We’ve reached the finale. The tensions between all members of the Pfefferman clan and those Pfeff-adjacent have come to their boiling points. Now would be the perfect time for them all to be forced together by some momentous life occasion, like, say, a funeral. Oh, look: a funeral!
Ed is dead. His body is draped with white linen as “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart plays. The use of music on this show has so wonderfully contributed to the tone of each episode that they all feel like pieces of moving art. This choice mirrors the end of the pilot episode with “Operator” by Jim Croce performed by the members of Glitterish.
Maura is in a black dress, getting ready with Davina. Ali wears a suit, an interesting choice and maybe foreshadowing more gender confusion. Sarah, Tammy, and their kids are also in black. Josh wears a suit, too, and walks into his living room to find that the member of Glitterish he didn’t get pregnant (Cherry Glazerr) and Bianca are singing together. It was them covering Heart! Parallels, see?
Raquel is suddenly cool with Bianca, I guess, because she’s there. Raquel and Josh kiss heatedly as they leave for the funeral separately, because Raquel wants to keep their relationship quiet. Josh wants to tell everybody. That’s healthy. She leaves. Bianca and the other blonde are like, “Oooooh, you have a girlfriend!” Josh smiles because sure, why shouldn’t everything work out for him? (It won’t.)
At the funeral, Len hugs the kids. Sarah looks on sadly. Ali can’t believe Josh invited Rita but he didn’t invite her. Who did? Shelley? Why? We never find out. Anyway, Rita is there with another teenage boy whom Ali implies is her new slampiece.
The casket is taken out of the hearse, and Tammy and Len both go to be pallbearers. Melora Hardin has a really funny moment where she insists on grabbing one end, in a very pushy Tammy manner. Where is my Tammy spinoff?
All Shelley wants to know is if Sarah ordered the right coleslaws for the shiva after the funeral. (Shiva is the Jewish ritual of mourning where the bereaved sit in their homes for seven days and family and friends come visit them and bring food.)
To Shelley, Ed has been “dead” a long time, and there’s no use mourning him now. Faith Soloway, show creator Jill’s sister, sings as the cantor. Everyone is already seated, so when Maura and Davina show up, what was already noticeable becomes extra-dramatic. Maura is also wearing the showiest-lady-in-church black hat, but Shelley doesn’t care if people stare at Maura. I like how she’s aged from when we see her in 1994. Shelley has no shits to give.
After the service, Len creepily asks if he can be buried next to Sarah and Tammy when he dies. Sarah says "sure" like that’s not insane.
Maura is wearing a Jewish-star necklace, and Ali sarcastically asks if she is into Judaism now. What is Ali’s problem today? It’s a similar scene to the one of her professing she didn’t want to go through with her bat mitzvah in 1994. Back then, she earnestly asked Mort if he believed in God, and he said he struggled with it. Now Maura admits she’s been back on Judaism for a while. This is the first hint this episode that we’re gonna be harkening back to that lost ‘90s weekend.
On the grass at the cemetery, Ali goes to tear her clothing in mourning, as is Jewish tradition, and Syd sits beside her and offers to help. Ali asks about Josh, and because Syd totally has Josh’s number, she explains that he just loves love and craves empty professions of romance.
“He wants to see in your eyes that you love him,” she says. “That you’ve never met anyone like him before.” Then she perfectly describes so many guys who are similarly stunted. She says, “He told me about that, but I was still that person looking at him. It was a total mindfuck.”
I’ve never before had a piece of media explain men like this so perfectly. I’ve dated Josh. We’ve all dated a Josh. God, I hate him.
Syd wants to go to the shiva, and Ali tells her she doesn’t have to. Why the fuck does Syd even like her? Honestly. Why does Syd want to be with Ali? I don’t have any good reasons. Syd is better than every Pfefferman.
They all head to the house where shiva is happening. A dim, well-meaning cousin calls Maura “Uncle Maura,” which is a start, I guess. She says she knows someone else who “suffers the same condition.” Yikes, never mind. In a nice little touch, the two security guards who helped Ali search for Ed when he went missing are also there.
