Warning: This article contains major spoilers about the series finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
If you're reading this, you've probably just started to process the series finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Some of you, however, might be a little frustrated, because, you see, Rebecca did not end up with Greg, Nathaniel, or Josh. In fact, Rebecca didn't end up anywhere.
Instead, Rebecca finally actively learned who she is. She's not someone's one true pairing (OTP); she's a young woman whose mind is full of songs that she should probably learn how to communicate to the outside world (instead of just letting them play in her head, like she has for four seasons of this show).
After breaking up with all three suitors, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) explained to closest-thing-to-an-OTP Greg (Skylar Astin) that she didn't expect him to wait, but she needed more time to figure out this desire to become a songwriter. The series ends with no romantic resolution, and Rebecca sitting down to perform the first song she's written in front of her friends. We never hear the song. That's the end of the story, and whatever happens after the credits roll is up to interpretation. But, if you've been paying attention since season 1, says showrunner and co-creator Aline Brosh-McKenna, you probably know that's exactly where this comedic, oddball romantic comedy-musical has been headed all along.
"[The show has] always been a search for identity because [Rebecca Bunch is] someone who tries on these other kinds of disguises, so her figuring out what her passion is ... and what she loves, and what she wants to do with her life was always the primary goal," the showrunner told a group of reporters at CW headquarters in Burbank, CA. Essentially, Crazy Ex has never actually been about finding the one, so of course Rebecca didn't do that. Brosh-McKenna and co-creator Rachel Bloom have always known what Rebecca's final realization, and final words, would be. (How very Gilmore Girls of them.)
Brosh-McKenna knows she's just upset the shippers of the Crazy Ex fandom (Team Greg, especially), but in the real world, where actual women live, the declaration of romantic love isn't actually the ending of anything, so that couldn't be this particular series' end. After all, the point of the show, Brosh-McKenna reminds, is to unpack the way women, especially, have been conditioned to find their purpose in life in a romantic conclusion, especially thanks to rom-coms, musicals, and fairy tales.
"[Rebecca] has been conditioned to think that [romantic love] is going to make her fulfilled, that she's going to find the answer there," says the showrunner. "And so in the beginning of episode 15 when Josh says, 'I love you,' [right] before he says that, she's like, 'The community theater thing didn't work out, but I feel like something's there." The problem is, once the prospect of achieving that romantic goal comes back into her life, Rebecca is temporarily distracted from doing the work to figure herself out.
Which is why things aren't quite right when Rebecca momentarily decides in episode 16 that she can still entertain this idea of "meant to be." She agrees to the Bachelorette-style three-dates-with-three-guys premise as a means of choosing someone, but Brosh-McKenna notes that Rebecca still isn't the one in control. Each date is an experience that expresses who the romantic suitor is, rather than anything about who Rebecca is. Josh's (Vincent Rodriguez III) is outdoorsy and nostalgic; Nathaniel's (Scott M. Foster) is grand and a little bougie; Greg's is, well, not a real date but still utterly charming. Essentially, these romantic moments still aren't exactly about her.
But we know it's her identity and that if someone says to her, what do you do? She's going to say, "I write songs." That's huge.
"She's kind of a ride-along for those three dates. She does have wonderful moments with all of them, but they're the ones who drive that storyline," she says, referring the lead-in to the finale where Rebecca is expected to pick her one true love. But Rebecca had an amazing time with all three people. There is no clear answer like every rom-com and will-they-won't-they storyline has ever told her — and the audience — that there should be.
"She's very panicked at the beginning of [the finale] because she's feeling like something meant to be should roll out for me. None of these things are feeling meant to be, no matter how good they were, no matter in what order you rank them," she says. "That's distressing because she feels like that should be the answer."
To some extent, so do many fans. Even the ones who ultimately will come to agree with the finale might still have the nagging feeling that Rebecca should have ended up with Greg (my personal theory is that Bloom did name that character in a way that resembles her husband Gregor's name for a reason). But while the finale didn't give us a sweeping kiss, or a declaration that it's Greg, and it's always been Greg, there were some hints that betray a little bias in his favor.
"She spends the most time explaining to Greg what happened, and that's because the date at the end of their episode was probably the most kind of grounded [and] connected," she offers, adding that Greg also appears the most "distressed" of the three guys; he's the one who didn't see this conclusion coming. While Brosh-McKenna didn't betray her stance on whether or not she ships a particular suitor, that detail does seem to say quite a lot about where she and Bloom, who co-wrote the episode, stand on the matter.
Still, you can understand the series' mission to demystify the prospect of romantic love as an end-all-be-all goal and wonder that if Rebecca did the work, why didn't she get to also get the guy? Well, there was also a version of this finale, at some point, where both Bloom and Brosh-McKenna thought things could end with a bit more of a romantic bow. Ultimately, they went back to their original design.
After all, Rebecca has no idea who she is until that final moment of the series. The end of Crazy Ex is actually the beginning for Rebecca, because we don't even know if she's going to succeed or that she's even any good at songwriting. All we know is that she figured out what she wants to try to do. And getting her to the point where she could see that was the series' mission all along. She's not a crazy ex-girlfriend, or just a girl in love, or someone paralyzed by the word "crazy." She's Rebecca, the songwriter.
"Rebecca is probably going to have to own that pretzel [restaurant] for a while, before she's ever going to do anything with the music," says Brosh-McKenna. "But we know it's her identity and that if someone says to her, what do you do? She's going to say, 'I write songs.' That's huge."