It's always nice to start out the new year feeling useful, but I'm starting mine telling everyone what they already know: Schitt's Creek is a good show. (Good in the sense that it's great; good in the sense that it's kind.) The Canadian sitcom has built a reputation on its unshakeable warmth and sharp, off-kilter wit, and it's become easy to trust in the magic of that balancing act to see it through to the end. So it feels a little beyond the point to announce that Schitt's Creek is in fact still good, and maybe even better than ever, in its sixth season. Of course it is.
But Season 6 -- premiering Jan. 7 on Pop TV -- is Schitt's Creek's final season, which, combined with the fact that the series landed its first round of Emmy nominations last year, contributes to a sense that the stakes have been raised. All eyes are on the Rose family. Schitt's Creek, bless it, hasn't been changed by fame. The ending was already mapped out and most of Season 6 had already been written when the show seemed to blow up the pop-culture conversation overnight. So there's nothing try-hard about the new episodes, at least the four made available for review; this is still Schitt's Creek, with the same attention to everyday concerns, the same surprising tenderness, and, sorry, the same Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), the one character too cringe-worthy for such a feel-good show.
If the stakes of Schitt's Creek's final season are higher than before, it's only because the story has been building to this from the start. Six seasons in, the characters have become more vulnerable than they used to be, and on Schitt's Creek there is no taking a big leap without vulnerability. The more open the characters are with each other, the more their lives change. This is how the series keeps expanding even as it gets more intimate -- the biggest stories are also the most personal.
The final season finds the characters looking to the future, ready to make changes that would have been too huge even a year ago. David (Dan Levy) wrestles his insecurities -- but not his feelings -- as he plans his wedding to Patrick (Noah Reid). Moira (Catherine O'Hara) debates giving up acting, tired of serving an industry that just keeps burning her. Johnny (Eugene Levy) makes moves in the hotel industry. And Stevie (Emily Hampshire) considers expanding her horizons in the wake of her star turn in Cabaret. Stevie's arc is one of my favorite plotlines of the first few episodes, not only because her fumbling attempts to explore what's out there make for a refreshingly realistic take on a career crisis, but also because it captures the show's belief that people blossom with validation.
Alexis (Annie Murphy), meanwhile, is supposed to be jetting off for the Galapagos Islands with boyfriend Ted (Dustin Mulligan), but a ticket mixup strands her in Schitt's Creek for an extra month, leaving her to keep up a long-distance relationship while simultaneously trying to convince herself that leaving town is a good idea. In the strain, Alexis and David become convinced that they're being neglected by each other, each one looking for the other's support in a big moment. Their early tension sets the tone for the season: It's ultimately about how uncomfortable it is to grow.
However far Schitt's Creek has come, the show hasn't forgotten where its characters started -- which, for all the romance, means it's also re-centering on David and Alexis in the final season. One episode ends with such a strong display of affection between the siblings it took my breath away; the gesture is unbelievably sweet, but it's also loaded with the reminder that they learned to be there for each other because their parents often weren't. The Rose family may be closer than ever, but change doesn't erase the past.
If this all sounds heavy, make no mistake: The season is also a riot. The first four episodes feature some of the show's funniest dialogue yet, not to mention more divine histrionics from Catherine O'Hara, who gets to kick off the premiere in an even more unhinged state than usual. Schitt's Creek isn't done mining its stacked cast, either: Noah Reid, who was already great, gets to be both funnier and more impossibly charming this year (I have in my notes, more than once, "SEASON OF NOAH REID"), and the gloriously deadpan Ronnie (Karen Robinson) gets a few more punchlines thrown her way.
Schitt's Creek's final season might not be self-conscious, but it is self-aware; as the series prepares for one last goodbye, it's interested in how endings become new beginnings. At one point, Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson) writes her own logline for Moira's movie and winds up summarizing the show: "Yes, there will be blood, and yes, you will be horror struck. But more than that you will be lured against every instinct for self-preservation to look inside and face your very own futile resistance to transfiguration." Change is inevitable, Schitt's Creek argues, ready or not. So look inside and get ready.
TV Guide Rating: 4.5/5
Schitt's Creek Season 6 premieres Tuesday, Jan. 7 on Pop TV.
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