You can always count on Ryan Murphy for high drama, sharp jawlines, and envious aesthetics. In Hollywood, Murphy's second high-profile series for Netflix, the creator has recruited a new ensemble (featuring just a handful of old favourites) to tell an idealized version of what could happened in Tinseltown if enough people stood up to racism, homophobia, and sexism in the industry.
Darren Criss, The Politician star David Corenswet, and double Tony nominee Jeremy Pope star alongside Laura Harrier, Samara Weaving, and Jake Picking. Alongside the young faces are stage and screen veterans like Patti LuPone, Dylan McDermott, Holland Taylor, Joe Mantello, and Jim Parsons in a few major roles. People like Mira Sorvino, Rob Reiner, Paget Brewster, and Queen Latifah show up, too — both as famous figures in film history (like Anna May Wong, Hattie McDaniel, Vivien Leigh, Rock Hudson) and entirely invented characters.
They all converge thanks to a biopic about Peg Entwistle, the real-life woman who died by suicide after jumping off the Hollywood sign in 1932. This is a Ryan Murphy show, so of course there are plenty of legendary actresses and fun cameos in addition to the usual cast of pretty young people with high cheekbones. It's an alternate Hollywood history of sorts, but has much happier endings than, say, Quentin Tarantino's work in the genre.
Basically: Imagine a world in which the blatant racism, homophobia, and sexism of a century ago actually began to dissipate instead of percolate into different insidious forms — set against a Hollywood Regency backdrop and played out with the help of some absolutely stunning costumes.
And while this is a fantasy, it's a very, very pretty one to watch, filled with compelling performances. So without further ado, let's dive into this immersive, glamorous world.
Episode 1, "Hooray for Hollywood"
Jack Castello (David Corenswet, aka the guy you and Ben Platt's Payton thirsted over in The Politician) is a corn-fed World War II veteran seemingly cast from marble (that jawline!). He's moved with his young wife, Henrietta (Maude Apatow), to make it in Hollywood. The problem: He doesn't know anyone, and can't get his foot in the door at the casting cattle calls outside the ACE Studios gates.
As one casting director (played by Feud's Alison Wright) explains, men like him with a pretty face and no training are a dime a dozen. Dejected, Jack heads to a bar where he meets Ernie (Dylan McDermott in an amazing wig, having a fantastic time chomping on a cigar), who essentially hits on him then offers him a job at his service station. Why does he need hot guys to pump gas? Well, naturally, it's because he envisions "a new kind of America," like the one Jack fought for in the war.
After one more day of being looked over at the gates and going home to his pregnant wife sitting in the dark because their electricity's been cut, he takes Ernie up on his offer.
But, of course, Ernie didn't want a man with those piercing blue eyes just to pump gas. Golden Tip Gas is a front for Ernie's brothel, which, honestly, should've been obvious from the name. Jack doesn't want to cheat on his wife, but when a customer drives up and says she wants to go to Dreamland, he hops in the car and drives off — and it turns out to be Patti LuPone looking absolutely stunning in a leopard print ensemble.
They head to a hotel, where Jack explains that he moved to Los Angeles to become a movie star. Avis tells him that she was once a silent film star, but was told she was "a little Jewy" and "ethnic" once the talkies came along. She instead married and had a baby with a low-level exec, who'd risen up the ranks to become the boss instead. The best part of their exchange comes when Jack asks if Avis wants an honest answer about why he wants to be a movie star. She tells him, "Well, we're about to get naked and fuck each other, so why not?"
The woe-is-me answer is that because this man is so hot, everyone has thought he was dumb his whole life, so he wants to prove 'em wrong. So sorry for this man and his beautiful face! She's there because her husband won't touch her anymore, and she wants to make him jealous. Then she watches him strip down, and, like, wouldn't we all watch with that same intensity? Then he goes downtown. It's what Patti LuPone deserves!
