The fact that Justin Suarez's official coming out is a bigger story in the fictional media than it was on last night's Ugly Betty — the show's second-to-last ever — speaks volumes about what the series is all about. It wasn't "A Very Special Episode." In fact, the Justin plotline stood right alongside other major drama (a wedding, a gunshot, a disastrous international drunk-dialing incident). And best of all, it easily fell in line with the night's overall theme: taking the plunge into the (relative) unknown.
On next week's finale, Betty may be embarking on two giant adventures: a relationship of some sort with Daniel Meade and an opportunity editing "a younger person's New Yorker" in London. Big changes? That's what this season promised, though they were certainly hastened by the show's abrupt cancellation. So far, that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing (the fewer stupid subplots about cults and clueless boyfriends, the better), and last night's brilliant hour was Betty at its razor-sharp best.
The potential Daniel-Betty romance has been looming, not because it makes sense, but because that's how the original Colombian telenovela wraps. But last night gave the plot a shred of plausibility — the idea that Daniel has fallen for the person who's become his best friend (now that she's less ugly, that is). "That's love, right? When you know somebody better than they do and you would do anything in the world to protect them," Hilda announces at her wedding. But Hilda lusted after new hubby Bobby in high school — we've yet to see that spark in Betty's eye when she looks at Daniel, though he's suddenly into giving his former assistant longing glances. His jealousy is activated when Betty's old boyfriend Henry returns (with a toddler) after Betty drunkenly invited him to the wedding when she was in London. Daniel insists Betty would be falling backwards by slipping into the comfort of the old relationship. In return, Betty chides him about his habit of dating vapid models. (Even after he had a meaningful marriage to Molly and had ostensibly changed his ways? We'll let that slip for now.)
Would a relationship with Daniel be freeing for Betty? Would any relationship? The show seems to have been making a four-season argument that Betty's relations are what's kept her from her real dreams. At breakfast with Henry and his son, you can sense her claustrophobia: She's not meant to be a part of this family. At the wedding with the Suarez crew, she finally realizes her slavish responsibility to holding people together may be self-manufactured. "Sometimes I feel like I have to take care of everyone, but look at them," she says to Daniel, observing her happy brood.
The most relieved member of the family was Justin, who comes to terms with his own sexuality and how he wants to reveal it by simply dancing with his boyfriend Austin at the wedding. Ugly Betty had already given us one calamitous coming out: Marc's heart-wrenching confrontation with his mother (Patti LuPone) in season one. And last night made clear that being gay is not an event, but a journey — thus Marc's incredible scene putting the kibosh on the Suarez clan's "yay, you're gay!" surprise party (watch the rainbow hilarity below; video of Justin's amazingly touching big moment is already spreading online).
The Suarez family, though it's stifling, is at least aware that the truth can set you free. The show's other major bloodline, the Meades, is still suffering the perils of deception. By trying to embrace the son she gave up for adoption — without being fully honest with him — Claire has driven Tyler to Wihelmina Slater in full-on evil mode. Drunk and confused, Tyler agrees to demand his share of the Meade fortune and to sell those shares to Willie. Drunk, confused, and enraged, he finds a gun in Willie's house and shows up at the office, discovering Willie reaching out to Claire in a moment of last-second desperation. There's a scramble and a gunshot and no Wilhelmina in the preview for the finale. Betty hopefully knows better than to kill off its best character one hour from its conclusion — we hope.
And one more story line inches closer to resolution: The episode welcomes Mad Men's Bryan Batt as Amanda's first styling client, a gay actor who comes to the wedding to get set up with Marc (Amanda introduces them: "silver fox, purple ferret") and reveals he has a Tweety tattoo on his hip, a.k.a the mark of Amanda's "real father." Knowing who your family is on Betty is an important but mixed blessing; knowing yourself is the key. Next week: All is revealed (we think?)!
EW's Tanner Stransky calls out the night's snappiest lines, including the one that leads to a Claire-Willie cat-fight: "Isn’t that the pickled lush calling the kettle black?"
The L.A. Times' Maria Elena Fernandez dissects Justin's coming-out scene, complete with wise-beyond-his-years quotes from 15-year-old actor Mark Indelicato.
Rickey.org's Noelle shouts out Michael Urie's awesome moments, including his unexpected bit of praise for "lost" work boyfriend Troy: "Hey! Nice jeans! They really make your package pop!"