Coming off arguably the series’ best episode to date, the bar for “Crazy-Ex Girlfriend’s” return from the Thanksgiving holiday was high. Friday night’s (Dec. 2) episode, “Who Needs Josh When You Have a Girl Group,” fell short of such lofty expectations. In fact, those delightful nuances for which the CW series vocally prides itself for having in the Season 1 theme song, were oddly nowhere to be seen.
Rebecca’s (Rachel Bloom) attempt to assemble a girl squad with Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), Heather (Vella Novell), and Paula (Donna Lynn Champlin), was a disaster in so many ways. Rebecca has yet to learn that “girl squads” don’t really exist after the age of 30.
Paula, for starters, has no desire to roll with a flock of chicks who only go out to take Instagram selfies and make other people jealous. Not that that’s the main initiative of Rebecca’s crew — well, not exactly — but the rest are in a totally different stage of life than Paula. They are not married, they don’t have kids. And they can all still make questionable decisions in which the repercussions only effect themselves.
Rebecca, Valencia and Heather — though they all may seem so drastically different, to the point of making their friendship a bit hard to understand at first — are all in their mid-to-late twenties: They connect in their attempts to figure out who they are as people, and what they want to do with their lives. Paula’s way past that. She can have a wonderful time with Rebecca one-on-one, but it’s understandably exhausting for her to be around an entire crew of youngins’ for extended periods of time.
Paula and Rebecca have something special. They weren’t afraid to reveal their crazy to each other and only grew closer because of it. The transformation we’re seeing with them is something that only happens in true, ride-or-die friendships. And it was way overdue for them to call each other out for their not so endearing flaws. Rachel, for being obnoxiously narcissistic and completely unaware of it. Paula, for not giving Rachel the chance to be there for her after the abortion.
Because their relationship was always more than just a workplace friendship, we have little doubt Paula and Rebecca will soon reunite. Each of them will grow into better people after this week’s nasty argument, and that is kind of friendship worth fighting for. People that make you act better, think smarter, feel inspired and confident, these are the kind of friends you want to surround yourself with.
While Sunil (Parish Cheena), is a fantastic addition to this series, and based on his undying love of the theatre, will eventually also be great friends with Rebecca, he’s a boy. And no matter which way you spin it, a guy friend is not the same as a girl friend. Paula still needs Rebecca in her life.
If this episode seemed a little off, we’re right there with you. The show might’ve gotten a little too meta with this week’s theme of not being able to force friendships. Aside from having each character mention at one point or another, “You can’t force friendships,” over and over again, the easy-to-follow plotlines were described aloud by the actors. Every joke explained in detail. Perhaps the show was telling us: Not only can you not force friendships, you can’t force good comedy.
Truly funny TV, which “Crazy Ex” usually is, works best when it’s subtle — just like it’s okay to not be friends with everyone, it’s okay if every audience member doesn’t get every joke. And “Crazy Ex” is not a show for everyone. But those who watch, completely love it.
Maybe we’re overanalyzing, and we still aren’t sure that’s what they were going for — but if so, it’s a bold approach we can applaud, even if it wasn’t hugely fun to watch. And if not, well, we’re sure things will return to their usual fantastic, nuanced state for next week’s winter finale.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.