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Ugly Betty Series-Finale Recap: Ready Steady Go

After four seasons of struggles, breakups, murders, kidnappings, extortion attempts, and fashion emergencies, the cast of Ugly Betty damn well earned a happy ending — and that's exactly what creator Silvio Horta gave them last night on the series finale. The show has been praised throughout its run for its exploration of gay, immigration, and class issues through a Latino lens, but the last episode got a bit more granular. It was about courage, self-determination, and, above all, happiness. The episode was titled "Hello Goodbye," but it could have been named after perhaps the most iconic Beatles sentiment: "All You Need Is Love."

Fans loved Ugly Betty because it was both aspirational and relatable. The show was as stylish as the world it emulated, keeping viewers on their toes with creative wipes and clever split-screen cuts. The sets were vibrant, pace dizzying, fashions fierce, insults hilarious, and haircuts ever-changing (we're looking at you, Marc St. James). And there was a hearty realism pulsing below the surrealism: For every cartoonish bit of slapstick or over-the-top conspiracy, there was a kernel of everywoman truth. In many ways, Betty was brilliant, though it couldn’t always live up to its own high standards.

The one-hour finale easily could have been longer, meaning some plotlines went unresolved. Claire Meade's found son Tyler doesn't have any lines, though he squeezes Daniel's shoulder in solidarity, quietly indicating they'd patched things up. There was no sign of Wilhelmina Slater's scorned daughter Nico, or Daniel's transgender sister Alexis.

But we did learn the fate of Wilhelmina, who was the closest to the gun that went off at the end of last episode: She's in a very fashionable coma. When Willie awakens to the sight of true love Connor — he convinced a prison guard to bring him in for a visit — she pronounces herself "a completely changed woman." She wavers only briefly after being riled by Claire, who offers her money to deny Tyler's involvement in the shooting. But when the time comes to speak to the press (thanks to Betty for a few final moments with Suzuki St. Pierre), she takes Marc's advice and quits her mean streak, taking the blame herself. We leave her with Connor, plotting — less evilly — to get him out of jail.

Betty sticks to her guns, so to speak, too. She accepted a big editor job in London, and now she has to make her decision a reality. The first hurdle is telling Daniel; the second is coming to terms with leaving her ever-present family behind. The latter task is complicated by Hilda and Bobby's plan to move out of Ignacio's house in Queens. Ultimately, though, their choices are clear. "You deserve to be happy," Betty tells her sister. "You're all about risk," Justin, who's still dating Austin, informs Betty. "It helps to see you be so brave. It kind of raises the bar for the rest of us." And Ignacio likens Betty's move to his own immigration story and encourages her to be bold, because he wants his family "to live their lives the way they want." Cue the tissues.

There was more "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" on the table as Daniel struggled with the idea of his former assistant leaving him. What's really behind his freak-out? Does he have romantic feelings for Betty as his mom (and the original, Colombian Ugly Betty) suggests? Is he troubled by her nerve? Inspired by it? The show does a fine job of finally letting Daniel's character breathe and react. He's a rich boy who never had to prove himself and who's enamored with a poor girl who climbed the ladder via tenacity and kindness. That epiphany leads him to hand Mode over to Wilhelmina and proclaim he's "going to start over." And in one of the most moving scenes of the season, he watches Betty gleefully dancing with Marc and Amanda at her farewell party and makes a wrenching decision: "I think I need to let her go." (See the tear-jerking clip below).

Before she can leave, though, Betty has to bid farewell to Amanda and Marc, the show's two not-so-secret weapons. Amanda's dog Halston dies, and she discovers her gay actor client Spencer is actually her father (for a good final giggle, read Amanda's good-bye blog). Marc decides to pursue office crush Troy and learns he'll finally be a creative crutch — not just an evil gopher — for Willie.

When it's time for Betty to go, it's clear the actors' tears are genuine. And they have good reason to feel pride and sadness: Betty accomplished a lot, and so did Betty. As she puts on new wire-framed glasses and speeds away, the old Betty — poncho, braces, gawky haircut and all — is superimposed over the sleek new version to show how far she's come. When America Ferrera pops out of the Tube in London (in a moment quite similar to her final scene in Real Women Have Curves), she struts around to Generation X's "Ready Steady Go" like the fierce, independent, adventurous woman she is. When she unexpectedly runs into Daniel, who's clearly come to England to pursue her, she plays it remarkably cool.

The show thankfully leaves their romantic prospects TBD and gives us one last look at Betty heading off into the bustling city — on her own. When the show's logo appears onscreen, "Ugly" fades away, leaving simply Betty. She's gonna make it after all.


More Recaps:
Rickey.org's Noelle celebrates Wilhelmina's awesome final words to our heroine: "You’ve got big balls, Betty Suarez."
EW's Tanner Stransky counts down the episode's best quips and notes that the finale echoed the pilot, wrapping up Betty in a sweet little package (Marc would have something funny to say about that).

Photo: Courtesy of ABC