It’s season-finale time! And you know what? While last season I had a lot of issues with our show failing to bring any of our long-simmering plots to a satisfying conclusion, this year I actually have the opposite qualm: Some of these season-ending BIG moments would have hit a lot harder if they’d been introduced sooner (Sylvie vs. Madeline) and/or hadn’t been abandoned for long stretches in the middle of the season (Pierre Cadault vs. Gregory). And our theoretically big relationship plot feels like a hot mess — but we’ll get to that later. Because I am an AMERICAN, I cannot possibly focus on such frivolous subjects as ROMANCE and beautiful people who have NO CHEMISTRY when there is BUSINESS to discuss.
Emily is meeting with Madeline in boots made of … is that hot-pink tulle? Sure! Madeline says Savoir’s books are chaos and it is probably time for some “personnel changes.”
Here’s the thing about the Madeline-Sylvie dynamic: Did this have a lot of potential? Yes! But does it work here? Only kind of! Obviously, we are supposed to find Madeline’s super-corporate way of doing things to be irritating and uncool. But aren’t we also supposed to think Sylvie is good at her job? And if Sylvie cannot manage Savoir’s finances or charge clients fees commensurate with the value of Savoir’s work … is she good at her job? Presumably, we’re rooting for Emily to choose Sylvie, which of course means choosing Paris and everything that goes with it (sex, luxury, drama, LIFE) by abandoning her American roots (Zoom meetings with corporate, workdays that start at 8 a.m., plans). But honestly, Emily ought to be a little edgy about hitching her professional wagon to a woman who can’t keep her business affairs in order. It would be one thing if the quandary were a matter of style: Sylvie wants luxury to be a boutique industry — restrained, exclusive — while Madeline wants to expand the business, even if that means losing the cachet and essence of the company. Whatever your take on those two worldviews, it’s hard to argue with “Sylvie lets her sex life dictate her accounting, and it’s going to run the firm into the ground.” But this show is going to try!
At the office, the Savoir gang is in a giggle fit over a viral video of Gregory firing his PR team. Madeline cannot believe everyone isn’t jumping at the opening this creates for Savoir. Emily tries to explain that one of its biggest clients, Pierre Cadault, is in a feud with Gregory — this all feels a little repetitive; Pierre being in a feud is so last season. Madeline, not incorrectly, points out that LVMH works with everybody, so why can’t they? She tries to put Sylvie in her place, again in the office babble that’s clearly intended to make us hate her — “Your company is a subsidiary of an American conglomerate,” lol — and Sylvie (in a great white jacket with no top, the deep V is perfection) pretends to be brought to heel, tasking Emily (who is in a very Carrie newsprint top, a.k.a. black and white, a.k.a. the color of her Parisian identity, BUT with a bright-green checkered skirt, the tacky color of her American heritage … she is so conflicted!) with getting Gregory to invite Pierre to this big show at Versailles so these two men can bury the hatchet.
Julien — who was mad at Emily for all of .05 seconds, another potential plot that went nowhere, sigh — takes Emily to this bar where he knows Gregory will be slipping singles into the thong of a male dancer in the corner. Emily squeals about how it’s “literally raining men”; Julien, hilariously, tells her, “Your bachelorette-party energy isn’t welcome here.” Because the show requires everyone who meets Emily to be charmed by her (as previously discussed, this is called Maiseling), Gregory is convinced to let Emily not only work with him but give him creative direction for the entire show. I know this is a fantasy, but it seems VERY unlikely to me that the show would not already have a theme and that Gregory would have somehow missed the most obvious option, which is Emily’s pitch “Let Them Eat Cake.”
Sylvie wakes up with her boyfriend, who in turn wakes up to Sylvie’s husband at the door. Sylvie insists their marriage was all a technicality, but I sense some lingering sparks between those two. (How come Sylvie has chemistry with everyone, but Emily has chemistry with no one?) The husband-on-paper-only is in town to buy Sylvie out of their club, so she has the money to launch her own PR firm. This is as good a place as any to ask if any of you also noticed and were a little disappointed by the fact that all the central relationships in this show are straight couples? Seems a little dated for a show that’s supposed to be a modern, exhilarating romance.
The next day at work, Emily gloats about her signed contract with Gregory; Sylvie, in a silver suit (!), strolls in around 11:30 claiming she was with Pierre doing “client relations,” as Madeline requested, getting him to agree to attend Gregory’s show. Emily realizes that with their “Let Them Eat Cake” theme, they will need, well, cake. If only she knew a chef with nothing better to do than cater this event!
That night, Mindy and her band have a gig at a Chinese dinner club. Her attempts at reuniting with Benoit are going about as well as her outfits — hot-pink and navy-blue houndstooth strapless minidress? And gloves?? Isn’t it the middle of a heat wave still, and also, what? — and she is very freaked out about her past viral failures. I feel like she is totally missing how this could work for her! Pop careers have been built on far less auspicious introductions. Gabriel and Alfie are on hand for moral support and so Alfie can confront Gabriel, during a short time alone, about whether he and Emily still have a thing going on. Gabriel unconvincingly says it’s over and done with. Emily, hair in those stiff spiral curls (BRUSH THEM OUT, MY GOD) is delighted to have sweet-talked Gabriel into making 80 cakes by tomorrow. Mindy starts the performance with no confidence, but as Benoit starts playing ~*their song*~ she comes alive and the crowd loves her. By the end, she and Benoit are making out. Good for those two beautiful kids. Sad we didn’t ever follow up with the whole thing about her dad, though. Maybe next season?