Back at the Golden Tip, Jack is upset when his next customer is a guy. A guy who, Ernie informs him, is actually Cole Porter. "If you can't walk into a shed and lend a hand for national treasure Cole Porter, then you better find me somebody who can," he says. Just a reminder, this is a very lofty sentiment about, like, hand jobs.
But after a doctor informs Jack and Henrietta that they're having twins, Jack decides to take matters into his own hands: He rents a cop costume, goes to a theatre where men are known to cruise for customers, and convinces one guy giving a hand job (lotta hand jobs here!) that he's a cop. But instead of fake-arresting him, Jack brings him to a diner to discuss why he's turning tricks in the first place.
Turns out the entrepreneurial Archie (Jeremy Pope) is a screenwriter who sold his script about Peg Entwistle for $100, but since he's black he won't be put under contract and needs the money. "Why not get paid for something that feels good if you were going to do it anyway?" he asks. When Jack offers him a job hustling at the gas station for better pay and in a safer environment, Archie realizes he's not a cop, but he also takes Jack up on the offer.
Archie's first customer is another square-jawed, corn-fed guy: Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking), a nervous twentysomething from Winnetka, Illinois who came out to L.A. to connect with his father (no dice) and become an actor. The reason he goes to the Golden Tip is because he has to stay in the closet in order to find work as an actor. Archie knows his struggle, since there haven't been many black writers in Hollywood.
Jack, meanwhile, is hard at work (we know this thanks to a montage of him banging a lot of women). He eventually bangs a woman in casting at ACE, and at the next cattle call he finally gets picked. Happy with all the money he's been making and the new development in his Hollywood career, he tells Henrietta to quit her job. But later, a woman tries to pay him in cash. He brushes her off and tells her to pay Ernie, but she convinces him to accept a tip — a bad idea, because she then reveals she's an undercover cop and arrests him.
Episode 2, "Hooray for Hollywood, Part II"
Jack gets booked, and back at work Avis invites him to Bugsy Siegel's estate sale in Beverly Hills. At the auction, he tells her that he can't stay out all night because he has a screen test in the morning at ACE Studios. He's in luck, though: "my husband IS ACE Studios," Avis says, and then he absolutely rails her on a stairway.
Meanwhile, young director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) visits screen legend Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec) to inquire about casting her in a movie he wants to make called Angel of Shanghai. She's skeptical because of the way the town has treated her in the past, but he explains that he's half Asian and doesn't want to conceal that side of his heritage anymore, and he has a meeting at ACE Pictures to discuss it.
On the studio lot, he heads to the commissary where his actress girlfriend Camille (Laura Harrier) is eating lunch. They kiss — a bit of a scandal, since she is black and he is white-presenting, but no one makes a huge fuss — and discuss her biggest competition among her fellow contract actresses: Claire (Samara Weaving). At Raymond's meeting, he pitches his film and explains that he wants to resurrect Anna May Wong's career after she was passed over for a role in The Good Earth despite being the best for the role (this bit of history is real: Wong lost the role to white actress Luise Rainer, who won her second Oscar for playing the poor Chinese farmer). The studio exec Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) knows how painful the decision was since he wanted to cast Wong, but despite Raymond's idealistic speech about wanting to change the world, Samuels says "maybe next time" and tells him to pick from a pile of scripts instead.
Jack's screen test is bad — very, very bad — but casting exec Ellen Kincaid (Holland Taylor) sees something in him anyway. He's got star power and she has a feeling about him; Kincaid discovered Judy Garland and Lana Turner so Samuels should trust her. He reminds her that he found Vivien Leigh, but lets her take Jack on as her pet project anyway.
Ellen is not only in charge of the contract players, she also gives them acting classes. Camille and Claire are the star pupils in her latest lecture, about the origins of the Mid-Atlantic accent prevalent in so many old movies; it was made up to add a little refinement to the flat American dialect. Camille gets plucked from class for a role in a picture, but it turns out it's just as a maid, and the director wants her to "make it more funny" (read: perpetuate a racist stereotype).
