Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's remarkable and emotional third season, which came to a close Friday, saw many of its characters embark on incredible personal journeys, no one more so than leading lady Rebecca Bunch (co-creator and star Rachel Bloom).
After beginning the season in a dark place — emotionally unhinged and sending her poop to Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) as revenge for leaving her at the alter in Season 2 — Rebecca continued on a downward spiral that eventually culminated in the series' darkest moment to date: a suicide attempt. Afterward, Rebecca was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but entering therapy wasn't a magical cure for her problems. In the wake of her diagnosis, she repeated much of the same behavior but with a sense of self-awareness she didn't previously possess. It was only after Trent (Paul Welsh) returned to wreak havoc on her life and attempted to kill Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), which Rebecca prevented by pushing Trent over a balcony, that Rebecca was finally able to take responsibility for her actions by pleading guilty to attempted second-degree murder.
To find out where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend goes next after this game-changing decision, TV Guide chatted with showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna about Rebecca's shocking choice, what it means for her relationships with Nathaniel and Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) moving forward, and as an added bonus, what's coming up for Rebecca's inner circle, including whether or not there is hope for Darryl (Pete Gardner) and White Josh (David Hull) to reunite.
This season was a very personal journey for Rebecca between the suicide attempt, getting diagnosed and then pleading guilty to attempted murder in the finale. Those final moments felt shocking but kind of inevitable, so how did you come to the decision that this was the right place for Rebecca and the show to end the season?
Aline Brosh McKenna: She's trying to figure out her life, right? She's trying to figure why she behaves the way she does and why her life is the way it is, and when she gets her diagnosis, she thinks that's going to be an answer and that's going to explain everything to her and that's going to make everything make sense. But then there are all these things about her life that she hasn't dealt with and all these decisions that she's made and behaviors and things she did to other people that she really hasn't dealt with. ... In some of the episodes right after the diagnosis, she keeps making kind of similar mistakes where she interferes in someone's life [and] jumps to conclusions, so it's important for her — and it was important for us for her — to really come to terms with some of the things that she had done and the ways in which they were not great and what she owed other people.
Trent is kind of the manifestation of her id in a way. He does a lot of the things that she does, but without any shame and without any care about the ramifications. So it seemed like having Trent come back and sort of put her in a situation where she does something extreme — and it's in an episode where she's trying to take responsibility for those things — [means] she then has something that she has to take literal responsibility for. Nathaniel offers her what he thinks is a valid way out — we like that a lot because we like the idea that it seems like the beat in a romantic comedy where a guy falls in love with a girl and so he ... shows her how she's changed him, but in this case it's very screwed up. The conclusion that he's come to is kind of the opposite of the lesson she wants to learn, and needs to learn, which is how to take responsibility for things. And so it gave us a nice choice between this romantic relationship that she's being offered — and we know that those relationships are very important to her — and taking responsibility for some of the things she's done.
Did you guys ever consider actually killing Trent or would that have been a step too far? Because I would have been very sad if he'd actually died.
We did briefly consider it, but it seemed like a big fat bummer, because we love him. And also because he's part of her, you know, he's an exiled part of her. When we were writing the scene with Nathaniel in the interrogation room, the fact that he ends up in another full-body cast just seemed perfect.
Speaking of Nathaniel, what place does he have in Rebecca's life going forward? They both love each other obviously, but now they're going to be on different pages. Is he going to be inspired to change now that he's watched her take responsibility?
Well, he thinks he did change. He thinks he came to like, a great revelation that she's going to be really proud of and that he understands what therapy is for. He thinks that she is going to be excited about that. And I think that he is very upset that it doesn't turn out as he imagined and that she doesn't go with the strategy that he came up with. So yeah, that's going to be a problem for them going forward certainly.
You and Rachel have said you have a four-year plan, is that still the case?
So, I know you probably have no idea at this point, but what does that Season 4 look like for Rebecca after she pleads guilty? Is it possible for her to find happiness?
Yeah, that's a good question, because it is always for her about a search for some sort of happiness and contentment certainly, but also, I think this is the first time in the entire show that we see her try to take responsibility for something and try to step up and say, "I'm not going to take the easy way out." Because normally she does. Normally she takes the easy way out. So this is the first time that we see her actually — we know that she's pointing toward trying to take responsibility for these things. So, what does that look like? What does that look like to have a Rebecca Bunch who's not trying to skirt the issue or make mistakes and is actually trying to think things through? That really, I think, is the question.
