Season finales are always difficult, especially for a show like The Mick where regular episodes go to insane places. As a result, it can be difficult to top that or end the year on a high note, but “The Graduate” turned out to be one of the best episodes that the series thus far. The finale focuses on the future in many ways, but particularly the future of Sabrina Pemberton (Sofia Black-D’Elia) who’s recently graduated high school and finds the responsibilities of the Real World beginning to bear down on her.
“The Graduate” is a fantastic finale not only because it’s exceptionally funny, but it’s also an emotional episode. It’s not afraid to take the characters to some new places and it’s a gamble that really works for the show. The Mick excels when it chooses to double down on its silliness, but it’s nice to see that it can effectively handle a little melodrama and emotional stakes, too. This season finale features by far the best work that Kaitlin Olson has done all season, yet this is an episode that’s also able to work in samurai swords, dismembered limbs, multiple accounts of arson, and a hell of a cliffhanger. The Mick isn’t necessarily the sort of show that you anticipate to end its year with such an emotional gut punch, but the fact that it attempts such an ambitious ending is a testament to how comfortable this show has got in its own skin. The series creators and showrunners, Dave and John Chernin, break down this surprising finale as well as touching on some of the highlights from this season.
The Mick Season 2 Episode 20 – “The Graduate”
“Following graduation, Mickey and Alba discover that Sabrina is having second thoughts about attending Yale. In their attempt to sway her decision, Alba finds herself heavily involved at a Yale Alumni reunion event. Meanwhile, Chip is keen on re-branding himself before he starts high school, so naturally he decides to throw a party to prove his status.”
Written by Caroline Fox; Directed by Matt Sohn
DEN OF GEEK: This episode isn’t afraid to get into some heavier material with Sabrina and her education. Was this always the focus for the finale or was there anything else that you wanted to end the year on?
JOHN CHERNIN: I think Dave and I at least knew that this topic would make for a good finale because it puts the whole Sabrina going away to college thing to bed. I don’t think there was ever anything else that we considered for a finale.
DAVE CHERNIN: There were other areas that we also thought about exploring, but we knew that the Sabrina stuff would always be an element of it. I think the more we got into it, the more it felt like something that could sustain the entire finale.
JOHN CHERNIN: I know that we also thought about maybe just doing a one-off episode that would be more fun and freewheeling, but from the pilot onwards we’ve hinted at Sabrina going off to Yale and it felt like the time to put a bow on that. I know that poor Sofia also wants to be out of high school and play a full human being.
There’s some really great Sabrina and Mickey material in this episode. Did it feel important to end this season with her really imparting some lessons on Sabrina and fulfilling her guardian role?
DAVE CHERNIN: I don’t know if it was important, but it came about pretty naturally. Since day one we’ve tried to establish that Mickey and Sabrina are quite similar. More similar than they’d like to admit. This just seemed like a good opportunity for Mickey to use her experience from growing up to relate to Sabrina and just pull back another layer to show their similarities. Any time we get to uncover a bit more of Mickey’s backstory it’s always really satisfying. As much as we love every character pairing on this show, the home run is Mickey and Sabrina. They just have such great chemistry and they’re both such great actresses. It allows us to go to very real places with them.
JOHN CHERNIN: It’s just such an exciting pair because they play off of each other so well. The moment where Mickey storms into Sabrina’s room and rips the magazine from her hands and throws it, Sabrina has this small little reaction to it that’s just so good. She knows how to play off of her and we love writing those scenes.
Well on that note, I really love that you guys go out on that serious cliffhanger with Sabrina and really let Mickey get to feel something there. It definitely seems like the most significant moment for the character so far.
DAVE CHERNIN: It’s so funny to me. From the first minute in the pilot, Sabrina is really the one that stands in the way of what Mickey wants. All the riches and perks of this lifestyle are still kind of out of her reach because Sabrina’s around. So it’s always kind of in the back of her head that if she can just get Sabrina off to college then maybe everything will finally fall into place. There’s something so funny and pathetic about that, that this seventeen year-old girl is such a threat.
So we always knew that she couldn’t go off to college for this show, but we wanted to figure out a surprising way to keep her in the mix. This episode has a lot of twists and turns and I think that one of the great surprises in this episode is around the halfway mark when Mickey realizes that Sabrina did get into college and was just scared. That felt like a very real possibility for that character.
Well off of that, this episode raises an interesting question about what the show does with Sabrina once she gets to that stage of going away for college. Obviously you don’t want to keep the character from maturing, but having her move away from home could be a big obstacle for the series.
DAVE CHERNIN: We’ve known for a long time how it was going to end with her and the lightning. And I think that it came about how many of our great ideas do: we watched a YouTube video of someone getting struck by lightning. It was terrifying and hilarious at the same time and we thought that’d be an interesting way to keep Sabrina from leaving the house. That’s really how it started and then the more that we talked about it, it just seemed that lightning striking her would be so out of the blue.
