Within the first few minutes of Transparent: Musicale Finale, the Pfeffermans get the devastating news: Maura has died on the operating table of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. A chorus of bewildered “what the fucks” follow, set to melody. Tambor never appears in the episode. Instead, Maura takes on a different forms, including a little girl (Zoe Van Brunt) and a weed-dealer (Shakina Nayfack) cast as Maura in a play.
The combination of grief and sudden change prompt Ari, formally Ali (Gaby Hoffman), Josh (Jay Duplass), Sarah (Amy Landecker), and Shelly (Judith Light) to make impulsive decisions.
Further, Maura’s funeral is a big Transparent reunion. Leslie Mackinaw (Cherry Jones) is back making flirtatious eyes at Ari; Tammy (Melora Hardin) is back making flirtatious eyes at Amy. Lila (Alia Shawkat) has shaved her head. Moshe (Jerry Adler), Maura’s father, flies in from Israel. Bryna (Jenny O’Hara), Maura’s estranged sister, pays her respects.
It’s undeniably satisfying to see so much unfold simultaneously. But watching the spectacle of song and old characters go by, I couldn’t help but mourn the season of Transparent that wasn’t. The slower, more nuanced season that devoted at least one meltdown to Josh becoming a grandfather, or shows Ari’s spiritual journey.
Here’s where we leave off with the Pfeffermans after one wild, musical epilogue.
Sarah has come full circle. When Transparent starts, a discontent Sarah is itching to burst from her marriage to Len (Rob Huebel). She pursues a whirlwind relationship with Tammy. When it turns out that impulsive decisions aren't the best foundation for a long-lasting relationship, she returns to Len but continues the sexual experimentation (see: acrobatic threesomes with Lila).
At the funeral, Sarah sees ex-lovers Tammy and Lila, and tells them she’s happy with Just Len now. Are we to believe her? Tammy is back with her ex, Barb (Tig Notaro), but seems to long for Sarah. She puts her hand on her cheek for a few beats too long. Barb is visibly jealous.
Sarah is also immersed in the usual Pfefferman Family Drama. She tries to establish firmer boundaries with her cloying mother, Shelley. She has to explain the Holocaust to her two children after they learn that Maura will be cremated. Transparent’s finale has a meditation on what it means to live with the generational trauma of the Holocaust, and how to speak about it to younger generations.
Josh is, dare I say it, doing alright. He’s still getting therapy for his sex addiction. Now more evolved, Josh can apologize to the women he’s wronged, including Shea (Trace Lysette).
Josh also stars in the finale’s mini love saga. After Maura dies, the Pfeffermen kids go to the Jewish summer camp where Rabbi Raquel (Kathryn Hahn) is working and ask her to be the rabbi at the funeral. But Raquel declines, as she’s forever trying to quit the Pfeffermans. But it’s obvious Josh and Raquel still have feelings for each other.
During the funeral, Josh returns to the camp to get a Torah from Raquel, and to see her again. During their own little love song, “Crazy People,” they reunite and symbolically get married. A real wedding is sure to follow.
Josh is also thrilled to find out he’s a grandpa. His long-lost son, Colton (Alex MacNicoll), shows up to Maura’s funeral with his new daughter.
Of all the Pfeffermans, Ari’s journey most resembles Maura’s. They, too, have been exploring their gender identity. After coming out as non-binary and now using they/them pronouns, they changed their name from Ali, more overtly feminine, to Ari.
For the past six months, Ari has been in Israel studying to become a priestess. They’re considering becoming a rabbi, an idea that Rabbi Raquel supports wholeheartedly.
In some kind of cosmic coincidence, Maura’s funeral falls on the same day that Ari’s bat mitzvah was planned for, before Maura let Ari cancel it so she could go to her retreat. Josh gets a Torah from Rabbi Raquel and turns the funeral into an impromptu “bart” mitzvah (the non-gendered version of the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony).
Davina (Alexandra Billings), Maura’s best friend, finds out Maura left her a house. The will also has instructions for Davina to go to the local LGBTQ+ center. There, Davina meets a bunch of kids, many of whom are estranged from their families, struggling to get by.
In response, Davina turns the sprawling L.A. house into a haven for a younger generation of LGBTQ+ youth. A new family inherits he Pfefferman household.
Upon learning her ex has died, Shelley’s first impulse is to put on a musical about her family. After years repressed, Shelley can’t contain her artistic spirit. She casts members of her improv group to play her family, much to her kids’ horror. Yet again, their mom is taking things too far.
Which brings us to the controversial final number. Is this Shelley taking things too far? Or is it in line with the show’s boundary-pushing ethos? Watch and decide for yourself.