Shelley is micromanaging everything while Sarah and Len flirt. Tammy brings up how people have been complimenting the work she’s done to the house, and she accidentally calls the shiva “a wake.” (Goyim, right?) Tiffany, the lady security guard, stands to recite a poem about Ed. In a bunch of close-up shots, everyone is eating because that’s what any Jewish gathering is about: praying and eating. Mostly eating. I grew up very religiously Jewish, and sometimes this show makes me uncomfortable with how realistically Jewish it is. I get flashbacks to my years of day school and being a “shul brat.”
Sarah and Len leave the room, laughing. Is Sarah really this irredeemably selfish?
Raquel and Ali walk around the house and cover the mirrors. During shiva, it’s Jewish tradition that you not look in the mirror because you should be focusing on grieving and not on your own vanity. Raquel explains this as “letting us be without being seen.” Ali apologizes for her lack of Jewish knowledge. She says she didn’t have a bat mitzvah because her parents let her cancel it. Raquel is aghast. Ali says it was “awful, horrible parenting.”
Raquel starts gushing to Ali about her brother, saying Josh is incredible and that she’s super happy. Ali makes a face and groans. Look, I know Josh deserves this and I am totally Team Ali on this one point, but she’s not ruining this relationship for the right reasons. She’s doing it to hurt Josh, when it should be to teach him something. Raquel better get out now.
“I think Josh has a kind of fucked-up relationship with women, and there’s been a lot of women,” she says, also implying he’s a “love addict.” Raquel tears up and walks away.
In the laundry room, Len is letting Sarah feel him up as she whines like an actual baby. Her demeanor around him is so childish, even when they were breaking up. Her tone changes. Len says it’s weird how he was replaced with Tammy so immediately. He tentatively asks if she misses anything. Sarah hums.
Len goes for the gold: “You miss my cock?” he whispers. Sarah is coy. She says she and Tammy can use toys. Len argues it’s not the same. “It’s not like a warm, hot, throbbing cock.”
This scene immediately brings to mind the other hyperrealistic, very sexy sex scenes on Transparent so far. While HBO’s Girls gets lauded and criticized in equal measure for how unflattering or “real” the sex scenes are, I can’t help but think that Girls really only shows bad sex. In fact, it shows bad sex often enough for articles to be written wondering if an entire generation is just having terrible sexual experiences. But I would argue that for a sex scene to be “real” doesn’t mean it can’t be hot. If Girls shows “real” bad sex, then Transparent has done a great job depicting “real” good sex, passionate sex, weird sex, sexy sex with real people.
Len is turning Sarah on with his words, and he pushes her head down to suck his cock. Down she goes. He pulls her back up to say, “I love you.” She doesn’t say it back. He pushes her down and then pulls her back up.
“I don’t want to be a fucking secret,” he says. Sarah snaps out of it and Len leaves, taking his cock with him.
Josh sees Raquel leaving and crying. He confronts her.
“I love you,” he tells her. “I want to have babies with you. I wanna do everything with you. I’ve never loved anybody before.” He is literally just repeating sentences from Rita’s letters to him when he was a teenager. All he knows is desperate love and he craves it.
Raquel rightfully says, “Fuck you.” This is not romantic. It’s immature. He is saying this stuff to himself more so than to her. Josh asks if Syd said something to her. BAD MOVE, YOU IDIOT. Did Rita? OH, JOSH. Raquel asks, “How many are there?” Then she leaves like she should have done in the first place, and like they all should do when they see Josh heading their way. He’s a human red flag.
Back inside, Josh accosts Rita and asks what she said to Raquel. She calls her “his latest conquest,” and Josh spits out that she’s the best person he’s ever met.
“Nice, Josh,” Rita says. I thought it. Rita said it. Rita introduces him to Colton, the teen she’s with. He says Rita is my birth mom. Josh is his dad. Okay, I’m going to call it right here for next season that Colton is not Josh’s kid. He looks nothing like Josh. Colton is a tall, handsome, farm-raised Kansas Christian. He’s a plot device meant to shake Josh’s world and harken back to Kaya’s abortion. He said he wanted kids: Well, now here one is! But it seems too much like a “TV show” in a way for me to really buy it. If Colton really is Josh’s, I’m not sure I’m into this plotline.