JOHN CHERNIN: As far as Mickey is concerned, Sabrina is blessed by God. She’s pretty, wealthy, smart, never needed anything…so there was something funny to us about this poor girl getting struck by a thunder bolt.
You had me so nervous during it because I was sure that Mickey was going to get stabbed, but then that happens.
JOHN CHERNIN: It just made us laugh so hard. She’s so wild with her motions.
DAVE CHERNIN: Also, when you pitch that idea it seems so broad and silly, but when we talked to the writers and FOX about it, it still felt a little cartoony. But then based on our YouTube research we knew how to do this in a very intense, ugly way. We never wanted it to be a silly, Caddyshack version of the lightning strike. We had many talks with our production team on how to make this violent, realistic, shocking.
JOHN CHERNIN: During production meetings people would say things like, “Okay, so she gets struck by lightning and shakes a little bit…” and we’d be like, “No. It should look like she gets hit by a piano. She should crumble instantly. It should be horrible and surprising.
DAVE CHERNIN: Our director for the episode, Matt Sohn, told us a story about a guy that he knew about a guy who was struck by lightning and it blew off his big toe. So that was a last minute addition to the script. We’re too excited to show Sabrina’s four-toed foot.
That’s the thing, even if it feels silly, the fact that Sabrina loses an ear and a toe in this episode snap it back to reality. You’ve got a lot of continuity fun next season with the Pembertons’ many injuries from this year.
JOHN CHERNIN: Producers would come up to us and be like, “Are you okay? This seems like a really dark season…” That’s the stuff that’s funny to us.
DAVE CHERNIN: But I’m excited to see how all of that plays into season three. We’re still going back and forth on just how dark we want Sabrina’s condition to be.
JOHN CHERNIN: If we get a season three, we’re just excited for the possibilities that we can do with Sabrina because Sofia is such a talented actor. Like will we give her a permanent disability for the entire season?
Absolutely, like you instantly think of her and the Colonel in matching wheelchairs.
JOHN CHERNIN: There’s been a lot of discussion about Sabrina and the Colonel in side-by-side wheelchairs. But another testament to how good Sofia and Kaitlin are is that it was 50 degrees in L.A. during that lightning scene. We pummeled them with water and they were screaming between takes because it was so cold. It’s such a sweet, lovely scene and you’d have no idea that they were miserable through the shoot.
DAVE CHERNIN: I don’t know if we’ve ever been more pressed for time for such an important scene and it’s great to see them still pull it off when they only have one or two takes.
That tidbit about Mickey and Poodle’s mother just leaving makes for some interesting information about their past. Might she eventually show up in the future?
JOHN CHERNIN: It’s certainly possible. We always knew deep down that Mickey’s mom was never really in the picture, but we never knew the specifics and kind of figured that out in this one, too. We weren’t sure if she had passed away or whatever, but this seemed like a weird, dark take on it. As far as actresses, no one specific has come to mind, but in terms of both of her parents there are so many great actors at that age that would fit in well. I would definitely think that we’d meet at least one of them next year.
Was there anything that you wanted to touch on this season but weren’t able to in the end?
DAVE CHERNIN: I think there inevitably always is. Mickey’s dad came up a lot.
JOHN CHERNIN: I know that we wanted to see more of Ipp DeLuca and Mike O’Mara so hopefully we can get them back.
DAVE CHERNIN: Michaela Watkins’ characters, Trish, was another one that we loved that we just never got around to returning to. Jerry Berlin, played by Paul Ben-Victor, is the writers’ room favorite for whatever reason. I think there’s always going to be stuff left on the cutting room floor though.
JOHN CHERNIN: There was a joke that we had in the writers’ room this season that when they moved into the new house they’d be living next to Jerry Berlin. Then we said that he had this chimpanzee, and it locked him out of the house…
DAVE CHERNIN: I don’t remember this at all!
JOHN CHERNIN: Jerry Berlin is one of those characters that we just pitched so many stories for in the writers’ room, but they just didn’t happen. A lot of our stories were holdovers from season one.
Lastly, do you both have a particular favorite episode from the course of this year?
DAVE CHERNIN: “The Divorce” I think is the best episode that we’ve ever done. I love the one where Jimmy goes to get his number retired in Warwick [“The Homecoming“]. I know that some fans aren’t crazy about that one, but I just love that it’s so different than anything else that we’ve ever done. Any time that we can prove to ourselves that the show can go to new places it’s exciting for us.
JOHN CHERNIN: More than anything though, there are just so many great individual moments because we have such a talented cast and crew. It’s just such a pleasure to be around everyone and it’s turned into such a nice little family.