At the end of the episode, Paula shows up at the courtroom and that is what actually pushes Rebecca toward taking responsibility, but Rebecca still majorly betrayed her trust. So, will there be ramifications down the line of that betrayal?
No, I think at this point Paula kind of knows what the lies have been and they've kind of metabolized that part of it. Because the other thing you have to understand is, it's sometimes easy to forget that Paula has done just as many screwed up things as Rebecca, if not more. So she really does not have a very lofty moral perch on which to stand. Really what Paula's upset about are the things that Rebecca did that have affected her personally. So, we would never hold — I mean, our characters are not the kind of characters that we ever hold out as avatars of the exact right choice. Paula has her messed-up-ness too. She has things to deal with as well.
This season actually featured personal arcs for everybody across the board. Darryl broke up with White Josh and went on this journey to have a kid by himself. Why was it important for him to do this on his own?
I don't think he even wanted to break up with White Josh. I think he just couldn't think of any other way to do what he wanted to do and still be with him. And I think, to us, it's less about him being determined to have a baby and it's more about him saying the things that I want are important and I'm not a fool. People treat me like I'm a fool and I'm not. And that was the point that we were making with that story more than anything: that people tend to minimize and disregard Darryl.
The baby idea sort of started as a whim, but then it wasn't one. And he wants to be treated — he wants to be taken seriously. And people really do have a tendency to sort of marginalize and then look down on the things that Darryl wants and is saying. Darryl is a good father. His daughter wants a sibling. It's not a decision he made irrationally; he spent a lot of resources on it. And we know — the show knows — that he's a wonderful dad. He's entitled to get the things that he wants, and I wonder if he was [part of] a married couple would he have to explain himself so much, why he wanted to have another biological child? Lots of people do and just because he's a single man doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to have the things that he wants as well.
But then White Josh shows up at the end of the finale. What might that mean? Is there hope for those two after this?
I don't know! I have no idea. I mean, they love each other, they're friends, and it's nice to see them be friends again. I think they really missed each other. And I think one of the things — White Josh is very pragmatic, bordering on clinical, and so we liked the idea of the break up affecting White Josh way more than we and he thought it would. And that really is what happened. He is a lot more affected by the breakup then he thought he would be.
Josh was also on his own journey of self-discovery this season after everything with Rebecca. Where does he go next? Has he found his own purpose as a DJ?
I think this season we had a lot of people struggling with their professional identities, and I think he's probably close to sorting that out, but I don't know that he is any closer to have sorted out like, who is Josh Chan and what is his role on the planet. I think that Rebecca changed all these people's lives. They're all doing something different from what they intended to do because they met Rebecca Bunch. We are very tickled by the idea that this perfect quarterback, high school guy, her flawless object of love, once she's done with him, he doesn't really know what to do with himself. I don't think he enjoyed being stalked, but I think the attention — her attention — when it was going well was very meaningful to him because it told him that he was a smart, valuable human, which he doesn't really seem to know about himself. So, we loved the idea of what happens after the golden boy no longer is being pursued by the ingenue.
You also kind of low-key revealed that Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) is bisexual after the time jump. The show didn't really address it head-on in the way it did with Darryl. Can you talk to me a little bit about that decision?
You know, the Darryl thing was drawn from people we knew who had figured this out about themselves, and it was a really big deal. They came out to people and they felt like it was an important part of their identity. But I know just as many people who have always been straight-ish, or thought they were, and then met somebody of the same sex and fell in love with them. And that's what that was about for them, and it was less about [Valencia's] search for her identity, because Valencia in a lot of ways knows exactly who she is. I don't think she questioned or asked for permission. That's why that wasn't the story, because I think Valencia met this person and fell in love with her. And you see in the scene that they're in together before they're in a relationship that Beth respects her, respects her as a business person, thinks she's funny. So I don't know that Valencia ever had a big come-to-God moment about whether she should have a relationship with this person, she just did it. And so that's why we didn't show it and just showed how they are together and what things they're doing in their life together. I think finding a business partner was a bigger deal for her in some ways.
The first two seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are streaming on Netflix.
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