While Raymond and Camille make love (and he tells her how in love with her he is), Jack is busy banging random ladies at work. Henrietta suspects that he's cheating, and confronts him — but a pain in her stomach brings her to the hospital, where a doctor tells him to stop screwing around on her.
Having chosen Archie's movie Peg as his favourite script, Raymond meets with the writer to discuss the project. Over martinis at real-life Hollywood hot spot Musso and Frank's, Raymond pitches his ideas and asks Archie why he wrote about a white girl. Archie makes his own idealistic speech about the effects of the industry on the people trying to make it, and Raymond explains how he wants to change the industry so people who are on the outside can make the decisions. He knows the struggle, since he's half Asian. But he can pass as white, Archie notes, which is what Camille always tells Raymond, too. Mr. Samuels at the studio probably doesn't even know that Archie is black (they've never met in person), and he stares wistfully into the mirror behind the bar as he soliloquizes about being taken seriously as simply a writer, not a black writer. His struggle mirrors Camille's; when she asks to read for a new part, she's told that she can't because it's a "white role."
Back at the gas station, Roy returns because he can't stop thinking about Archie. Turns out the feeling is mutual, since Archie hasn't even asked Ernie to collect payment at all. Roy wants to be Archie's boyfriend, since the town is lonely and it would be nice if they had each other to lean on, but Archie isn't quite ready for that. They run lines for Roy's audition the next day and Archie gives him some key notes.
Roy has a meeting with major Hollywood agent Henry Willson (Jim Parsons), who decides to sign him because he knows within 30 seconds if somebody has what it takes to be a star. Roy clearly does, but first he has to work on his physique, his tan, and his voice, and also change his name to Rock Hudson. This dramatic reveal shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows the real-life history; Willson was a real person who actually did "discover" Rock Hudson. But that stardom comes at a price: "First I need to suck your cock. It's my thing. I gotta do it," he tells Roy, who reluctantly accepts the order.
Samuels greenlights Raymond's pitch for Peg, the only good script he'd read, then Raymond delivers the bad news to Wong. He'll make Angel of Shanghai next, he promises, but she knows that's a pipe dream and it'll never get made because she can't pass. "I'm going to change that," Raymond tells her.
Thanks to a tip from Claire, Jack learns about Peg and the role of the main character's love interest. When he runs into Archie and Raymond on the lot, he pitches himself for the role as they walk to lunch — where they run into Ellen and Avis, having lunch. Of course they pretend not to know each other, but what, exactly, is Avis doing on the lot?
Episode 3, "Outlaws"
It's a party episode! Ernie informs his boys at the gas station that they've been bought out for a party that weekend, and everyone's expected to show up for their $100 pay, plus tips. The occasion turns out to be a dinner with Vivien Leigh, though typically, the ladies leave early so the closeted men can party with Ernie's boys. Jack doesn't want to do it, but Ernie informs him that it's his duty because it's unfair that these men have to live their lives in the closet and if Jack were in their position, he'd understand.
Roy and Archie bond more over breakfast — no one has cooked a meal for Roy since he was about five years old, because his mom wasn't well and his stepfather didn't care — and he wonders if he made a mistake in acquiescing to Henry. Archie doesn't think so, because he understands that people have to hustle to make their dreams come true.
Roy is also going to read for the part of Peg's love interest, but after reading with Archie he doesn't understand why he can't automatically get the part. Archie has bad news: He's only the writer, which means he’s the least powerful person in Hollywood. More powerful is Henry, who dresses Roy down for showing up to a meeting late, says some repulsive things about being ready for him sexually, and forces him to come over to his house if he really wants that screen test for Peg. Henry doesn't actually force himself on Roy at home, though, instead performing a drag dance while wearing lots of silks in his mid-century modern home and "making spoons" fully clothed overnight.
When Jack inquires with Ellen about the love interest role, she says he not only needs to be the best, he also needs to network to be able to compete with the powerful Henry Willson's newest client. She invites him to dinner that weekend — the same dinner Jack was supposed to be working.
