[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series finale of Schitt's Creek, "Happy Ending." Read at your own risk!]
If Schitt's Creek looked like a simple show, that's because it was doing its job. The Canadian sitcom, which wrapped up Tuesday on Pop TV, worked hard to make good storytelling look easy, and its familiar premise (rich people lose their money) belied an uncommonly warm heart and a knack for finding depth in problems that seemed straightforward. For the Rose family, just saying "I love you" was fraught -- but then again, the show argued, isn't it always? Schitt's Creek had an extreme sensitivity to vulnerability that made the world feel just a little bit louder and brighter than usual; as the once-wealthy Roses started over in a small town, ordinary TV milestones like graduation and first dates took on new weight because of when they happened (well into young adulthood) or who they happened with (the right person instead of a chain of wrong ones).
Schitt's Creek wasn't simple, but it was interested in the power of simple things. As much as the series flirted with spectacle -- through Moira Rose's (Catherine O'Hara) decadent outfits, her luxurious way of speaking, and all those musical numbers -- it was always in service of the characters first. Think of all the times a big performance became a gesture of affection from one person to another. The final season expanded the world of the show, promising a new future for Alexis (Annie Murphy) in New York and for Moira and Johnny (Eugene Levy) in California. But in the two-part series finale, the scope narrowed down again: back to the town, where David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) chose to build their new lives, and back to the question of what these people really needed to be happy. It respected the magnitude of leaving but also the magnitude of deciding to stay.
Maybe no one summed this up better than Twyla (Sarah Levy). One of the biggest surprises of the whole series was the reveal in the first half of the two-part finale that sweet local waitress Twyla won "some money" -- half of a $92 million windfall -- in the lottery a few years ago. She didn't like telling people (money changes things), and she was content to keep working at the café. "I have everything I need right here," Twyla told a baffled Alexis in the penultimate half-hour. Money can buy a lot of snowmobiles, she explained, but it can't buy happiness. "So it's about how you live your life. You know, doing what makes you smile. And being here, getting to hear your stories over the past few years, even the scary ones -- that makes me smile."
The twist is an incredible grace note at the end of the story of the most optimistic character on Schitt's Creek. If Twyla worked at the café because she needed the money, her joy would be no less impressive, but giving her so much money adds choice to the equation. It's a smart move for the show to avoid idealizing the experience of working paycheck to paycheck -- despite how much it benefited the Rose family, not having money isn't inherently a blessing. But it's a powerful thing for Twyla to have options and still love the life she already has.
Over and over in its last few episodes, Schitt's Creek gave its characters the freedom to choose happiness where they already were. Stevie (Emily Hampshire) went in search of a new career and wound up going back to the Rosebud Motel, which she then helped to franchise, turning it into the kind of career she could be proud of. "I realized I didn't need to live in a big city," she told David. "I guess I just needed to know that I could." And David, who was tempted to drag Patrick to New York just so he could stick it to all of his heartless former friends, accepted that, like Twyla, he has everything he needs in this small town. In the end, both he and Stevie are closer to Twyla's level of contentment, unaffected by anyone else's definition of success.
Schitt's Creek's final episode pivots on a hitch in David and Patrick's wedding plan, which forces David to do exactly what their relationship already pushes him to do every day: trade pageantry for intimacy. David, who had such big expectations for his wedding as an event, has to adjust those expectations when it pours on the day of their outdoor ceremony. The makeshift wedding is beautiful and loaded with nods to David and Patrick's history, as well as to the history of the show: The Jazzagals sing "Simply the Best" as David walks down the aisle, and Patrick sings Mariah Carey in his vows. But even accounting for Moira's fabulous papal outfit -- which, as Dan Levy pointed out to TV Guide, "never pulls the focus away from David and Patrick" -- the wedding isn't about spectacle or callbacks. It's a relatively low-key Town Hall wedding, a straightforward celebration of Patrick and David's love for one another.
By extension, it's also a celebration of the love between the Rose family and the town. On Schitt's Creek, there's a very fine line between romantic relationships and a sense of community: Both are rooted in complete acceptance. Before Alexis gives David away, the Jazzagals sing "Precious Love": a song from a time before David met Patrick, from a scene about the Roses embracing each other and embracing the town. "It is all but impossible to explain why things happen the way they do," Moira says at the wedding. "Our lives are like little bébé crows carried upon a curious wind, and all we can wish for our families, for those we love, is that that wind will eventually place us on solid ground. And I believe it's done just that for my family here in this little town in the middle of nowhere." Not everyone in the Rose family stays in Schitt's Creek in the finale; if everyone stayed it wouldn't feel like a choice. But they all leave better -- not because they've experienced how the other half lives, but because they've been nurtured and learned how to nurture in return.
The thing about the finale that sticks with me most is how quietly it ends. The real goodbye comes not at the wedding but early the next morning, when Alexis, David, Patrick, and Stevie gather in front of the motel to send off Johnny and Moira with one last round of hugs. This is how people who love each other usually have to say goodbye: not at a party but in a bleary, exhausted rush. At one point, Johnny tells his wife to hurry up while Moira, in the background, takes one last look back into the motel room. It's her moment, and the camera doesn't intrude. Later, on their way out of town, Johnny takes his own look back, asking the driver to stop so he can stick his head out the window and smile his proud Eugene Levy smile. He's looking at the town sign, which Roland (Chris Elliott) had repainted to show the Roses in a compromising position: one last joke that doubles as a reminder of the mark they left on the community. It's just enough closure to make leaving bearable.
But I keep thinking about that quiet background farewell, the one no one else seems to notice, between the woman who was always ready to get out of town and the home she cared about in spite of herself. Moira Rose, for once, didn't need an audience. There's never enough time to say goodbye and there are never the right words; Schitt's Creek knew this. But the spectacle of saying goodbye isn't the point. The love behind it is enough.