May 8th, 2008
It is, perhaps, the most confusing finale in recent years: Scrubs is ending its seventh season tonight, and NBC has no plans on bringing it back. So, there is the thought of series finale in the air, but this is not true: although it won’t be confirmed until after the show concludes its run on the peacock, ABC has already ordered 18 episodes of the series that are filming now, and that will air next season. The result is an episode that exists purely in limbo, a false goodbye for a series we’ll be seeing more of.
As I’ve noted, I really am not that enamoured with the series as of late, but the last few episodes have showed potential – if anything, their only major flaw is their decision to continue the forced march towards J.D. and Elliot reconnecting romantically. I like the sendoff given to Ken Jenkins’ Dr. Kelso, I’ve enjoyed our time spent with the Janitor, but with a certain lack of faith in the show’s central romantic storyline I certainly need to be convinced that those 18 episodes next season will be worth my time.
If there is any way to do it, though, perhaps this is it: Zach Braff’s second epic take-off of a classic fairy tale, this time cult classic The Princess Bride, and if his work on the charming Wizard of Oz episode that signaled the show’s 100th episode was any indication this kind of thing is right up his alley. Scrubs is a show that often works well within event formats (The Musical episode was a highlight dramatically, if not perhaps musically, for the sixth season), but has Braff managed to do the inconceivable?
Has he actually created an episode of Scrubs that cuts through my jaded cynicism for the future?
Not so much.
First off, let’s address the monkey in the room: whether it’s Dr. Kelso magically being back in the hospital, or suddenly and randomly returning to storylines that we have been ignoring for almost the entire season, it was a finale that didn’t feel earned. Keith’s sudden reappearance, and the all too sudden return to J.D. and Elliot and the almost kiss, seems like a giant cop-out. While it makes sense considering the need to tie things off in case of no pickup from ABC, this kills any momentum the show has been building in recent weeks.
The entire Princess Bride scenario has a lot of potential (The puns of “Finale doesn’t mean what NBC thinks it means” write themselves), but there is definite problems with using a fantasy setting in this context. All of the actors are quick to engage the formats, whether it’s the Janitor as the giant, Dr. Kelso as an evil wizard, or Ted as a hunchback. However, it means we get to spend less time with them as characters: Turk and Carla are particularly damaged in this regard, their turn as a two-headed wizard being weird as opposed to entertaining.
That isn’t to say I don’t get its point: it’s a comment on Turk and J.D’s relationship being so defined by Carla, and for their lack of alone time. But it just seems like, if this were really a finale, that you’d want to actually have more time spent between the real characters as opposed to their fantasy alter-egos. The right balance was Dr. Cox, narrating the story to his son while also serving as a delightful take on a medieval knight (Percival Cox) with a fantastic beard – it still lacks any sense of finality, but at least it’s across-the-board charming.
And that is not the word I’d use to describe J.D. and Elliot and their frustrating affair. Like the episode’s medical mystery, the lesson is that you always have to go back to the beginning: you can’t just ignore it and run around treating symptoms, you need to find the cause and deal with it directly. In this instance, however, I was really hoping that the series would ignore that quasi-kiss, and I just feel like there was some nice storylines floating around about J.D.’s maturity once had has a child, or Dr. Kelso’s departure, all of which are dropped by the way side in favour of this contrivance.
But I’m analyzing this as if it’s actually a finale, which it isn’t – the show will go on for another eighteen episodes, so the episode didn’t actually resolve anything (Nor did it have to by that logic). However, even if we view this as just a normal episode, it is an odd diversion from where the show was headed in favour of contrivance and broad storylines. The show is capable of real emotional drama, and this seemed like the show wanted to get a big budget episode out of the way while they were still on NBC’s payroll.
The cast seemed to have a lot of fun with the fantasy elements, but in the end it all took away from any sense of appreciation of these characters. And for a finale, that’s unforgivable – for an episode that isn’t a finale at all, it’s just another step back for a fallen series.
- If there is anyone out there who really thinks this is a finale, they must have been really disappointed. The episode will actually be fundamentally forgotten once we get to ABC’s episodes, as there was little to no plot to be found in the episode.
- Other than an early moment where they managed to repel Dr. Cox’s cynicism with their love, Turk and Carla (Or Turla) were definitely the most slighted in the span of the episode. Their plans to have another baby was quite literally cut off at the knees, moreso than others.
- Not that I really want to keep ragging on the episode, but it also wasn’t very funny: I never really laughed more than once or twice, so I really didn’t see where the show was headed outside of an attempt to be charming (That was really only achieved by the frame narrative).