Sometimes the thing that’s going on with your friend becomes the thing that’s going on with you. You think, “She can do it, so why can’t I?” For the female duo at the center of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” that question is one of professional development — and just what kind of show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” will be going forward.
There’s a trope in romantic comedies that romantic development goes hand-in-hand with professional or personal development. The underlying idea is that you can’t nab the hottie until you become a fully self-actualized person — you have to be sane, and on the right career path, to find a loving relationship with Mr. Right. (See: “No Tomorrow”, “Bridget Jones” 1 & 3, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” etc).
So far, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has danced around the trope. It’s a middle school kind-of-dance with everybody watching but nobody touching.
In the very first episode, when Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) runs into Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) on a dismal New York City street, she’s having a breakdown over her impending partnership in a fancy New York firm. It’s not making her happy and she doesn’t understand why. Enter Josh. She changes her life, ditches the East coast for the West, and lands a job at a much smaller firm.
She changes her job, but not her profession. And for the first season, that seemed to be enough. The Rebecca who works at Whitefeather & Associates is happier, more relaxed, wears color and lets her hair get curly. And she’s great at her job. Even when she loses a case to her nemesis from her old life, she feels like she’s won because the community is grateful to her for fighting on their behalf.
First season Rebecca seems to love being a lawyer, but there were clues it might have gone the other way: In the pilot flashback to Rebecca and Josh’s summer camp romance, Rebecca talks about how her mother wanted her to go to debate camp, not theater camp. You get the idea that maybe being a lawyer wasn’t really Rebecca’s idea.
The show seems to address the question of Rebecca’s current relationship to singing / acting / dancing in episode 15 of Season 1, when Rebecca explains why she pictures herself in so many musical numbers: “When things get tough, it’s how I understand the world.” As far as she knows, she doesn’t have a burning desire to be an entertainer.
But this is a new season, and there’s sure to be some ebb and flow in her romantic life — making room for a workplace plot. And bestie Paula’s (Donna Lynne Champlin, above) dreams of attending law school could crack open the door for Rebecca to re-evaluate her own career. After all, she also spends a lot of her time in the office Not Lawyering. She plays ping-pong or schemes about her love life.
Ostensibly, we’re supposed to believe Whitefeather & Associates is a step down from Big Fancy New York Firm and Rebecca has more time for her love life. Maybe that’s true — or maybe it’s just what Rebecca believes right now, and the show has so far not forced her to reckon with the idea that being a lawyer is a demanding job even on the West coast.
If Rebecca Leans In and decides she wants to be a named partner at Whitefeather & Associates, start her own firm, or excel as a lawyer in another way, then “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” will become a very different show than if Rebecca decides she wants to be an actress, or a small business owner, or something twee and nurturing like an artisanal baker or a preschool teacher.
The show where Rebecca doubles down on lawyering is a show that says: Rebecca’s got some problems, but she’s basically a real grown-up who knows her own mind. Let’s watch her win.
The show where Rebecca decides to be something other than a lawyer is one that says: Rebecca’s life is universally a mess and she doesn’t know herself at all. Let’s watch her struggle.
Both decisions imply a great deal of agency — but the decision where Rebecca picks law is basically the same story, and the same Rebecca, that we met in episode one. That decision means a woman’s emotional and romantic journey is sufficient to carry an hour-long show.
If Rebecca switches careers, the show fundamentally changes: Different sets and different characters, for starters. But more importantly, under that scenario, the underlying message is that Rebecca needs to be going on All The Journeys All The Time in order to be interesting.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. PT/ET on the CW.