Wonderfalls: And Like That, It's Over

By Tim Surette

Aug 16, 2012

We've been (re-)watching Wonderfalls as part of the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club. You'll find links to past installments at the bottom of this story.


Wonderfalls S01E13: "Caged Bird"

As is the case with all shows that have their lives cut prematurely, it's the final episode that often defines its legacy for eternity. And when that time comes the most important thing the audience needs is a proper sense of closure. And I'm not talking the kind of closure that series get when they know they're not coming back. Even shows that know they're ending sometimes get it wrong. I'm talking about those "well, this COULD be the end" situations.

In general, good endings feel like we've finished a book and are satisfactorily closing it for the last time, the once mighty weight of the pages now collected on the left and only the back of the back cover left to read quotes from critics. Bad endings leave us thinking that there must be one more DVD lying around somewhere or someone turned on the lights right before the third act was about to begin. When a show doesn't know if it's coming back, there's a bit of a gamble that goes on. Does the creator hang it off a cliff by putting its hero in a life or death situation that won't be resolved until next fall for maximum gasp-age and chatter? Or does it close the door almost all the way, giving its audience to take a deep breath and forget about it for a while? If you do the former, you'd better be damn confident that your show will come back. The latter might be less thrilling, but we're talking about eternity here and a solid ending goes a long way in carving out a nice space in the annals of television history. Who wants their last words to be an incomplete sentence? "Here lies Tim Surette, a TV critic that--" No thank you!

That's why the final episode of Wonderfalls, while not among the best episodes of the series (and probably only the fourth best episode of the last five), was satisfying. We all knew this was going to be the last episode of Wonderfalls no matter how many brass monkeys, chameleon puppets, or wacky Jaye outfits we sent to Fox along with strongly worded letters. So all we were hoping for was the show to say "The End!" And it did.

But aside from wrapping things up so we didn't leave I didn't know what to expect from the finale, but I knew that expecting anything in particular from a show like this was stupid. "Caged Bird" threw another unusual story at us, this time involving Jaye, Sharon, Mouthbreather, and a chubby security guard held hostage at Wonderfalls by a bank robber. The idea of wrapping up the main story (Jaye and Eric's possible relationship and Heidi's interference) by separating Jaye and Eric for almost the entire episode seems insane, and in retrospect it didn't entirely work. Instead, Jaye's target of fate was a security guard that failed as a cop named Wade.

In addition to making the episode incredibly ordinary and taking too much focus away from Jaye and Eric, the Wade story never floated to the top, instead obscuring our view of what we really came for (Jayeric). It didn't help that Wade never became likeable or did anything to win our favor. Heck, his attempt at heroism was interrupted by a heart attack, and he was just a liability after that. And ultimately Jaye's fateful intervention improved his life how exactly? By giving him a murderer's heart? This wasn't the typical cherry on top we're used to Wonderfalls.

For all the differences the Tylers have, they come together as family when it matters most and it's always touching. When mom and pop and sister and brother rushed to the scene of the crime and embraced the baby of the family, we felt the love through the screen. And when Aaron planted one on Mahandra without caring who saw, it was a fitting end to their story.

As for Jaye and Eric, it felt as though the series ran out of time to really square up on their relationship and smack it into our hearts. Instead, Eric returns to Wonderfalls to return his souvenirs and informs Jaye that he isn't leaving, he's no longer with Heidi, and that he's incredibly available should anyone *ahem Jaye* be interested. On the other hand, their relationship has always been schoolyard and immature and it was made clear that it was fate that brought them together in this odd way to make it as strong as can be. And Jaye's confident and jubilant grin at the end was the real reward. Finally, the girl can relax.

But again, the takeaway from "Caged Bird" wasn't meant to be a dynamite episode (because it wasn't), it was meant to be a proper closer. And close it did, albeit in lightning-quick fashion like it was late for dinner reservations. The biggest problem with the finale is that it felt like a mid-season episode with a finale ending tacked on to it. Yes, that's a bit of a cop out, but the alternative–a series finale with no solid conclusion–would have been devastating for the series' fans and for its place on TV's all-time best prematurely canceled series.



NOTES

– Man those last few "previously on Wonderfalls" bits were TOUGH! How many times do we need to see Jaye look absolutely crushed while Eric re-marries Heidi!

– Wow! A Profiler reference!

– Where do you rank Wonderfalls among Bryan Fuller's big three? Personally, it's my favorite of the trio, with Pushing Daisies second and Dead Like Me third.