Claire also wants to audition for Peg, and it turns out she has the biggest in of anyone: Avis is her mother, and her father is Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner), the head of ACE Pictures. They're vehemently against her becoming an actress, and only allowed her to sign a contract and take classes because they thought she'd find it too difficult, meet a guy like Dick Samuels, and get married. But Ace grants her a screen test anyway, hoping she'll come to her own realization that she doesn't have what it takes.
Camille, who's been trying to make her maid role her own, gets rebuffed for a note she has on the script. She does it anyway, and gets in a ton of trouble even though the star Jeane Crandall (Mira Sorvino) tells her it really was better her way. Later, at home, she tells Raymond she wants to audition for Peg and, while they're having sex, explains that if Peg were actually a black woman named Meg, it would be a parable about how Hollywood treats outsiders instead of a run of the mill biography. This — and the sex, of course — get Raymond very excited
Then it’s finally time for the party, which is unsurprisingly fun, messy, and filled with real-life figures, including Vivien Leigh (Katie McGuinness), Tallulah Bankhead (Paget Brewster), Henry, and Rock — as well as Jack, Ellen, and Avis. Ernie shows up with the boys as the ladies are leaving, and Jack tells him he doesn't want to work since he was actually invited to the party as a guest. Ernie is having none of it, and forces him to get to work.
The event is largely about networking: Rock tells Raymond he wants to audition for Peg; Samuels agrees to give Rock a screen test; Raymond runs into Archie on his way out. Archie informs Raymond of his side job at the gas station and Raymond is very chill with him doing what he has to in order to get by, though Rock is jealous. But alongside the business dealings is full on hedonism: People jumping in the pool fully clothed, banging in the open, and walking around naked.
Jack tries to get Henry to sign him, and as Claire sneakily follows them to a quiet spot, Henry tells him to drop trou and let him "suck it." Jack doesn't want to cheat on his wife, but he realizes he doesn't love her. He goes home to Henrietta, who tells him she loves him, and he cries as they head to bed.
Meanwhile, Dick has stuck around watching the action and finds himself in a room with Rock, who starts to undress. Dick stops him, asks his real name, and says that he's been hiding his true self for his whole career and doesn't want Rock to become him. "Don't let Henry do anything to you. Whatever he's been doing, don't let him do it to you anymore," he says before telling Rock that he regrets what's happened between them. Rock says nothing happened, and Dick is the first good man he's met in Hollywood. Rock stalks off to find Archie with a client (played by Lord of The Rings’ Billy Boyd), and tells him he wants to dance. He doesn't care who sees them because he's in love.
When Raymond gets home, he tells Camille she was right and that he's sorry it took him so long to realize she was perfect for the part. The next morning, he tells Dick and Ellen that he's half Filipino and was ashamed of hiding it, and he doesn't want to play it safe anymore so they should let Camille test for the role — he won't direct Peg if she doesn't. Ellen and Dick know he's right, so they let her test. Dick didn't fight for Anna May Wong, but he wants to fight now.
Rock tells Henry that he doesn't want to hide in the closet anymore. Henry opens up about his onetime boyfriend who was killed in a car crash, and pledges to fight to make Rock a star — and also his screen test is Friday morning. But his emotion was all a lie, because he opens a door and there are two dudes in their underwear waiting for Henry and Rock to join them. Surprise!
Episode 4, "(Screen) Tests"
In a big studio meeting, Ellen and Dick pitch Peg as an Oscar movie to Ace, who doesn't care about getting any more accolades. He just wants more money and "tits, sword and sandal, and you can throw a picture in with a boy and a dog." Dick says he'll make all of the above just as long as they can also make Peg, so Ace gives them a small budget to move forward.
In a smaller conference room, Raymond and Camille are pitching her idea for Meg to Archie, who is wary of making a movie that won't necessarily appeal to a white audience. Ace bursts in and is shocked when he discovers Archie is black, and later Dick has to break the news to Archie that the studio wants to take his name off the picture.
