Is there any show that knows how to do joy better than Somebody Somewhere? Maybe the anguish the show put us through in the last episode makes the joy we get in the finale more potent. It’s the gift we get for surviving Sam and Joel hitting a very large bump in the road of their friendship. Because “To Ed,” in all its catharsis and joy, is the perfect antidote to the heartbreak of seeing Sam almost succumb to her old habit of pushing people away any time they do anything she perceives as wronging her.
Let’s start with the catharsis. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to get to Sam and Joel making up. In fact, it takes very little for these two to apologize: When Joel comes over to the pew Sam’s sitting in by herself at Darlene’s funeral, and Sam, although with a little hesitation, slides over to let him sit next to her, you know it won’t be long. As they both get teary-eyed watching some of Darlene’s students stand up and sing one of her trademark vocal lesson songs, Sam finally says, “I’m sorry.” And that’s really all that needs to be said to get over the initial hump. Good on Somebody Somewhere, though, that things between them aren’t magically fixed; They’re still awkward around one another outside of the church — although the olive branch Sam extends by inviting Brad to join her and Joel as they work on their stuff for Fred’s wedding is huge for her — and to see the two of them tip-toeing around each other when Joel first arrives at Sam’s, a place he was pretty much living, is painful.
Something that helps: Sam doesn’t just want to say, “I’m sorry.” She has much more to say to Joel. Her speech to him about how she sets “unfair expectations” for people because she thinks “it keeps [her] safe” is Sam at her most vulnerable. And when she adds that now she knows it doesn’t keep her safe and that she doesn’t want to keep doing that “and it’s [Joel’s] fault”? What freaking growth for a woman who can barely hear someone else say they love her. Which Joel, of course, does. While the other times he’s said it, you know he’s doing it because he enjoys Sam’s reaction, this time he says it with real feeling — he wants her to really know how much he means it. And in the same conversation, as the two get a little weepy, Joel notices that Sam’s shaved her legs. Without missing a beat, in the same serious tone Sam’s been using this whole time, she explains why: “Oh, because I’m gonna fuck my neighbor.” She adds, “First, I open my heart to you, then I open my legs to him. It seems like the logical progression.” And there they are: Sam and Joel are back, baby.
Even Tricia’s proud when, during the morning set-up for Fred and Susan’s big day, Sam tells her how she and Joel made up. First of all, I love that Sam even told Tricia — watching their relationship grow this season has been such a highlight. Now that Sam’s forgiven both Tricia and Joel, Tricia asks about Holly. Sam doesn’t have much to say, but when we see her back at home, putting Holly’s necklaces back on, we know that even if she’s not fully over it, she’s on her way. In the same way that Sam was finally sleeping in Holly’s bed at the end of season one clued us into how she was feeling about her sister and her grief; this small gesture says so much.
As the old saying that I just made up goes: after catharsis, we party. And that’s exactly what Sam and Joel do. The rest of the episode is just filled to the brim with every shade of joy there is. There’s Fred taking the moment in around him before his wedding starts. There’s Sam’s gorgeous, gorgeous version of Ave Maria as Susan walks down the aisle — Fred can barely contain how happy he is! There’s Joel’s lovely speech about how change “can bring miraculous growth” (this episode was written by show creators Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen). Tricia’s over to the side crying because she loves love so much. Susan’s dad even showed up!
There’s one last tribute to the late Mike Hagerty, too. Fred gets up at the reception and gives a heartfelt thanks to their host, who couldn’t attend. He says Ed immediately just saw him for who he was — it wasn’t about “accepting” him or being nice — he just saw him (I’m not crying). They were just “two guys who shared a love of the land” (I’m not crying!). And if Ed were able to be there, he’d be his best man (I’M NOT CRYING). “To Ed,” he says, as everyone raises their glasses (okay, fine, obviously I am crying). The team behind Somebody Somewhere found the perfect ways to pay tribute to their friend and colleague throughout the season — always lovely, simple, never melodramatic or overwrought — and this one was the perfect topper.
There’s also Branigan. So! Much! Branigan! In the end, Sam breaks her “No Barbra, no Judy, no Branigan” rule as a gift to Fred and Susan and performs a rousing rendition of “Gloria” in a fringe top and all. Yes, in case you were wondering, she does do a little titty shimmy on Joel’s face. Yes, it is as glorious as it sounds. I have never been happier that these two made up. Full disclosure, friends, this “Gloria” scene in which Sam is in her element and she gets all of her friends up and dancing and laughing — Tricia even winds up jumping on Sam’s back for a piggyback ride — I wept, okay? WEPT. They were tears of joy, of course. The joy of simply seeing people enjoying being with each other. The joy of community. The joy of “Gloria.” I’m not apologizing for it!
There’s another moment of joy tucked away in this episode — albeit more subtle than the epic dance party. During the reception, the Miller sisters have time to themselves to compliment each other on the gorgeous work they did today — Sam with her song, which brought Tricia to tears — and Tricia with the perfect wedding she pulled off (although the caterers may never recover). When Sam notes how “emo” she saw Tricia get during the ceremony, Tricia explains that she just can’t help it. She loves love. “It’s this crazy thing that’s been happening over and over again for thousands of years.” She may be done with Rick, but she’s not done with love. And in a quiet way, that is also such a moment of joy. Tricia’s choosing hope. Sure, she’s also choosing cunt-related pillow sayings, but also hope. I don’t think that’s lost on Sam.
That sentiment shared by her sister, paired with that scene between Sam and Joel in which she gives him room to be with Brad and he assures her that the two of them are “gonna be okay, you know,” perhaps motivates her to really take her claim of “having some me time” seriously. Maybe all of that is why, once Joel and Brad drop Sam back off at her house, she decides it is the perfect time to take Neighbor Drew up on his offer to have a beer. Okay, also, maybe it’s because she’s drunk and horny. Can’t it be all the things? Unfortunately, Sam discovers that Drew’s already asleep. She decides the best course of action is to fling her shoe at his window. Sam apparently doesn’t know her own power — it goes flying through the glass. Sam makes a break for it; the beer and the sex will have to happen later. Still! Even entertaining starting something up with her neighbor feels like Sam choosing joy, choosing hope of something more for herself, even if it isn’t with Mr. House Arrest, even if he’s just symbolic of a different kind of future Sam may be opening herself up to now. Maybe this is the next step in the evolution of Sam Miller. Or maybe she just wants to get laid! I don’t know, but I’m happy about it.
• I’m sorry, but how beautiful are the words in Joel’s speech: “You are loved. We love you. And we love your love.”
• Wait, there’s more: “Here in this special place, where seeds have been planted, where hard work has been done, where there has been grief and joy and storms and music, we promise to hold you as you go forward.”
• Joel and Brad giggling about the flirty interaction they witness between Sam and her neighbor before leaving for the wedding is so cute. Even cuter? The fact that Brad asks if this would “be a pound” because Joel told him all about his and Sam’s “Pound It or Pass” game.
• Unsurprisingly, Irma also rages at this wedding. Irma is an enigma, and I hope they never give her any additional context.
• When Sam asks Joel if he ever thinks about who might come to his funeral, his response is: “Maybe my dad and I’ll finally get to meet him.”
• Brad talking about how he “roasts a beautiful chicken” would’ve been the perfect opportunity to bring up his deadly SLS dish. Will no one tell him what SLS does to a person’s body?!