Last night saw three shows (Two I rarely blog about) finish their seasons prematurely due to the Writers’ Strike. It is unfortunate, of course, because this means two and a half less hours of television each week (Thursdays will never be the same). Alas, let’s take a quick look at how these shows managed with finales which were, well, not meant to be finales. (I’ll be back with Friday Night Lights tonight and Golden Globes nods tomorrow, assuming this cold doesn’t destroy me).
Grey’s Anatomy – “Lay Your Hands On Me”
This quasi-finale was a solid episode which at least felt like a conclusion to a story or two. Central to the episode is Bailey’s son being injured in an accident, extenuating the marital issues we saw before the break. Bailey blames herself, blames Hahn for keeping her out of surgery, and eventually accepts a healer who is able to pull Tuck back to life.
This was fine, but I actually felt like it felt too much like Emmy bait for Chandra Wilson, even when her character is as great as she is. We’ve had a lot of Bailey in recent weeks, ever since the Gizzie backlash became apparent. We had her fantastic episode with her childhood crush, we had her altercation with the Nazi in “Crash Into Me,” and now we have this tearful and emotional storyline here. I’d actually argue she was far more likable in the first episode, and thus it would be the better choice. Wilson was as great as ever here, but it felt a little bit too melodramatic.
The rest of the episode saw Karev dealing with the healer, Izzie dealing with self-identification (Remember how she decided she was a people person, but then Hahn convinced her otherwise, and then she went back to being a people person? She forgot about that, but remembers now), Christina dealing with being a little bit more caring with Tuck, George dealing with his mother finding out about the dultery-ay and the ivorce-day, Sloane dealing with Hahn’s harsh exterior, and Derek and Meredith finally breaking up.
And when you pack that much into an episode? It feels enough like a finale. Still, I’m curious to see where Meredith’s character goes from here, although Lexie moving into her house in place of George could be their angle. Regardless, solid episode.
30 Rock – “Episode 210”
So, apparently the last few 30 Rock episodes haven’t gotten actual titles thanks to the Writers’ Strike, but last night’s final episode filmed before the strike was charming and engaging if not quite living up to the brilliance in the middle of last fall.
The episode dealt with Jack and C.C.’s inevitable breakup due to their separate lives, Kenneth’s caffeine addiction, and Liz’s attempts to buy an apartment being thwarted by the Co-Op Board led by Edward Herrmann (“Gilmore Girls,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and the upcoming “Lipstick Jungle”). The last one brought a side of Liz I’m not a huge fan of, where she is almost too pathetic, but her drunken phone montage had some sharp moments (“Black Apartment” and her rendition of “You Oughta Know,” mostly).
The love story at the episode’s center was fairly simple: their decision to meet “halfway” between their offices results in both missing important engagements (Liz tries to sell NBC to a German company, while C.C. misses a vote to legalize whale torture), and they decide to split as a result. It was a charming end to the storyline, and Edie Falco’s performance was perfect despite my initial reservations way back when.
The other storyline existed purely for us to see an over-caffeinated Kenneth and for the episode-ending musical number: Gladys Knight, who was namedropped earlier and appears in cameo, must have been proud of the rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” It was probably just tossed in to fill time without the script to do so, but regardless it was a charming conclusion and a fine sendoff for the series. I don’t quite have space for quotes and the like, but Sepinwall’s got ’em.
Ugly Betty – “Zero Worship”
Adding to the list of finales that sort of felt like finales, Ugly Betty ended with a heartfelt moment of pride for Betty Suarez as she strutted down the runway during fashion week. It was sappy, cliched, and just a little bit too feel good – mind you, this IS Ugly Betty, so this isn’t exactly a huge surprise or anything.
I think I’m most frustrated that the series has no direction – they’ve turned Alexis back into a bitch, Daniel back into a near invalid (His intelligence changes on a dime), and they just don’t appear to be having any fun anymore. Only Amanda is really getting an intriguing storyline, and even it is heading in a cliched direction despite Marc and Amanda’s great exchanges.
As Wilhelmina attempts to find a surrogate (With her eyes set on Christina by episode’s end), it just feels like everything is floating around. The series is at its best when it is having fun, and when it is focused on personal storylines – Betty’s crusade could have been right out of season one, so it seemed like an unfortunate end to the show’s shortened second season.
But, it did feel like an end…just not a beginning, outside of Wilhelmina and Amanda’s discovery that Gene Simmons may be her father. Me? I’m rooting for Peter Kriss. Meow.