Ace heads to a fancy hotel in Palm Springs, where Jeane is there waiting for him. Three pumps into their extramarital affair, and Ace collapses from a heart attack. At the hospital, Dick tells Avis and Claire that Ace's "extracurriculars" are being kept under wraps and a lawyer informs them that Avis is now in charge of the studio and all business and financial decisions. Apparently, promoting Dick would look too much like a changing of the guard, which isn't what they want while Ace is in a coma. Later, Avis meets with Jeane, who confesses that she and Ace had been having an affair for a decade, and promises she will resign from her contract. Avis tells her to relax, she's not angry because otherwise she'd be a hypocrite (let’s not forget who started this series hooking up with the handsome young man at the “gas station”).
Our four main actors — Jack, Rock, Camille, and Claire — prepare for their screen tests, with the girls primping while the guys work out in short shorts. Claire and Jack read together while Henry helps Rock rehearse — and things don't look great for the guy, who seems like a real dummy. Elsewhere, Raymond runs lines with Camille. Archie bursts in to tell him his name is being removed from the film. "Fuck these white people in charge," he says — Camille should fight for the role.
As Avis heads in to review the screen test footage, Henry blackmails her into casting Rock. But as she, Dick, and Ellen watch the auditions, it's clear Rock is terrible, Claire makes a weird choice (seemingly on purpose and in hopes of relinquishing the role to Camille), and Camille cries on cue and enraptures everyone. Avis wants to cast Rock anyway, but then sees Jack's test and is genuinely delighted when he's actually good; she decides to cast him instead. And though it hurts her to admit it, Claire's a pretty great actress who could play Peg. She notes that Camille is better, but "not right for the role." Ellen and Dick fight for Camille, but Avis doesn't want to take the risk of putting a woman of colour in a leading role. Still, it’s clear that part of her wants to make a revolutionary move.
Next thing we know, Jack gets the part and quits the service station, but the decision between Claire and Camille isn't as easy for Avis. At a luncheon with Eleanor Roosevelt (Harriet Harris), Avis tells the former first lady about her casting dilemma. Roosevelt then tours ACE Studios, where she tells the execs all about the civil rights movement in the south and how she thinks it would be inspiring for all young black women to see Camille as the lead.
"So, what are you going to do?" Samuels asks Avis.
Episode 5, "Jump"
Avis, sitting in an incredible rust-coloured silk and fur robe, has made her decision: "We're making Meg.”
Jack celebrates, and Raymond jumps into the bath fully clothed to tell Camille she has the part. His next stop is to tell Archie that it's going to be called Meg and his name will stay on the picture. Claire tells her mother that she did the right thing and she's proud of her, and Avis admits Claire is a better actress than she ever was. As a result, Avis going to put her in the picture as Meg's best friend.
Hattie McDaniel (Queen Latifah), who was the first woman of colour to win an Oscar for playing “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind, reads about Camille's casting in the trades, and calls the young actress to congratulate her. As a woman who knows firsthand how cruel people can be to a black actress in the spotlight, Hattie warns Camille that it will be rough and to reach out if she needs advice or help. Her worries are founded, as someone calls to threaten Camille almost immediately after they speak.
But life rolls on and a famous photographer does a glamorous photo shoot with Camille and Jack (who agrees to some gratuitous nudity — thanks, Ryan Murphy!). At the studio, Avis informs everyone she will not be bullied out of making this movie; they will try to do everything as cheaply as possible to mitigate any potential losses when theatres in the South inevitably refuse to play the film. As a means of saving money, contract player Jeane gets a role. Raymond casts Anna May Wong in a meaty supporting role; it wasn’t the role he originally promised her, but it’s a good one. Henry continues to be a monster and berate Rock, even though he too got a role in Meg, as a gas station attendant of all things. Then it’s time for the table read, where it’s clear movie magic is being made. But that good feeling doesn’t last: Later, Dick Samuels gives some harsh notes on the whole film to Raymond and Archie over a long meal at Musso and Frank's.
