[Spoilers follow for Season 2, Episode 13, “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?”]
“Well, now it’s really going to be ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, isn’t it?” co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna said with a laugh, following a press screening of “Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?,” the Season 2 finale of the Golden Globe-winning show.
“They’ve really been together now so she really is an ex now,” she went on to clarify about the relationship between Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) and Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), the titular “crazy ex” who moved to West Covina, California at the beginning of Season 1 thanks to a renewed obsession with her former drama camp sweetheart. Rebecca and Josh had their ups and downs over the last two seasons, but their romance became a trainwreck on the day of their hastily planned wedding, when Josh left Rebecca at the altar, and Rebecca embraced her inner craziness to declare her need for revenge.
The plan, McKenna said, was always to end Season 2 with “Josh Chan must be destroyed,” because in her words, “Rachel and I have always talked about the series as different aspects of being a crazy ex-girlfriend. The first season was a light, ‘Hey, I just happened to be in Starbucks,’ crazy ex-girlfriend and then this year was like, ‘We’re kind of together but I need you to see that but we love each other.'”
And thus, Season 3 will be, per McKenna, “the thing that you most think of as a crazy ex-girlfriend. Because she is truly an ex now, at least for that moment.”
What else should we expect to see in Season 3? And what should we understand about the finale? McKenna had plenty to share.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has never been a ratings barnburner, which at the beginning of the season had many people concerned that it wouldn’t get a shot at Season 3. But McKenna wasn’t one of those people. “We write like Tim McGraw says: Live like you’re dying. We write like we’re getting renewed,” she said.
McKenna went on to praise the CW’s unflagging support for the show, which has existed since the very beginning, as well as the show’s loyal fanbase. “One of the things that’s funny is that we have incredibly consistent ratings. It’s the same people, I’m convinced it’s the same people to a person, and I think because of Twitter we know most of them,” she said. “But it’s a very consistent audience that shows up every week — we have 12 weeks of getting the exact same ratings, like to a man, so we have a very devoted loyal audience.”
“We never ever felt once that we had to make an abrupt creative decision because of the network,” she added. “And I’m very proud to work someplace where that’s the case.”
It’s of course worth noting that Josh doesn’t leave Rebecca for another woman. Instead, he decides to join the priesthood. It’s a somewhat silly decision, but one that fits with Josh’s inherent goodness, his well-established religious beliefs, and his weaker impulses. “He has a sense of wanting to better himself, but being kind of run a little bit by his urges,” McKenna said. “And one of his urges is, he gets lonely. He’s not really capable of introspection, so he does it via women, which I think is rather a common thing.”
That said, McKenna noted that Josh’s choice not to open the envelope containing at least one of Rebecca’s dark secrets was something she saw as brave. “Because he realizes it’s not her fault, no matter what’s in there. And he knows it’s something bad. But that’s not what the problem is. The problem is his own issues,” she said.
And Josh has “no idea” what he’s getting into by pursuing the path towards priesthood. “He’s done no thinking, no serious research,” she said. “It’s a panic move. We’ll see how much of it suits him. If any of it suits him.”
Joining the priesthood has one other major advantage to it, however: “I think also like 2 percent of his mind figures, ‘My parents will forgive me.'”
West Covina’s favorite same-sex couple (or at least its most prominent one) had a very small subplot in the finale, but a potential issue arose when Darryl found out that White Josh wasn’t interested in marriage, and Darryl’s response was to suggest that they have a baby together. Should we expect to see the pair shopping for a surrogate next season? McKenna pointed to the extreme differences between Josh and Darryl as an answer.
“White Josh lives in an empirical world where, like, if you would like to get bigger lats, here’s five exercises at the gym you can do. He doesn’t understand people who are motivated by things which are irrational to him,” she said. “And Darryl is really the opposite of that. Darryl has a lot of flights of fantasy and lives in certain fantasy worlds. So, I think this conflict about their future really encapsulates Darryl’s idea of, like, ‘Oh this is exciting and this would be fun and let’s grab at it!’ And White Josh has more of a calculated view of the world.”
In fact, this could be dangerous for their relationship. “White Josh would never do anything without really doing a very strict cost-benefit analysis, but he kind of messed up by saying, ‘Having kids, I get. Marriage I don’t get.’ I think the second that Darryl heard that, there was like a little cauldron started to boil in the back [of his mind]. So, we’ll see. But we love writing for them.”
You might catch more than one reprise of classic “Crazy Ex” songs in the finale, which is part of a balancing act McKenna works hard to maintain. “My thing is, I feel the same way about reprises that I do about callback jokes, which is, they need to stand alone. If you’ve never watched the episode before, the music needs to hit you in the same way as if you’ve heard it a million times. So for fans, it’s like, ‘Oh, I know exactly what that is. That last cue is “Villain in My Own Story.” Great.’ And if you don’t, it’s a great, dramatic piece of music,” she said.
It’s all part of a story-first approach to creating the musical element of the show, which does unfortunately mean that genres the team is dying to riff on go unexplored. For example, Rodriguez is dying to do a K-pop song. “He sends us videos,” McKenna said.
“When there’s an idea for a song, everyone will pitch a genre, but the genre is always a part of the humor. So it’s a little bit of a thing where we can’t just say, ‘Hey we would love to do a song that is this genre.’ It’s rare that happens.”
McKenna, personally, “would love to do Bobby Brown, ‘My Prerogative.’ But that shows my age. And then I’d have to show everyone the videos.”
On the heels of the major bombshell about Rebecca’s reason for leaving Harvard Law and transferring to Yale, McKenna teased that we should expect to learn more about Rebecca’s past over the course of Season 3.
“The idea was, we’ve gotten to know her over 31 episodes, the audience has gotten to know her pretty well. But we don’t know anything about her past, really,” she said. “As Paula says, the best predictor of the future is the past. It stands to reason that somebody who engages in these obsessive-romantic behaviors has done so before.”
That means the show will continue to trip back to previously unknown moments that will explain Rebecca’s journey — especially when it comes to understanding her history of mental health treatment. “If you’ll notice [in this episode], she got sent to a mental health facility where they put her on way too much medication, so you see her completely zoned out. They’re giving her meds and she doesn’t even look to see what they are… I think she’s had bad experiences with being diagnosed and given medication that makes her feel bad, which is a very common thing with people who have disorders,” McKenna said.
“We’re going to learn a lot more about her past struggles with her mental health and to rein in these issues that she has,” she added.
The one overall takeaway — don’t ever expect a fairy tale ending for this show. “Our show is a romantic comedy, but not a love story, in a funny way. So it explores romantic comedy ideas, but we always try and get around those tropes.”
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Season 2 premieres on Netflix February 11.
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