Friday, October 21, 2016

REVIEW: 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' - Rebecca Fights For Love as Paula and Greg Address Their Addictions in 'Where is Josh's Friend'

The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Episode 2.01 "Where is Josh's Friend"

Rebecca is convinced Josh is in love with her, while Greg is nowhere to be found. Paula is coming to terms with what drove her obsession with Rebecca's love life. Darryl and White Josh try to navigate their new relationship.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had a truly great first season. As the season went along, it proved just how smart and self-aware it actually was. Yes, it's the story of a girl quitting her job in New York and moving to West Covina to be with her ex-boyfriend from camp. As the opening titles told the audience, the situation was much more nuanced than that. That was incredibly true. It was a story about love, self awareness, depression, friendship and discovering new facets of one's true self. It was a moving story that also pushed the boundaries of absurdism. The show returns for its second season with a whole new title sequence. One where Rebecca says she's not crazy because she's in love. She's truly dug deeper into these complicated emotions following her season-ending hookup with Josh. But "Where is Josh's Friend" does so much to highlight just how nuanced this whole situation really is. It's not just a love triangle story. It's a story about addiction and how behavior can be so self destructive. This hour highlights the differences between people. How they can hear the same thing and have wildly different reactions while also highlighting how they can still be friends and be important in each other's lives.

Rebecca and Josh really are the two most immature characters on the show at the moment. Rebecca is adamant that her love story with Josh is all that she needs to be happy in this life while Josh insists that he is mature because he is an adult now. Neither of those things are true at all. Rebecca is willing to wait for Josh to be as engaged in their relationship as she is. She was able to fix the huge problem she created by revealing the truth behind why she moved to West Covina. She sees that it was a mistake. But she no longer believes it needs to be the end of their love story. She still desperately needs this to work. She will force it to happen even though she revealed her true awful self to Josh. She has been there for him for awhile now. He can talk to her in a way unlike anything he has ever had before. This relationship has had its moments of maturity. But right now, it feels like they've stayed the same while everyone else is moving forward. A sexual relationship between the two is a big deal. It's an important development for the story. But the show is also keenly aware that there are problems in this relationship that aren't just going to go away no matter how much Rebecca wants things to work.

It's also true that the sex is so great because Rebecca and Josh have decided not to have any more of it until they deal with the fallout from Greg. Neither one of them actually has a conversation with Greg though. Rebecca loved Greg and Josh is best friends with him. And yet, they both tossed him aside in order to indulge in these sexual impulses. Of course, it's not a healthy relationship at all. Rebecca is trying to manipulate Josh into staying in her bed with her all night while Josh refuses to move back into his parents' house. Rebecca is trying to rush this love story along. She wants the happiness that Darryl and White Josh have. They are so great together. She sees them being cute in the office and living together and wants that for herself. But she didn't see the complicated journey that got them to this point. It took a lot of work for Darryl to come to terms with his sexuality and embrace this relationship with White Josh for what it truly was. Rebecca wants things to be great with Josh right away. Love doesn't work like that. She came in and destroyed his life. Now, he's realizing just how complicated a relationship with her really is. And yet, the sex is still great. They keep returning to each other because of how illicit it is. It's hot and tantalizing while also doing nothing to address their underlying problems. It's the kind of mistake we want from the two of them. It is a fascinating journey throughout this premiere while also teasing only more complicated things to come.

Meanwhile, it's so moving and emotional to watch Greg and Paula come to some big revelations about their lives. Greg hasn't been seen since the big wedding. He doesn't know about Rebecca and Josh yet. He left before he could find out. And now, it's clear that he has taken a huge step forward to addressing his own problems. He realizes that his anger at the entire world comes from within. He accepts that he is an alcoholic. It's a realization he comes to after he was arrested and ordered to attend AA meetings. But they have done some good work for him too. It's this big light-switch moment for him. He finally has a name for all of his problems. He's willing to accept that his unhappiness in life comes from himself and not from the world around him. He realizes that his failings are his alone. That's a huge realization that shows he took the hiatus to really mature and grow. Yes, he's still hiding from his regular life. He's back living with his father and refusing to see anyone. He's not ready to face Rebecca again. He still wants to live in this bubble that comes from his new self-diagnosis. He can't evade her forever. She has the potential to ruin his life all over again. He has had this clarifying moment that could all go away once he talks with Rebecca.