His major feedback isn’t exactly wrong, though: Peg is the trope of a white woman who tries to have it all and can't get it so she kills herself, but that doesn't work if the main character is a black woman who fights and fights only to fail and then die by suicide. They decide to change the ending so she doesn’t jump — she'll climb up, have her moment of crisis, then choose to climb back down and take her boyfriend's hand. It shows that she's pushed to the brink and overcomes it, which Archie and Raymond have to admit makes for a much better movie.
Unfortunately there are other obstacles in Meg's way: A magazine has the intel that Jack was arrested for solicitation, so the studio calls in Henry to fix it. And fix he does, thanks to some mafia goons. In exchange, he becomes a producer with an even higher credit than Dick.
As production gets underway, the crew builds just the "H" of the Hollywoodland sign — because they can't get permission to film at the real one — but there's a major problem: There’s no scaffolding for Meg to climb up and down, which is kind of a problem thanks to the rewrite Dick asked for. Raymond demands the crew build scaffolding, budget be damned, which pisses off Dick. That 25k overage? It’s now Raymond’s responsibility. He’s broke, so Raymond asks the guys to go back to work at the gas station and everyone, minus Jack, is happy to get to it.
And she may be running a studio, but Avis is also making time for some matchmaking: She suggests to Ellen that it could be time to settle down, and that maybe her best friend and closest colleague Dick — who is also single — would be a great candidate. Ellen plans a dinner and makes her move, but he rebuffs her advances and she feels embarrassed, sure that she’s ruined their friendship. He lovingly kisses her cheek and tells her she could never, and steps outside into the rain and cries. He heads to a gay bar for the first time in his life, where he meets a handsome man who congratulates him on making it through the door for the first time.
Jack, who refused to help Raymond raise money out of respect to his wife, confronts Henrietta about the man he saw her flirting with at the drugstore. And shocker, she confesses that the babies are actually the drugstore man’s, not Jack’s. In fact, she’s leaving him and moving to Indiana to help take over her new beau’s family's hardware store. While Jack is clearly the injured party here, Henrietta does note that he’s been pretty self involved: He should've known all along that the babies weren't his, since they were conceived in February and they hadn't had sex that month. Still, Jack is dejected and he goes to Archie and Rock's place to sleep on the couch.
Episode 6, "Meg"
The danger Hattie warned Camille about has begun. At their mansion Claire bursts into Avis' room and cries that their house is on fire, but it turns out the flames came from a burning cross on their front lawn. There was one at Raymond and Camille's place too, and Archie and Rock got a molotov cocktail through their bedroom window. Ace's lawyer bursts in to say that production must be shut down, but Avis stands up to him and lets him know that by the time he gets the proper legal papers in order, the picture will already be in the can.
Ernie wants his boys to be able to make their picture without any possible flack for having done sex work to fund it, so he hires some extra help and makes the money himself. As a thank you, Raymond and Archie give him a role in the film. Ernie's thrilled, and gets wistful about when he came out to Hollywood with a dream. It took him almost 30 years but it's finally coming true. Ellen coaches him to make the performance better, and some sparks fly between the unlikely pair.
Jack gets some closure when he visits Henrietta in the hospital to see the babies and say goodbye. They're parting on good terms, and they're both genuinely happy that the other got what they wanted (her, a husband and a family; him, a career as a movie star).
Now we see scenes from the movie: Jack rushing into a bar (where Rock is the bartender) and Claire, Meg's best friend, drunkenly telling him that Meg had two drinks and left after asking how to get to the Hollywood sign. Jack runs after Meg as she climbs up the sign, and there's a fake ending with her jumping, but instead, she comes down and they tearfully embrace. It's very emotional, but then Jack asks to cut. He's sorry, he knows he wasn't supposed to cry, but Raymond's like "WTF, why did you stop, this is great" — so they go right back in and finish the scene.
Everybody watches a cut, and Henry says he thinks something's off about the ending. Maybe there should be a fun Esther Williams-esque swimming number? And Raymond's editor says that's the worst idea he's ever heard.
