[Note: The following story contains spoilers for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Season 3.]
So far, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has played out relatively close to the way that Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna first pitched the show a half-decade ago. But as with all plans, there are some inevitable changes along the way.
At an event at the UTA Theater in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night, Bloom and Brosh McKenna spoke about the deeper sides of the show’s third season and how some of the deviations from the original plans happened right up top.
“The question was, ‘Right after the wedding, what is she doing?’ Originally, she goes to this diner with her friends. She thinks and says, ‘Will you excuse me for one second?’ Then she knocks on Nathaniel’s door,” Bloom said. “Literally the first second of the season, and then that’s part of the reason he’s then on the hook.”
“The writers really hated that because they felt like it cut off all the opportunity for the first time they slept together, building to that,” McKenna said. “There was a lot of resistance and I clung to it for a while, but there were so many other things going on in the beginning of that episode that we let go of that.”
Even though it happened after the point they initially planned, bringing those two characters together ultimately helped solve another way to get to the season’s courtroom endgame.
“We knew something was going to happen and she was going to get in trouble. It was originally with Josh,” Bloom said.
“She was going to be obsessed with Josh and Josh’s new girlfriend and that was going to somehow lead to her being in prison. But in the middle of the season, once the Josh thing had sort of burned brightly, it seemed like it was over and we switched to Nathaniel,” McKenna said. “Then, this idea of Trent as her id coming back, that was a thing that really symbolized that she had burned through her revenge scheme. She was on her road to redemption, and then her mistakes come back to haunt her even though she’s actually doing the right thing.”
The evening’s hosts, writers John August and John Gatins, led the panel through a series of clips from across the third season. Many of them highlighted the less cheery moments of the season, including a showdown with Rebecca‘s friends at the end of Episode 3. As with some of the other darker moments of the show, even when things were bleak, Brosh McKenna and Bloom explained that they always wanted a bit of Rebecca’s self-awareness to come through.
“[Rebecca] always knows she’s messing up. No one is harder on herself than she is,” McKenna said. “In that clip, Rachel was able to buy back with her eyes everything she said, so that even the characters in the scene know she’s lashing out. From an acting standpoint, I was blown away that she was able to do that. You feel for her, even though she’s saying the meanest things.”
Bloom talked about how going to the process of writing and playing Rebecca this past season helped to reframe what she saw when revisiting some of the series’ first episodes, particularly as various other characters are coming to those same realizations.
“She’s quite ill in that first season in ways that I think at the time, I didn’t even realize. She’s really, really sick. The darkness of the show has always been inherent for both of us,” Bloom said.
One of the challenges for this season was balancing some of the most dire sequences with a bit of optimism that still felt true to the show and to the character. For the moment right after Rebecca’s suicide attempt at the end of Episode 5, Bloom talked about the process of trusting McKenna’s suggestion to have one of the buttons above her seat switch from “HELP” to “HOPE.”
“It’s what you needed in that moment. Things like tone, you can talk about them intellectually, but I feel like the tone of the show in many ways is an emotional, instinctual thing for us. We wrote the pilot line by line together in a room. Sometimes it comes from our gut,” Bloom said.
The conversation eventually turned to the season’s final sequence, of Rebecca pleading guilty to the Trent-related charges brought against her. If it seems like, in that moment, Rebecca’s doing the wrong thing for the right reason, that’s by design.
“Sometimes people will point out that she or Paula or all the characters on the show do things that are irrational or don’t make any sense,” McKenna said. “Like, welcome to humans. They make mistakes. I think it’s wonderful that [Rebecca] takes responsibility for the wrong thing because that’s the kind of thing that she does. We know that Paula’s going to try to get her out of that mess, but Paula has seen her for the first time try to own up.”
That talk of what Paula and Rebecca do next eventually gave way to the upcoming Season 4, which will be the last for the show. In screenwriting terms, McKenna described Season 4 as the third act of Rebecca’s story, the “rocky shoals.”
“The first season was very thematic: ‘I’m a good person.’ By last season, those episodes are more plot-driven, especially toward the end. This season moves back to being more thematic pieces. It’s more thoughtful stuff and we’ve really had a great time,” McKenna said.
Being as vague as they could while still giving the audience a progress report on Season 4, they explained that while some of the pieces may shift, they’ve managed to maintain the same endpoint they’ve had for a while.
“Everything’s open to changing, but we have almost every episode we have what it’s going to be about on the board right now,” Bloom said. “As of now, it is still looking like it’s gonna end the way we always pitched it five years ago. We’ve stuck to the broad plan in a really, really cool way.”