But Greg's words are enough to motivate Paula into action as well. She and Rebecca spy on Greg at one of his meetings. He's delivering this amazing and dramatic speech about the feeling he got when he drank and became less angry at the world. Paula listens to that speech in such a different way than Rebecca does. Paula can relate to his struggle because she feels the exact same way whenever Rebecca asks her to do something crazy or illegal in her pursuit for love. It's something she struggles with quite a lot throughout this premiere. There's something missing in her life that can't be filled with sex toys from Amazon. She loves Rebecca but she no longer feels excited about helping her with her mission to get Josh to love her. Paula sees Rebecca telling Josh the truth about her move to West Covina as the thing that dooms the entire relationship. It was never more than a fantasy. The spark is gone. Rebecca refuses to accept that. She listens to the same speech from Greg as Paula does. But she doesn't have a reaction of self-realization. Instead, she just sees it as it perhaps being a bad time to tell him about her and Josh. She claims it's to keep him sober for a little while longer. But it's also clear that she's doing it for herself and the secret and tantalizing relationship with Josh.

The speech forces Paula into action while it only spirals Rebecca into more sadness. Paula uses it as encouragement to apply to law school. She gets so much joy from work. She's really good at writing legal briefs. Hopefully, this can be the thing missing in her life. Meanwhile, Rebecca is all alone at home with nothing to bring her joy other than the memories of Josh's drawer. Of course, Josh does come over and they do have sex. But it's not the beginning of a lasting relationship. It's great because they agree not to do it until they tell Greg. That only makes them want to do it more which showcases just how immature they are - especially when compared to Greg, Paula and Darryl. And yet, it's still equally moving to watch as Rebecca admits just how genuine her friendship with Paula is. Paula forces Rebecca to sign a legal contract saying that she'll never ask her to do anything crazy or illegal in her pursuit of love again. It's an extreme thing for Paula to ask. However, Rebecca does it because the friendship means so much to her. She doesn't want to lose Paula. She loves confiding in her. She may rely on her too much. This contract could help both of them. It is mature that Rebecca recognizes that and signs it to help Paula move forward with this next step in her life. It should just be fascinating to see if Rebecca can keep to her word.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Where is Josh's Friend" was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Rachel Bloom & Marc Webb and directed by Marc Webb.
  • The new opening titles will take some getting used to. That's because last season's sequence was so great. And yet, the shot on Rebecca's face at the end lingering for an awkward extra beat is going to be funny every single time.
  • "Love Kernels" is the major production number of the premiere. It's a fantastic sequence as well. The use of extreme symbolism with mundane objects is wonderful. It highlights how Rebecca's brain is processing her new relationship and how she's clearly investing in things for the long haul even though there are still major problems for the two of them to overcome.
  • The shot of Darryl being played by a broom on a stand was so fantastic I almost wanted it to be a recurring joke throughout the premiere. Darryl is largely just in the background being happy with White Josh. It could have been absurd. But it also could have been really funny.
  • Hector has proven to be a reliable scene stealer as well. He doesn't think laundry is the best reason for living at home with one's parents. Instead, he loves the emotional support that comes whenever he has a nightmare.
  • How does an alcoholic work at a bar? That's a dilemma that should be very funny to watch as Greg goes back to work shortly.
  • The running joke about no one liking plain hummus was really hilarious as well. This show just does so well with weird and random jokes popping up at unique times. It helps build the realism in this incredibly absurd world.