Meanwhile, Claire consoles Jack about losing his wife and babies, while Archie tells Roy he wants to move in together and officially be boyfriends. He didn't want to before because he didn't see a future together, but after making Meg he totally does.
Everyone's pretty pleased with themselves, but things don't stay idyllic for long when Ace wakes up. As he heads back to work, he tells Avis that she did a great job — but she needs to head home now. The lawyer and all the suits tell Ace what a mess Meg is making things (people in the South are threatening to boycott), and that if he cancels its release everything will go back to normal. But he goes and watches a cut of it, and it's fantastic.
Ace tells Dick that he's seen the picture and it's great, but he still has not decided whether to release it. Dick tells him that if he doesn't, he'll resign and give an interview about exactly how everything went down at the studio. He'll be kind to Avis, but he won't pull punches. All Ace has ever done is take credit for his work. "I defended you when everyone was calling you a fag," Ace says, but guess what, Dick says: "I'm a fag, and now I'm not afraid and I met someone and I am happy for the first time." If he releases Meg he could go bankrupt, but if he doesn't he'll ruin Ace.
In the Amberg house, Avis tells Ace that she won't be pushed back into the kitchen anymore. She wants to co-chair ACE Pictures — and Ace tells her that she did a great job and earned the position. Meg is amazing, and he's happy to give her the job and also to give their marriage another go.
The next morning, Avis is humming about what a great night she had — Claire knows, she heard them all night long — and heads upstairs to bring Ace breakfast in bed. But when she finds him unresponsive, she realizes he'd died in the night.Henry, meanwhile, is working with his own editor to figure out what's wrong with the ending of the film. Betrayal is afoot. He watches a scene with Anna May Wong telling Meg that everything is smoke and mirrors, and says that the problem is that he doesn't understand why Meg would decide to die by suicide. They need to re-shoot a quiet scene with Meg so the audience understands why she makes that decision — and not just because she got cut out of the movie — and Raymond agrees with his idea. But cops burst into the room and seize the film — Ace is dead, so the lawyer who was against Meg's release can do that — and the final shot of the episode shows the film reels burning in an incinerator.
Episode 7, "A Hollywood Ending"
It seems that all is lost. Ace's casket is being lowered into the ground, meanwhile, Archie, Jack, and Raymond mourn the loss of their film, too. Yes, Avis is in charge again, but there's no way they can get the money to remake the film. Hope is dead. Or is it?
Just then, Raymond's experienced editor appears at the funeral. He tells Raymond an oddly timed story about cunnilingus, but that’s not why he really pulled the director aside. Miracle of all miracles, the editor opens his trunk and sitting in the back is a safety print of Meg that he made before Henry started messing with it. We’re in for a real Hollywood ending after all.
The next day, everyone gathers in Avis's office for a champagne toast. Ellen and Dick present their new, groundbreaking Meg release plan to mitigate the fact that the theatres in the South won't play the film. Dick suggests a never-before-done "wide release" in more than 600 theatres, and Ellen says they'll lower the price by 5 cents a ticket so people who wouldn't have been able to afford it before will pack theatres. Helen plants a story about the film with gossipmonger Hedda Hopper, and Avis greenlights a new movie written by Archie and directed by Raymond. In a few weeks, she says, they'll either be the smartest people in Hollywood or they'll never work again. They cheers to never working again!
A little while later, Ernie's in bed telling his latest conquest to come back. Surprise: It's Ellen! He's never had feelings for any woman he's been with other than his late wife, until Ellen. He tells her he loves her, but since she's his gal he has to tell her something he's never told anyone: His smoker's cough is actually cancer.
This is all happening so fast, but the finale keeps on trucking.
We find Claire and Jack happy and lounging in bed together, but he gets tearful as he tries to confess that he, uh, had sex with her mother way back when this all started. She already knew, since she and Avis are close now. Yeah, Avis was not pleased before, but it's alright now because she’s realized that these two Meg actors being an item is good PR for the movie. But just when we think everything is fine, Avis screams. Claire and Jack rush into her home office expecting something awful, but gotcha! Avis informs them that Meg has broken all the records and it's the biggest hit in seven years. Clearly, we’re jumping through time at breakneck speed in this finale.
