While overlooked by audiences, critics made “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” one of the most talked-about new shows of 2015. The Golden Globe and TCA winner earned kudos for its ambitious production, hilarious cast of characters and insightful analysis of modern relationships, all while introducing many to the joyous delight that is creator and star Rachel Bloom.
Yet among the many profound discussions stemming from addictive musical numbers like “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” and “You Stupid Bitch,” perhaps too little credit was given to the thankless side of Rebecca’s character, and to Bloom for creating and embodying a woman whose mistakes are alienating, empathetic and educational in brilliantly calculated combinations.
As endearing and identifiable as Bloom made the oft-labeled “crazy” woman, there were moments in Season 1 — and are moments in Season 2 — when it’s hard to see her choices any other way. Yet what made the first season such an accomplishment was how it approached its title, honestly embracing Rebecca’s questionable decision-making in order to cast aside the accepted sexist label attached to it. (The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that!)
In Season 2, Bloom continues to critique complex and common relationship quandaries through self-admonishment. (And, fittingly, there’s a new theme song to go with her new journey.) Through three episodes, Rebecca remains firmly grounded in the romantic notion that love conquers all. It just might need a little finessing. A little manipulation. Maybe a few white lies. The series, meanwhile, sees through that bullshit, via the new therapist Rebecca ignores (played by Michael Hyatt) and a new no-nonsense Paula (the magnificent Donna Lynne Champlin).
Rebecca’s world may be her own, filled with spontaneous musical numbers and wild fantasies, but the real people populating her West Covina paradise are starting to ground her in reality. They, and thus the series, recognize the gaffes Rebecca makes along with the problems inherent in the relationships she so desperately wants. We know her end game is realizing this without losing her propulsive imagination. We just don’t know how she’ll get there, and that’s a fantastic achievement on its own.
Who she’s supposed to end up with romantically is absolutely secondary to hoping Rebecca can find true happiness within her continued hijinks, and the tide is turning quickly. Occasionally, the fine line between the audience recognizing what needs to be done and Rebecca’s obliviousness to the right choice gets fuzzy. Without getting into any spoilers, there’s a moment in Episode 2 that shocks Rebecca into self-awareness. It’s a refreshing, much-needed moment of sanity in what had been a desperate grab toward preconceived notions of happiness up to that point, but it also illustrates how simple everything could be if Rebecca got out of her own way.
Of course, we may want that to happen out of sheer love for our good-hearted protagonist, but we don’t need that as an audience. Bloom knows as much and continues to push her character into questionable territory in order for us to learn from her. But how much longer we can watch her serve as a martyr is ever-so-slightly nagging after spending three hours with the new season.
Frankly, it might have come up sooner, but “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has just kept proving its established formula has legs. In the show’s debut year, it took a good third of the season to see the overall arc. That seems to be the case again, as the hard and fast plot developments make it seem like change is right around every corner, but Rebecca remains just far enough in the dark to keep making mistakes.
More directly, Paula’s story gets an intriguing if somewhat predictable punch-up, and Greg (Santino Fontana) continues to be the far more fascinating character when compared to his romantic competitor, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). In the new episodes, both face hard choices carefully connected to their potential with Rebecca, but Greg’s offers the greatest opportunity for true change.
Throw in a few dynamite song and dance numbers, and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” feels just as joyful, courageous and ambitious as we left it. As Bloom pushes forward with a character we can’t help but adore, she continues to force truths upon Rebecca and the audience without taking an easy path to either party’s satisfaction. Culturally, there’s a lot to chew on, but don’t let the discussion be limited to critics. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is still a crowd-pleaser, in part because it refuses to please everyone.