Time for the Versailles show! Gregory says the theme is “Pieces We Are Told to Keep Hidden.” Very budget Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Emily actually looks fantastic — love the pearls in her updo. Pierre arrives and Madeline freaks out (this isn’t on her timeline), but the tension dissipates as both he and Gregory stick to their lines and the show goes smoothly. The designs are basically shapewear from clashing centuries, and after walking for a while, the models start dancing all over the place. Sort of a Savage X Fenty experience. I think this is the best job this series has done so far at executing a fashion show that feels, if not real, at least useful for storytelling purposes; plus, it gives us a clear sense of what the designer in question’s aesthetic is.
There’s just one problem: Pierre is pissed that this is so much grander than anything Savoir has ever done for him. To this I say: This entire show was put together by a different PR firm, which Gregory fired two days ago, and Emily’s sole contribution was your (Pierre’s) attendance and naming a theme that was obviously already built into the production! But no matter, Pierre is firing Savoir. He wants to be with a French house, and Savoir has gone totally American.
Madeline, enraged, finds the Savoir trio — Luc, Julien, and Sylvie — to demand an explanation. Wasn’t Sylvie supposed to be handling this? Well, Sylvie points out, she did what Madeline asked her to do by inviting Pierre to the show. “If you don’t like the results, you have no one to blame but yourself,” she says. Madeline accuses Sylvie of insubordination and summons her for, dun dun DUNNNN, a 360 review in Chicago. Sylvie’s response: She is resigning, as are Julien and Luc. I like everything about this scene except for the part where Sylvie says, “Call it a French revolution,” which is just the kind of eye-roll ugh quip that Emily would make but Sylvie would never.
Emily seeks comfort over a drink with Alfie, who also has some big news: He was supposed to be back in London a week ago, but he has stuck around because he wants to see if what he and Emily have could really be something. Unlike Gabriel, Alfie understands that if Emily is also committed to seeing their relationship through, they could totally make it work long-distance since they’re only a train ride apart. (I think it’s very cute that Alfie knows Emily will be excited by all the logistics and schedules involved. Remember how she made that spreadsheet for Human Plot Device: The Chicago Boyfriend?)
The next day, the office is a shell of itself. Is it empty because only four people worked there or because it’s like, nine in the morning and no one shows up that early except the Americans? It is very funny to me that Madeline came to Paris and broke the entire operation in approximately three days. We see a side of Madeline here that is super-intriguing, and I wish we’d had any inkling of it earlier on in the season or even the series: that what she liked most about Emily was that she was a “little mound of clay” who could be molded in her image and that running a business is easier with young, cheap lackeys who won’t have their own way of doing things. She swiftly demotes Emily to assistant status “just until things get up and running.” Red flag, red flag!
As Emily contemplates this bleak-looking future (the office is even dimly lit for their conversation), she gets a text from Sylvie inviting her to lunch. She arrives to find the Savoir trio there as Sylvie informs her that she’ll be starting her own firm. As for clients, she already has Pierre Cadault, and Gregory is a conditional yes — assuming Emily comes onboard too. (Seriously? What has she done for him that he didn’t basically do for himself?) Sylvie tells Emily she is “very, very good at her job,” and I would love for that to be true but have we seen evidence of this? Aside from her recognizing the important diners at Gabriel’s restaurant opening, what has Emily done all season to demonstrate she is even average at her job? The best part of this scene is when Emily admits she didn’t even know Sylvie liked her, and Sylvie replies, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
For some reason, Emily thinks she still has something to think about, even though she has a very cool job opportunity and best friend/roommate in Paris, a cute boyfriend in London, and absolutely no reason to go back to Chicago — apparently, some big promotion awaits her there, but seeing as she was already demoted after the return of her boss, such a reward seems unlikely to materialize. Emily says this is all a “giant mess,” and it actually isn’t! It would be much more interesting if it were! For instance, if Alfie were getting transferred to an American office, thus making Emily’s decision a little less no duh (career vs. love, Alfie vs. Gabriel). In this conversation with Mindy, Emily says aloud that she “fell in love” with Gabriel. Mindy encourages Emily to ignore “a manipulative pinky swear” with Camille and just tell Gabriel how she feels. This would have been good advice several episodes ago, but oh well.
Gabriel still sucks, as we soon learn: Just as Emily is about to profess her feelings at his doorstep, Camille appears in the doorway behind him. They got back together, and she’s moving in. You know, because even though he has these unrequited/unresolved feelings for Camille’s friend, he has decided the wise decision is just … to get back together … with the girl he unceremoniously dumped via a half-baked plan to move to Normandy. She is also fine with this. Okay! Whatever, they deserve each other, even though they do not seem to be attracted to each other at all and in fact relate almost as if they are strangers.
What’s so obnoxious about this is that the “pact” didn’t move the plot in any direction! Camille was never going to abide by it, Emily was never going to call her out on that, plus Emily was dating Alfie. What was the point of the pact? Emily pretends she thinks this reunion is so great even though she is clearly on the verge of tears. Then she calls Sylvie and says she has made a decision. I mean, the decision is Sylvie; there is no decision. Even if the decision is Madeline, surely Emily will quit after one too many assistant indignities and go to Sylvie’s firm.
Before this season began, showrunner Darren Star promised us Emily would be less annoying this time around. My question for all of you: Is she? And if she is … did that make the show better, or not so much?