“I believe I am alive today so that I can continue to do this extraordinarily important work,” Forrest MacNeil says at the top of the first episode of Review’s final season, and, as always with Andy Daly’s tragicomic character study, it’s initially unclear whether we’re supposed to appreciate the irony or cringe at the sincerity. Then it dawns on you: Those choices are two sides of the same coin. It’s both. It’s always been both.
The simple, but undeniably effective premise of Review — a man reviews “life” and completely destroys his own in the process — has opened the floodgates for profound levels of pain and misery for Forrest (Daly). Over the past two seasons, he’s lost his entire family, suffered gruesome injury, killed two people (including his ex-father-in-law, in outer space), and has consistently left his own fortune up to the randomness of the universe and the will of his Machiavellian producer, Grant (James Urbaniak). Forrest has undergone too much misfortune to list it all here, but suffice to say that his life has been laid low by near-constant personal destruction. Yet he persists, for the good of the grand experiment that defines his existence.
But why? Why does he keep doing this? It’s too easy to claim that Forrest is merely delusional — he is, but that’s not a sufficient explanation. It’s also not only a maniacal TV show taking advantage of a vulnerable man for good ratings, but that’s certainly a part of it, too. Instead, it really comes down to the existential core of the show-within-the-show: the meaning of life. Forrest has so thoroughly convinced himself that reviewing life will be his lasting legacy — that shouldering the burden of the most horrific experiences will provide his own life with meaning — that now he doesn’t know how to quit. It doesn’t matter that a simple question, such as “What’s it like to be alone in a rowboat?”, left him stranded at sea for three months, or that investigating the meaningless mantra “there all is aching” would land him in a mental institution. Forrest believes that this job is his calling despite all evidence to the contrary, and at this point, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s better to believe, lest you stop and realize that you’ve destroyed your life for no reason at all.
“Locorito, Pet Euthanasia, Dream” picks up some time after the end of last season, which saw Forrest and Grant tumbling over a bridge after Forrest believed the show was actively trying to kill him. (He’s technically correct, but not literally so — another wrinkle to the pervading irony underlying the series.) Forrest and Grant miraculously survived the fall, though they spent months in the wilderness fighting for their lives, and Grant is now paralyzed from the waist down. They both currently live in Grant’s enormous mansion, and Forrest is on trial for killing a man last season. His ex-wife Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair) won’t let him in her new house, knowing that she and their son will be used for the purposes of the show. It’s a dire situation, but one that won’t keep Forrest down, because he must explore “the vital questions of our time.”
Naturally, his first request of the new season is to eat something called a Locorito from Neato Tacquitos. Forrest tries to stay positive, hoping that some insight can be mined from such a meaningless task, but as always, whatever understanding one can find doesn’t come from the task itself. Instead, it comes from Forrest’s single-minded persistence to complete it. Forrest learns that Neato Tacquitos went out of business in the time that he and Grant were lost in the wilderness, and so now he must find someone who still owns a Locorito. He quickly finds a crazed hoarder on Craigslist who held onto the fast-food item for months and is willing to sell it to him for five dollars. Of course, Forrest eats the burrito and becomes immensely sick — and even more unfortunately for him, his illness coincides with jury selection for his murder trial. Long story short: Forrest shits his pants in court and vomits on a potential jury member before passing out.
Forrest’s own assessment of this review? “It is better to let go of the past than to eat it.”
The following two reviews open up a few interesting questions about Forrest’s state of mind and the show-within-the-show’s corrosive influence. The second review involves putting a pet to sleep, and after Suzanne refuses to let him go near the family dog, he decides to hang out at a vet’s office to try to convince potential patients to let him put their pets to sleep instead of the doctor. Eventually, Forrest finds a woman who pawns off her stoner son’s dying bearded dragon, Beyoncé, on him. Forrest decides to spend some time with Beyoncé so that the euthanasia won’t be too impersonal.
As to be expected, Forrest bonds with Beyoncé and the two liven each other’s spirits, making it almost impossible for him to put the bearded dragon to sleep. It’s heartwarming to watch Forrest light up with joy when he takes Beyoncé for a ride in Grant’s mechanized wheelchair, but the inevitable heartbreak around the corner makes every moment feel crueler and crueler. When Forrest refuses to kill Beyoncé, he buys another bearded dragon, names it Deyoncé, and promises Grant that he will put that one to sleep in a couple days. Grant flashes a knowing smile and agrees to Forrest’s terms. Does Grant know what will happen next? Or does he know Forrest well enough at this point to assume something will inevitably go wrong? How much does Review’s show-within-a-show know that it won’t publicly disclose? Or do they all just know Forrest MacNeil?
The next day, Deyoncé eats Beyoncé, as bearded dragons in close quarters are wont to do, and Forrest completely falls apart. Though he swears in voice-over that he has no use for friends and that his primary drive in life is Review, his incredulous rage at Beyoncé’s death, followed by cries of anguish and sorrow, obviously say otherwise. Daly has always played Forrest completely straight, which is the performance’s primary source of humor, but his full-throated reaction to Beyoncé’s death might be his best acting moment in the series’ run. His screams of “These fucking lizards eat each other!” to his voice breaking and eventual full-body collapse showcase the series’ unique ability to turn from hilarious comedy to genuine tragedy. Finally, he gladly puts Deyoncé to sleep, claiming it’s less “pet euthanasia” and more “pet capital punishment.”
Forrest’s final review of the episode should have been a joyous one, but instead he turns it into psychic self-torture. His last request is to make one of his dreams come true, but instead of completing one of his actual goals, Forrest takes this to mean that he must recreate one of his dreams in real life. So the next day he recalls a dream he had the night before: He walks down a quaint, tree-lined street carrying a plate with a peacock (or penis) on it, his lizard slips out of his pants and scampers away, but then he arrives at a park and Suzanne is there on a picnic blanket with Thanksgiving dinner. Just then, he hears a voice, runs to it, becomes lost and frightened, and then he wakes up.
It’s not difficult to suss out the meaning of this dream. The voice in question is obviously Review, and any attempts to follow that voice leave Forrest scared and alone. He constantly self-sabotages any modicum of happiness for perceived existential meaning, but ultimately ends up with nothing but his own illusions. Forrest can’t see this and instead gets hung up on the problems with recreating his dream, since Suzanne wants nothing to do with him. He then goes back to the dream drawing board, but for 27 nights straight, every dream he has inevitably features Suzanne. He eventually fulfills the literal requirements of the request by reenacting a dream in which Suzanne completely ignores him, but the implications of Forrest’s actions are quite damaging. He admits in voice-over that it might have been more meaningful if he had stuck to the essence of the request, rather than the literal truth of it, but he fails to see the meaning hitting him in the face. Only he can stop the cycle of pain that is Review, but doing so means accepting that his actions on behalf of the experiment have been effectively meaningless.
Life. It’s literally all we have. But does it mean anything at all?
• Forrest’s cheerful co-host A. J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson) silently reacts to his conclusions with some of the funniest facial expressions on TV.
• Forrest has unlimited vetoes this season, but vows never to use any of them for the good of the show. We’ll see how long that lasts.
• Two of the series’ MVPs return: Forrest’s affable intern Josh (Michael Croner) and his girlfriend Tina (Hayley Huntley). Josh has a mustache now!
• Forrest’s inept lawyer, Daisy (Julie Brister), returns as well. She failed to inform him of his upcoming jury selection because she’s taken up golf and it’s really taken over her life.
• “I left that house with a profound appreciation for whatever mental illness allowed me to complete my mission.”