Rebecca Bunch has burned her bridges and run away before. In season one, after Josh recommitted to Valencia, she took the first flight out to New York while all her friends back in West Covina fretted about her. At the time, she was worried that she was “the villain in her own story,” that she was compromising a relationship that was meant to be.
Now, Rebecca is running again, this time to Rome on Nathaniel’s private jet. But things are different. She knows she’s the villain this time, and she wants to be. She wants to make Josh feel her pain, not just for leaving her, but also for having the gall to be so guileless, so normal, so happy (cue resonant echoes).
But to quote a piece of diner-sign wisdom: If Rebecca ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. In a crushing sequence, she diagnoses all of her pals’ flaws to their faces: Heather is lost and aimless after being forced to graduate; Valencia is planning other people’s dream weddings to cope with the fact that hers didn’t happen; Darryl is never going to convince WhiJo to have a kid; and Paula has been using Rebecca’s life as an escape from her own family — to the point of turning Rebecca into a surrogate daughter, even as her home life spirals out of control. (Brendan is now Valencia’s weed dealer, which Paula can only respond to with, “Hey, he started a business!”)
After mic-dropping on all her friends, Rebecca ends up at West Covina’s youth hostel, where she befriends a Pauly Shore–loving Danish tourist named Jarl. A shared obsession with Swimfan gives her the idea to stalk Josh at his parents’ house, and the show abruptly shifts into Swimchan horror-movie mode, complete with fake opening credits and a “Scary Scary Sexy Lady” tune. Rebecca does her best to spook Josh, hiding in the shrubs, calling the private phone line he got for his 13th birthday, hanging his teddy bear, even trying to get him fired by stuffing his locker at Aloha Tech with stolen remotes.
But just as Nathaniel predicted, the real way to terrify Josh is to mess with his family. When she takes his mom to a carnival, we finally get the confrontation that’s been building since Josh ditched Rebecca at the altar. In the hostel, Jarl explains to Rebecca that female revenge movies all end with the woman dying: “Stabbing, shooting, drowning, the monster has to be killed!” (Related fun fact: The original ending of Fatal Attraction was sympathetic to the mental illness of Glenn Close’s character and somewhat vindicated her, but it was changed because test audiences wanted to, in a studio exec’s words, “terminate the bitch with extreme prejudice.”)
Indeed, despite being “independently financed in her own mind,” Rebecca comes close to meeting her end in a conveniently precipitous construction pit, but Josh isn’t cruel enough to let her fall. And when she tries to make amends, he also makes it very clear that he doesn’t want her in his life — and that if she tries to mess with him again, he’ll involve the police.
As she always does when she’s at rock bottom with Josh, Rebecca tries to turn to Greg, her favorite last resort — and since he’s in Atlanta, she settles for his favorite “studying” bar. The show even cruelly teases Rebecca by having Greg call her, only to have it turn out to be a butt dial. (Not going to lie, I was nearly as crushed by the dashed hope of Greg’s return as Rebecca was.) Still, Rebecca does eventually find a surrogate Greg at the bar: Greg’s dad, Marco. And after Marco reveals that his son is madly in love with someone else, Rebecca, desperate for any affection she can get, decides to sleep with him. It’s a horrifying moment, a real low for a character who’s never been short on real lows.
That leads into “The End of the Movie,” a surprisingly moving song delivered in a cameo by Josh Groban (who has unexpectedly strong comic chops). Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has long played with the tension between being a piece of pop culture and Rebecca seeing her life as a piece of pop culture, and this song makes that subtext text. “Life is a gradual series of revelations / That occur over a period of time / It’s not some carefully crafted story / It’s a mess and we’re all gonna die” is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a thesis statement from this show, and it’s a brutal one. Who hasn’t seen themselves as the star of the show at some point, even while recognizing that the movie of their life would make someone say, “What the hell was that movie about?”
The irony is that Rebecca, who changed the lives of her West Covina friends by bringing her weird and wild self to town, has once again sparked movie-like changes with her brutal honesty. Paula comes clean about her indiscretions on Rebecca’s behalf and tries to renew her commitment to her family; Heather is aware that she needs to get her life together (though she’d rather hook up with silky-armed Hector before she gets started on that); and Darryl finally learns the truth that White Josh doesn’t want a baby, which might spell the end of their relationship.
The simultaneous push from and pull toward “living in a movie” tropes raises the question of whether or not this theme is now officially behind us. Does Rebecca truly understand that she needs to stop living in pop-culture tropes? She may be heading home to Naomi in Scarsdale, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is close enough to a movie, so we know that she’ll eventually come back to West Covina. If Rebecca isn’t trying to live out the stories she’s learned from pop culture, who is she? And what is this show?
• There are so many great callbacks to old jokes in this episode, including the return of Joshy Bear (getting stabbed) and boba (getting filled with poison) in the fake Swimchan credits. Also, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but when Josh finally cuts Rebecca out of his life, the butter sign returns to say, “Butter can’t save you now!”
• It’s good to see Alex again, even if he’s suspending Josh for Rebecca’s planted remote theft. “Corporate is uptight. They don’t like stealing, it’s weird. Sorry, bro.”
• Rebecca not-so-subtly quizzing Marco for the first and last name (and middle name, “just in case it’s common”) of Greg’s new girlfriend might be the single most relatable moment this show has ever served up.
• Brendan may be slipping into criminality, but at least his brother has a Prison Break–style blueprint tattoo planned.
• The return of inspiring homeless teen turned state senator Susie Reynolds! (She drank too much Sambuca and passed out in someone’s yard.)