“Romantic love is not an ending.” So says Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch in her mic-drop moment of the final episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. No, she doesn’t literally drop the mic, but she may as well — staring straight into the camera and letting all us viewers know that this lesson is for us.
After four seasons of critiquing the stories we tell about romantic love, the show delivers on its feminist principles, showing how a man will not complete Rebecca no matter how handsome, rich, or well-matched with her. In fact, we spend the opening sequence of the final episode in a Christmas Carol-esque dream sequence in which Rebecca sees her future with each love interest. In them, she gets what she always wanted — becoming a pretty bride, having a happy pregnancy, being the matriarch of a loving family — but in none of them is she truly happy. Greg, Nathaniel, and Josh each fail to complete her.
Because frankly, that’s not how relationships work. No partner will fulfill allyour needs. Yes, they can help you grow and be a source of great satisfaction but they will not fill the holes inside of you. Only you can do that — no matter what romantic comedies tell you. That’s the conclusion Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reach — and I couldn’t agree more.
While in some ways, this ending was predictable (the show has always been clear about its feminist point of view), in other ways it was quite a surprise. After all, much of the final season focused on getting Rebecca and Greg back together. He moves back to West Covina, they get back together, break up, and seem to have the most real relationship. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca goes on a date with each of her three main suitors a la The Bachelor, the idea being that she’ll be able to choose afterward. Josh and Nathaniel pull out all the stops, creating beautiful, romantic moments. Greg originally plans to just hang out for his date but he gets spooked by all the fanfare his rivals dream up. He makes arrangements for a romantic balloon-ride (with Weird Al, no less), but his plans get ruined when his car breaks down. So Rebecca and he end up just hanging out, playing games while they wait for the mechanic. In this decidedly unromantic setting, he tells her “you’re the love of my life” and at that moment, they seem fated to be together. Just like in the actual Bachelor, the sign of real love is not who you can get carried away with but who you can find magic within everyday interactions. Despite being firmly team Nathaniel, after that episode, I figured Rebecca would end up with Greg.
And in most shows, she would have. Trailblazer and general feminist badass Mindy Kaling ended the Mindy Projectby reuniting Mindy Lahiri with her first love — Chris Messina’s Daniel Castellano — a guy who belittled her about her weight, demanded she quit the job she loved (while he worked the same one), and generally gave her hell. And this was a show that started with an explicit critique of romantic comedies and continued in that vein by making Mindy more vapid and problematic as it went on.
Sex and the City famously reunited Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and Chris Noth’s Mr. Big in an ending. He literally goes to save her from an abusive partner! With all those relationships, sexual escapades, and heartbreak, the morale of Sex and the City seemed to be that friendship is as important as romantic love. The foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte is the show’s one constant. Aren’t you more invested in Carrie and Miranda’s relationship than any other on the show? And yet, the ending didn’t back that up. Carrie needs a man for her story to end — whether you count the ill-conceived movies or not.
In most stories, feminist or not, leading ladies end up with their first, often forsaken love — Mr. Big, Daniel Castellano, etc. That’s why I expected Rebecca to pick Greg and the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s creators did everything to lead me in that direction, from bringing him back to leaving Greg to be the last to be turned down. But despite the misdirection and the universe seemingly pulling another way, Rebecca picks herself.
Earlier in the fourth season, she realizes the law doesn’t make her happy, but she hasn’t yet found what will. The pretzel shop is fun but it’s not (spiritually) fulfilling. Instead, she has to find her true calling and who helps her do that? Not Josh, Nathaniel, or Greg. Paula. It’s through talking to her best friend that Rebecca sets out on her real adventure — telling her story through song-writing. In the intervening year, it is Paula, Heather, and Valencia who encourage her, giving her the support she needs to overcome her self doubt. This is a show that values women’s friendships, demonstrating their real value from beginning to end.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend concludes the moment before Rebecca publicly performs for the first time. In true Rebecca-fashion, she has a long wind-up, recounting her journey since moving to West Covina and what’s she learned since turning down each of primary suitors. She says “When I’m telling my own story for the first time in my life, I am truly happy. It’s like I just met myself. Like I just met Rebecca. I came to this town to find love, and I did… And now, for the first time in my life, I can say that maybe I’m finally ready for the other kind of love… But whoever it’s with, it won’t be ‘ending up’ with someone, because romantic love is not an ending, not for me or for anyone else here. It’s just a part of your story, a part of who you are.”
It’s such a satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of romantic love, but it does knock romantic love off its pedestal. Yes, we may talk about that type of love more but it’s not the most important type of love. Committing to a partner is not an “ending” but a stop along the journey. The door is still open for Rebecca to marry and have kids with Nathaniel or Greg (Josh, thankfully, has found his happiness somewhere else) but whether she builds a relationship with one of them, someone else, or no one at all, that choice doesn’t define Rebecca. It doesn’t define any of us. Instead, our stories are really about who we are, what we do, and how we manage to love ourselves.