[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.]
Two very serious, very important and very emotional things happened this week on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. First, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), reeling from the revelation that her mother Naomi (Tovah Feldsuh) medicated her without consent in an effort to stop her from attempting suicide, swallowed a bottle of those same pills and washed them down with a glass of her airplane's finest merlot. And then Rebecca, barely conscious, pushed her call button and informed the kind stewardess that she needed help.
Although Rebecca's failed suicide attempt was shocking and extremely upsetting to watch, on many levels it felt inevitable for her and the CW series, which has always explored Rebecca's struggles with mental illness.
"It's something we set up early in the pilot, that she has a history of suicidality," showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna told reporters at a press screening. "We didn't really know the specifics of the 'how' until this year... We always felt like she was falling off the side of a mountain and sort of grabbing at roots and trees and brambles and she's kind of plummeting. The last thing that she grabs onto is Naomi because she doesn't really have anywhere else to go. Obviously, the pathologies are not any different than they were, and so when there's that little burst of hope and when that's taken away from her, she really doesn't know what to do. I think she feels she's really out of options in that moment."
At the last moment, Rebecca does decide to ask for help, and next week's episode will see her seeking professional treatment. The episode, tilted "Josh Is Irrelevant," will find Rebecca receiving an official diagnosis for her mental illness, which will mark yet another major turning point for the series. "[Episode 6] is really something we've been talking about for a long time, which is sort of naming what her issue is and really digging into that and really figuring out what that's about," McKenna said. "We did a ton of research and talking to people to really kind of get that diagnosis across."
As Crazy Ex-Girlfriend begins to delve deeper into the darker side of Rebecca's mental illness, maintaining the show's whimsical, satirical tone will become more of a complex balancing act. But as this week's episode proved, it's nothing McKenna, Bloom and the writers can't handle.
Playing out in tandem to Rebecca's downward spiral, the episode also details the fallout of Rebecca's exodus from West Covina, where Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) wastes no time before replacing Rebecca with a new hire, Cornelia (Bayne Gibby). As brazen, meddling and inappropriate as Rebecca can be, Cornelia is modest, professional and well-reasoned, making it impossible for Cornelia to fill the role Darryl (Pete Gardner) and Rebecca's former co-workers want her to play.
"One of the things I love about [Episode 5] is I think that Cornelia story is really funny and you're laughing at that. And you're still in that, kind of, sob mode when you're being sad," McKenna says.
The tonal play between Rebecca's suicidal thoughts and the sunny life she left behind in California come together perfectly in the bossa nova song, "I Feel Like This Isn't About Me," in which Cornelia sings about how Rebecca's co-workers are projecting their feelings towards Rebecca onto her. "There's a lot of release in 'I Feel Like This Isn't About Me,' [which] was another sort of way to, you know, show that all these people in her life are acting in this really crazy way because they miss her, and that somebody coming in from the outside is like, 'Wow.' They had no idea. How could you understand that somebody had had this impact on everyone?"
Hopefully, as Rebecca begins on her journey towards recovery she'll be able to see that positive impact she had on everyone she left behind, who are still right where she left them, waiting for her to get healthy and return.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Fridays at 8/7c on the CW.
Additional reporting by Kaitlin Thomas
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies.)