Sarah comes out of the room she was in with Len and, of course, instead of talking about anything, she freaking proposes to Tammy. Tammy laughs. Is she going to say yes? A wedding and a funeral. Besheret!
Maura thanks the older Jewish ladies for being so nice to her during her transition. She goes into a story about how she stood in the girls line for the bathroom in elementary school and it just felt right. The older ladies are like, “Oy vey.” It’s a great chance for us to see Maura as a bit more flawed. Often people that start going to support groups decide that they love chatting about themselves and their personal struggles, and sometimes others aren’t really down with elongated introspection. What Maura is doing is pure LGBT support-group vulnerability. It’s nice to see it’s rubbed off on her, and also funny to see other people be like, “Ugh.”
Clean-cut Colton and Josh sit outside. He’s going to be a high-school senior, and he seems like he wants to find out things about himself to make sense of himself and where he came from genetically. He says he likes sushi and he wonders if he got that from Josh. He’s so hopeful. Josh says he’s sorry, but he doesn’t think Colton is going to like him as a dad. “No matter what happens, I’m always gonna like you,” Colton says. And just like Syd said, someone looks into Josh’s eyes and loves him.
Ali is all worked up and asks her mother why she didn’t have a bat mitzvah. Ali is manic this episode, like she’s done a ton of coke — only by coke, I mean rage. Shelley finally admits it was because her father wanted to go to dress-up camp that weekend, which she calls Camp Woman Wonka.
Ali confronts Maura in front of everyone and is needlessly bitchy about something that happened, like, 15 years ago. Ali suddenly tells Maura she wishes she was Jewish so she had guidance in life, and that not having the bat mitzvah prevented her from that. Because nothing is ever Ali’s fault!
Maura rightfully explodes on Ali. The anger and hurt from her kids’ reactions to her transition, and from their abandonment the night of her performance, and from everything else comes right out.
“Because, my beautiful girl,” she says, “you can not do anything.” Ali doesn’t have a job. Maura pays for her life.
Ali takes out cash and starts throwing it on her father, who has literally only been nice to her. This scene is killing Ali for me. It’s so true to how she would act, but it’s so effed.
“If I didn’t give you any money, would you even talk to me?” Maura asks, and once again, Davina’s warning about losing family in the transition comes back. Ali runs out and her siblings go after her. Ali walks around outside. Shelley comforts Maura.
Time passes. The shiva guests leave. Sarah, Shelley, and Maura eat leftovers around the table. Sarah says she and Tammy are getting married. Her parents are delighted to have a wedding to look forward to. This will be Tammy’s third. Sarah says she’s not becoming a Cashman, so Tammy might be a Pfefferman. Josh brings Colton inside to meet the fam but doesn’t introduce him as his son, even though they ask multiple times who this kid is. Colton stands out like, well, a midwestern high-school football player at a Jewish dinner table. He could not be less Jewish.
Colton wants to eat, but he says he does a prayer before every meal. Would they mind? Josh still won’t explain who he is, but they all hold hands at Colton’s request. He starts his prayer just as Ali comes back inside and lurks in the corner.
She is forgiven. Everyone just wants her to sit and join them. This is family. She inches closer, and Colton says it works best if they’re all touching. Ali defiantly holds Sarah’s hair.
Colton begins, “In Jesus’ name we pray ...”
Maura sighs, “Oy gevalt.”
The Pfeffermans may be a messed-up group, but they can still judge others ... together.
“It’s not organ meat! It’s chopped liver.” —Shelley
“Because that’s our family religion, right? Secrecy.” —Ali
“Just because you’re from this family doesn’t mean you have to be like this family.” —Len to Sarah
Of course, this wonderful show was given a second season, so this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Pfeffermans. Oy, gutenu.