PREVIOUSLY:
Wonderfalls Episodes 11-12: Finally!
Wonderfalls Episodes 9-10: A Whole Lotta Love / The Skanky Ho Contest
Wonderfalls Episodes 7-8: Finally!
Wonderfalls Episodes 5-6: Family and Fat People
Wonderfalls Episodes 3-4: Stalk It Out / Nun of Your Business
Wonderfalls Episodes 1-2: More Timely Now Than Ever


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • CookeThomas Aug 27, 2012

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  • pcsjunior002 Aug 20, 2012

    I'm not entirely sure I agree with you in the fashion of the ending, I thought it was spectacularly played. But I see your points.



    -Indeed. But you're right, that smile of Jaye's was really the reward. How often in this series did we actually see her smile? And it was just a natural happy smile. Good for her.

    -Profiler...

    -"Pushing Daisies", "Wonderfalls", "Dead Like Me", though that is not to say that I did not like DLM. A very underrated show and pretty hilarious and thought provoking at times. Also, Bryan Fuller thought up the character Ned initially for DLM, so all of you PDers out there, we needed DLM anyway.

  • bicelis Aug 19, 2012

    "Here lies Tim Surette, a TV critic that--" - well that escalated quickly..

  • SullenWhirlGirl Aug 17, 2012

    Pushing Daisies, Deal Like me, then Wonderfalls...

  • torontogirl98 Aug 17, 2012

    Can we do a Pushing Daisies re-watch next? That would be the best thing ever!

  • torontogirl98 Aug 17, 2012

    Pushing daisies was my favorite hands down, Lee and Anna were adorable, and the visuals were like drugs for the eyes, there is nothing I didn't love about PD- other than the ending of course. Dead like me I began watching right after finishing Wonderfalls about 2 years ago, I loved the first season but after that it was not as good (once Brian left!). So I guess PD, then Wonderfalls then DLM

  • jagh55 Aug 17, 2012

    For me it goes like this:

    1. Dead Like Me

    2. Wonderfalls

    3. Pushing Daisies

  • amberjolynn Aug 17, 2012

    The reason the Series Finale feels like a mid-season episode with a finale ending tacked onto it is because that is exactly what happened. Fox ordered the 13 episodes which we now have and then elected to not pick up the series. When that happened, Bryan Fuller and Co. added that final scene where Eric comes back to give us fans some closure and not leave us in the snow storm with Eric walking away from Jaye.

    They discuss this in the DVD commentary.

  • mad-pac Aug 19, 2012

    Thanks for the information. I just rewatched the final 10 minutes of the episode, and now that makes a great deal more sense. I just wish I could hear the commentary, but I don't have the DVD. So if Caged Bird hadn't become the series finale, Heidi would've stuck around at least some more episodes longer, Eric would be with her part of the way through the season and that story of he becoming a Niagara Falls resident and wanting to return the souvenirs might even never happen... I wonder how things would've gone then.

  • mad-pac Aug 16, 2012

    Let's see, I found the premise of Dead Like Me fascinating (big deal, all of Bryan Fuller's shows have fascinating premises...), but I just couldn't connect with the protagonist George, such a judgmental kid with a permanently annoyed, apathetic and despondent attitude. So it ranks in third place.



    Wonderfalls is such a lovely show, with a degree of insanity inserted in a seemingly sane world. Initially Jaye presents some of the characteristics that put me off, but soon she became quite enjoyable, proactive, and sexy.



    Now, if Wonderfalls had a touch of insanity, in Pushing Daisies the whole universe was hallucinating, and that world of saturated colors, CGI, enchanting music, and pure magic won me over. Like in shows such as Twin Peaks, we're found in an alternate reality in which every character has something odd and unusual to present. Besides, I found myself totally involved in the Ned/Chuck idyllic romance, and enjoyed having a male protagonist for a change. That's why it gets to be my number 1.

  • vera_paunova Aug 16, 2012

    After several failed attempts at Pushing Daisies, I finally gave up. Lee Pace rubs me the wrong way like few actors have ever done. No idea why.



    So for the moment it's got to be Wonderfalls. Have literally started watching Dead Like Me yesterday and am really liking it (and the actors, which is what put me off Pushing Daisies which I really, really wanted to like).

  • torontogirl98 Aug 17, 2012

    That's really weird, to me he is like the sweetest sensitive guy. I cannot find anything wrong with him, I have literally watched everything he has been in (even stuff I hated) and he has made it better!

  • vera_paunova Aug 17, 2012

    Yeah, I have actors/actresses like this. Plus, it's really rare for me to have an actor/actress spoil an entire show (unless it's a really talentless hack or a particularly obnoxious individual). Which makes it even weirder...



    Plus, I think it was a bit too sugary for my taste.

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