This review contains spoilers.
2.1 Where Is Josh’s Friend?
When we last saw Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rebecca Bunch, she thought she’d finally got everything she wanted. The show’s first season saw her give up on her blossoming New York law career to follow an ex-boyfriend across the country and start afresh in the small town of West Covina – only to discover that the ex in question, Josh, was in a long-term relationship with someone else. Cue a season’s worth of pining, scheming, and terrible decisions in general. But the season finale saw Josh finally break up with his yoga instructor girlfriend Valencia and admit his feelings for Rebecca. And then they lived happily ever after?
Well, obviously not, because season 2 would be pretty boring if so. Also, despite its romantic comedy trappings, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s first season was pretty clear about the fact that winning Josh was never going to be the answer to all Rebecca’s problems. As the credits used to say, the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that. Rebecca might think she’s starring in a Disney movie where a kiss (okay, a lot more than just a kiss…) from her prince will set off fireworks and a parade of happiness, but we know better. She’s actually the lead in a TV musical about mental illness and addiction, and sleeping with Josh seems to have only exacerbated her issues.
That’s clear right from this new episode’s first scene, which picks up where the first season ended. Driving home after their tryst under the stars, Josh asks Rebecca what she meant when she said she moved to West Covina for him, and she straight up gaslights him, telling him he’s misinterpreted what she said and that he’s the crazy one, not her. It’s kind of shocking, but it’s an example of what this show does best: it gives its characters serious flaws, and forces them to make an effort to overcome them. There aren’t going to be any easy answers here, and trying to take shortcuts will only lead to disaster.
The rest of the episode seems like a mission statement for season 2. Three weeks after that fateful night, Josh has moved onto Rebecca’s sofa; they’re still having sex, but calling it a relationship would be a stretch. Rebecca can barely persuade him to leave some of his stuff at her house; in true Rebecca Bunch style, she even tricks out a drawer for him, adding compartments, lights, and a recording of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer that plays whenever the drawer opens, but to no avail. She’s doing her best to believe that things are still going to work out, but it really doesn’t look like she’s right.
This episode starts to show us another side to Josh, too. Up until this point we’ve mostly seen him as Rebecca sees him: sweet, kind, funny, handsome, and lovable. There were hints in the first season that he was just as flawed as everyone else, but now the second season looks set to really emphasise that – he’s definitely got a lazy, selfish side, and he’s just as good at lying to himself as Rebecca is.
Thankfully, this episode also showed that some of the characters in Rebecca’s orbit are starting to face up to their problems. The episode title refers to Greg, who’s been MIA since he passed out at Josh’s sister’s wedding and left Rebecca to her romantic tryst with Josh. It turns out, he got arrested for drunk driving the following morning and has been attending mandatory AA meetings, which have helped him own up to both his alcoholism and his anger issues. He’s not magically fixed, but he’s definitely making progress.
Likewise, Paula, who’s realised that her obsession with Rebecca’s love life was just an attempt to fill a void in her life that should probably be filled with something more productive. By the end of this episode, she’s presented Rebecca with a friend contract preventing her from indulging in any more illegal or immoral activities on Rebecca’s behalf, and started filling in an application for law school. That, too, feels like significant progress.
Character-wise, then, this episode did a lot of work to establish where all of the main characters are coming from, and to set up where they’ll be going over the course of the next 12 episodes. That was pretty satisfying, and it’s also just a pleasure to have the show back. But, much as I hate to say it, this episode still felt a tiny bit disappointing.
I think that’s because of the songs. We got two full songs this episode, Love Kernels and We Should Definitely Not Have Sex Right Now, and while they were both good, they didn’t feel particularly… iconic? As someone who regularly finds herself earwormed by The Sexy Getting Ready Song or even Textmergency, I wasn’t excited about either of these songs. Though the lavish Beyoncésque video for Love Kernels was pretty amazing – the sexy cactus! The hamster! The Darryl broom! – it just didn’t have the staying power of many of the first season’s songs.
Then again, the new theme tune is pretty great, and it gave us the episode’s best joke, as Rebecca killed off an imaginary backing dancer who was getting too demanding. Maybe this wasn’t the best episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so far, then, but it did enough to suggest that the rest of season 2 could be stellar.
One final thought, then: what’s wrong with plain hummus? Am I the only one who didn’t know plain hummus isn’t good enough any more?