope is the product of Jimmy’s spectacularly unlucky one-night stand with a serial killer girl with a troubled past. And it’s not hard to see references to “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons,” two of the greatest comedies of the past quarter-century, in the episode.
But the references are to two of those shows’ more reviled episodes: the “Seinfeld” series finale, with its parade of past guest stars testifying against the principal characters, and “The Principal and the Pauper,” which introduced the people of Springfield to one Armin Tamzarian.
The fact that the two-parter was pretty self-conscious about the mechanics of television didn’t help. The winking references to cliffhangers and lessons learned each week signaled that the show knew the story it was telling stretched credulity, but it also didn’t add a whole lot to the comedy.
On the upside, FOX did a pretty good job of keeping the cameos under wraps, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the likes of Jason Lee and David Krumholtz again, along with several other characters from the show’s past (the jerky kid who has a thing for Sabrina, Jimmy’s former childhood tormentor who’s now a woman). And we could watch a whole lot Jimmy going cross-eyed and fainting (someone get me a GIF, stat) and hope in her tiny Tibetan monk robes.
But after last week’s big reveal that Lucy wasn’t actually dead, it felt a little bit like the show didn’t know how to write itself out of that particular corner. So we enter into Tamzarian territory — Lucy exits via the front of Smokey Floyd’s bus rather than on a chair tied to a railroad car, but it kind of feels like “Hope” wants to wash its hands of the character. Bijou Phillips has done good work in her guest appearances, and it would be fine to see her again if the show does more flashbacks, but she’s well and truly gone now, and the Chances can just go back to being lovable dimwits again.
Which is in no way a bad thing — “Raising Hope” is one of the more consistently funny comedies on TV at the moment, and the warmth it feels toward its characters rarely spills over into sappiness. If the show wants to divorce itself from Lucy for good, that’s an easily defensible creative decision. But maybe it should have just left her dead in the first place.
What did you think of the “Raising Hope” season finale?