It’s good that Bunheads is going on hiatus: I have a ton of affection for this show, but after last night's clunky summer finale, I realized how badly I need a break. There’s so much potential here—and occasionally, moments of genuine greatness—but the series is still finding its footing. That was especially obvious in "A Nutcracker in Paradise," which tried to do way too much and ended up macing itself in the face.
I know Bunheads wanted to go out big. I appreciate the effort. The problem is, this show has been very much about smaller conflicts and subtler character relationships. This episode tried to give us big dramatic scenes—almost all of which fell flat—as well as some truly absurd moments. (Michelle maced the girls. She pepper sprayed the entire cast of The Nutcracker. I can’t.)
The point was to put Michelle and Fanny at odds with each other again. Makes sense; the back-and-forth between these two has been the highlight of the show from the beginning, and if they’re getting along swimmingly, there’s not a whole lot for Bunheads to do. But there are ways to do that, ways that feel a lot more organic than Michelle nearly blinding all of Fanny’s students. That was equal parts horrific and silly: truly awful to think about, but also too ridiculous to be taken seriously.
Bunheads has never exactly been a realistic show: It’s about a Vegas showgirl who ends up teaching ballet in the sleepy town of Paradise, because—well, don’t ask too many questions. Fine. It just seemed like recent weeks were working toward a more grounded series, and I’m willing to accept a ludicrous premise to get us where we need to be. But this was just too much to handle. The macing. The creepy ringer. That unbelievably awkward dream sequence. Pull it back, Bunheads—you’re better than this.
Even the moments that I wanted to see (Boo and Carl getting together, Michelle macking on Godot, Sasha returning to class) were way too rushed. Perhaps it’s because the writers weren’t sure Bunheads would be picked up for a full season, but this season finale tried to cram it all into one episode. There’s no reason for that—I’d rather part ways from a show with a little uncertainty than choke on all the plot it tried to cram down our throats. Even if Bunheads had ended, I wouldn’t have minded a few loose ends. That’s what fanfic is for, isn’t it?
But with all that said, I’m glad Bunheads is returning. Looking back on the first half of the season as a whole, I’ve greatly enjoyed the show, and I still think it’s closer to Gilmore Girls than anything else on TV. If you know how much I miss Gilmore Girls, you know that’s a good thing. This wasn’t a perfect half-season debut, but I think ABC Family made the right choice in giving a mostly very enjoyable series a longer shot at working out the kinks. All good dancers know they need to stretch first!
Besides, I’m excited about what’s happening next. Now that Michelle and Fanny are enemies again, we can look forward to more great Sutton Foster-Kelly Bishop showdowns. I’m also down for Michelle and Godot hooking up some more, so I hope he’s not in Australia for too long. Plus, the dancing is still great, and the summer finale was an especially good showcase for that: Give me more toe-tapping and soft-shoeing and I will endure any poor narrative choices made in the future. Give me more of Michelle singing numbers from Cabaret, and I won’t even complain in my review.
– So much happened in the finale. Which plot point deserved more time?
– Is Michael gone for good, or can Fanny win him back?
– Will kissing Michelle give Godot second thoughts about his indefinite vacation?