Some time after Avis’ news, Camille and Hattie meet for lunch at Musso and Frank's, which has now become a regular thing, and it turns out that Hattie has coached Camille all through Meg's premiere and press junkets. Oscar nominations are coming out soon, and Hattie wants Camille to campaign hard, and shamelessly for a nomination. When Oscar winner Hattie was nominated she couldn't even go to the ceremony because of the colour of her skin, we learn as a flashback shows her being barred by a random usher. Apparently, she was only (eventually) shuffled into the back of the auditorium because someone got a tip that she was about to win. But despite her Oscar, nothing changed — better roles never came her way. I sincerely hope you’re paying attention at this point of the episode, because a huge chunk of what comes next is a direct response to this quick lunch conversation.
The morning of the nominations arrives and everyone gets a phone call: Camille, Jack, Anna, Archie, and Raymond are all nominated, and the film is nominated for Best Picture. Archie laments that all his life he thought he knew what his country was, but not anymore — in a good way. It emboldens him to make a big decision: Minutes later, Archie tearfully tells Avis that he's going to bring Rock as his date to the ceremony. Although Avis warns that Rock will likely never work again and expresses her fear of ensuing violence and protests that would endanger them, Archie is determined to do it anyway.
At the Oscars ceremony, the crowd of booers aren’t the only people upset about seeing Rock and Archie holding hands: Henry is losing it at the sight of his biggest client coming out on the red carpet. Rock doesn't care because he doesn't want to be like Henry, and promptly fires him.
Just like Hattie warned, Camille is stopped as she tries to head for her front-row seat, but Jack and Claire jump to her defence. But Camille tells them she doesn't need them to fight her battles, and dresses down the usher who tried to stop her and claims her rightful seat in the front row.
And the hits keep coming. Anna wins an Oscar for her role in Meg, Jack doesn't — but he reads his speech to everyone anyway, in which he proposes to Claire. He promises he was going to do it on stage in front of everyone (damn, dude!), and she says “yes.”
The fairytale continues as Archie wins his screenwriting Oscar. As he stands up to walk to the stage he kisses Rock in front of everyone, to some more booing. But he keeps moving forward and in his speech, talks about how much he loves his boyfriend and that his win is proof to everyone who's been othered that people do want to hear their stories. Next, Raymond wins, and then so does Camille. After her tearful acceptance speech about what this moment means to young black girls, she has a brief moment with Hattie, who congratulates her for breaking through the barriers that held her back.
Naturally, after all those successes, Meg wins Best Picture.
As everyone poses for triumphant photos holding their new statues, Avis tells Archie she's extending his contract for five years and paying him double, and tells him to write whatever he wants. Love and hope wins! In 1947!
A year later, a now-sober Henry tries to apologize and make amends with Rock for all the awful things he’s done to him. Rock doesn't think he can, and Henry understands, but says now that he's in recovery and a real, loving relationship, he wants to make it up to Rock. We’ll have to wait a minute to find out how, though, because everybody gathers at a funeral where Ellen is eulogizing. Oh no. But it's not her new love Ernie's; it turns out Dick had been diagnosed with cancer and died. His partner — the handsome man he met in the bar that fateful night — also speaks about their love. After the funeral, Henry pitches Avis his idea for a film, starring Rock and featuring Hollywood’s first same-sex love story. Later — apparently much later — Henry visits Ernie at the gas station, where he compliments the former gigolo about all the acting work he's been getting. Henry's heard the station is for sale and Ernie hasn't been feeling good, but then someone yells at them for getting in the way of a shot — surprise! It turns out that it's the first day of production on ACE Pictures' latest film, another Raymond-Archie collaboration featuring two men as the central couple: It’s called Dreamland. As Raymond calls action, Jack pulls up in a car and asks to go to Dreamland. A handsome attendant played by Rock hops in, and they drive off into the metaphorical sunset together.