This is the way Review ends. Not with a bang, but with an unremarkable man preaching alone on a bare stage.
Forrest MacNeil’s life could have had a happy ending. All he had to do was walk away. It would make sense. He has sacrificed just about everything for a meaningless TV show that he perceives to have great importance. He has suffered gruesome injuries. He miraculously avoided a life sentence in prison for murder. He has cheated death countless times. What does he have to show for all this? Nothing besides an abandoned family and a lost soul.
In other words, Forrest sealed his own fate. He may not be dead, but he ceded his own life to Review a long time ago.
“Cryogenics; Lightning; Last Review,” the final episode of Review, provides Forrest with an unambiguous opportunity to gain his life back. After being cryogenically frozen under false pretenses (it was actually whole-body “cryotherapy,” a trendy fitness-beauty treatment with no proven benefits) and being struck by lightning, Forrest receives a review from his ex-wife, Suzanne, though it can be best described as a plea. She asks him to find out what it’s like to spend the rest of his life not reviewing anything. “Just do your job and see what that’s like,” she says. “And be a part of your son’s life.” If he doesn’t comply, he will never see her or their son ever again.
On the surface, it seems like an unavoidable way for Forrest to actually stop this madness, especially since he has just experienced a genuine moment of clarity with Suzanne. When Forrest believed he was going to actually be cryogenically frozen for centuries, he sent his wife and son letters detailing his death, but after discovering that he was only gone for 45 minutes, he tells Suzanne the truth: Nothing he could have possibly shared with the world about being frozen was worth losing his family for. “It feels so great to realize that!” he exclaims.
“I want you to remember this feeling,” Suzanne tells him, slowly and with noticeable fear and hesitation in her voice. “And I want you to think really carefully about this. You understand?” She knows that it might not be enough, but she also has to believe that something this stupid might wake the man she once loved from his delusional slumber.
Of course, it doesn’t. Forrest agrees to review what it’s like to be struck by lightning and sends the letters to Suzanne and his son again, even though there’s a 90 percent chance he’ll survive the attack. He stands out in the middle of a thunderstorm with a 75-foot aluminum rod tied to his back that’s laced with copper wire. Forrest receives his wish and is struck by lightning. He survives, but loses his sense of smell and inadvertently causes his intern Josh to break both his legs.
Suzanne’s request functions as one last shot in the dark, one last attempt to break Forrest free of an empty, hollow job that has given him nothing but pain. Forrest initially agrees, clearly moved by his ex-wife’s gesture of goodwill. A.J. says she will miss him. Forrest is ready to actually experience life without the burden of Review holding him back.
But everything goes south when Forrest decides to have one last conversation with Grant, who literally wheels out of the shadows to passive-aggressively convince him to veto Suzanne’s request and stay on the job. Grant gives him a long speech about how he thinks it’s great that Forrest is walking away from Review, but it’s a shame that he won’t be able to continue to do his crucial work. It’s good to spend some time with his son before he goes off to college, even though he could make his son proud for the rest of his life by continuing to review life.
“Do you think I have work left to do?” Forrest meekly asks. “Only you can answer that, Forrest,” Grant solemnly responds.
So Forrest vetoes Suzanne’s request and finally chooses his job over his family. “I was put on the Earth to do this,” Forrest tells the camera. “So, Suzanne, if you’re watching, first of all, thank you. But listen, not all the reviews are life-threatening, so everything’s gonna be fine!”
However, everything is not going to be fine. The universe has one last twist of the knife left for Forrest MacNeil. After accepting a request to review “being pranked,” Grant wheels into Forrest’s office to tell him that the network has cancelled Review. Forrest briefly freaks out, screaming at Grant for convincing him to veto Suzanne’s request, but then he begins to laugh. Forrest believes it’s obviously a prank. Grant tries to tell him that this is not a prank, that Review has been cancelled because of low ratings, and that he fought hard for the show. “I guess people just didn’t care for the show as much as we did,” he says with a shrug as Forrest continues to laugh it off.
Refusing to accept reality, Forrest cheerfully sees everyone move on without him. Grant has been bumped up to vice-president of the network. A.J. Gibbs has landed a new show where she’ll be traveling around the world, and she has hired Josh and Tina to go along with her. Suzanne and Eric moved away for good. Lucille, his apathetic executive assistant, leaves unceremoniously, but gives Forrest a small good-bye: “I’m not a very sentimental person, but I’m glad you got out of this dumb show alive.”
Yet Forrest didn’t really get out of Review alive. He’s stuck in a prison of denial, completely dead inside, and oblivious to the reality staring him in the face. Forrest never understood that he doesn’t need an external purpose to provide his life with meaning. Life has no inherent meaning. Instead, it’s an individual’s choices that provide meaning where there is none. Forrest’s life functions as a cautionary tale: His choices have left him without an audience, without a show, and without a life. Forrest may think Review is the only TV show that anyone needs, but the truth is much darker: It’s the only show he needs, but in the end, it didn’t need him. There aren’t enough stars in the world to rate that experience.
Grant informs Forrest that they’ve been receiving very few review requests. “Your ex-wife asked a question. That’s how few submissions we’ve been getting.”
• Honestly, the most moving part of the episode might be Josh’s reaction to Review’s cancellation. Even though he has a plum new job, he only wants to work for Forrest. He tearfully embraces Forrest and tells him he loves him more than his own father. Of course, Forrest thinks it’s all part of a prank, so he says nothing meaningful in return.
• Lucille has apparently written three erotic novels under the pen name Beverly Lafontaine.
• Final ratings: Cryogenics, two stars; Lightning, two and a half stars; Not Reviewing Anything, vetoed; Being Pranked, five “really fun” stars.