Happy Endings' Finale Shakes Things Up (Plus: Why the Show Transcends Friends)

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Happy Endings S02E21: "Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral)"

What a finale episode! And the closing dance party was a perfect way to cap off a powerful season. Celebrate, y’all, you deserve it. While "Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral)" began like most Happy Endings episodes do—with our six favorite friends speeding through lightning-fast repartee, Derek (or Eric?) arrived and introduced the event the plot would center on, his ultra-lavish wedding. That was the first thing the finale did right, because it didn’t cut corners and the wedding was gorgeous and looked like a movie set. Also cinematic were the two developments this episode set in place for Season 3, storylines so intriguing I left the show simply thirsting for the next episode, and devastated we won't get to see it until the fall.

The first of the two developments: Brad lost his job. Jaw drop! Uber rich, super perfect Brad and Jane on one income? What will that be like? Will Brad go back to cargo shorts? Will they bring in Dave or Max as a roommate to protect their savings? That’s seriously a great device, it immediately throws a veil over our expectations for Season 3. And most importantly, the fact that Jane had such a supportive reaction to Brad when he told her about it...they even sidestepped the old "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME" micro fight, which, thank you: It was gorgeously stated and gave me warm fuzzies. Jane was at her most OCD in this episode, when she possibly food poisoned a member of the wedding party so she could take the person's place and then effectively started running the reception to save money for the two grooms, all while wearing a goofy yellow tux. (Did you see her original dress for the wedding? Frickin’ stunning. And the slit for Jolie-ing is so stylish these days.)

The other big development? The love triangle. Friends in its last season slapped on a half-hearted inner-circle love triangle between Ross and Rachel and wannabe-dad Joey (and it was weird, and it was gross), but watering the Penny-likes-Dave seed is heart-wrenching. Don't get me wrong, happy or goofed-out Casey Wilson is the biggest highlight of the show for me, but I was charmed by her reaction to Dave when he said "I love you." You could see her still staring at him when Jane came through and yeah, subtle and touching and SEASON 3 IS GOING TO BE AWESOME y'all. (Happy Endings is definitely getting a Season 3, right, ABC? Right?)

Okay, yes, I sound disgusting right now, and I swear the writers are not sending me free candy bars in the mail or something. I’m just always impressed by how high the joke quality is and how such amazing ideas—ideas other writers might be tempted to build a whole movie around—are used effectively as set pieces. Like the Skype table? How amazing was Penny having to monitor a table of wedding guests Skyping into the reception? That kind of heightened-yet-plausible awkward moment was straight out of any single person’s worst nightmares, and the show just kept building on it, with Penny flirting with Brian Austin Green over Skype and then dancing with the skeevy Uncle via a laptop on the parquet. They made the most out of already strong jokes and I appreciate that. This is one show that goes out of its way to exceed the audience’s expectations.

But I think what really hit me the most during the finale was what an upgrade this show is from Friends, its clear thematic predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, I was just as transported as anyone else when Ross and Rachel finally kissed at the Central Perk. But there’s two changes Happy Endings makes to the “six best friends in a big city” template that I think account for its freshness and cult following. Firstly, they all take turns being the silly one. On Friends, Phoebe and Joey were kind of dim, and everyone else rolled their eyes and made witty remarks. Happy Endings gives all its actors a chance to play the weirdo, a chance to play the clown, as well as moments to be real and perceptive. Alex—who is clearly the Rachel, if you will—spends a lot of her screen time being the silliest person in the room and oh my God she kills me. Elisha Cuthbert is an unsung comedy hero, and she’s blossomed this season. Meanwhile, Max, the same man who hibernated during the winter like a bear, got a serious relationship crisis.

The other, even better difference (and I think it goes along with no one being the Joey or the Phoebe) is that there’s rarely any humor derived from snapping on each other. No snippy little personal attacks, which make up the humor of most sitcoms and were certainly a huge feature of FriendsHappy Endings is that it really is the most positive and sunshiny representation we have of a group of friends out there, and when you get down to it that’s what everybody wants. And personally I believe that skews closer to how people actually feel about their friends. There is drama, oh dear Lord there is drama, but if you've known someone for several years and you look back on your adventures, I think you'd find your mind holds onto the good more than the bad, and your memories mirror Happy Endings' version of life more than, say, Seinfeld's.

Guys, I am so saccharine right now, I apologize. Blame Adam Pally! His voice at the end was amazing. Was that his actual voice? The conceit of the group Mandonna cover—okay, there's another throwaway joke that is so effing strong someone else would have tried to make an entire series out of it, but Happy Endings just added it to its giant pile of good ideas—of "Like A Prayer" had some kind of harmony going on that gave me chills. And when Dave and Alex took hands and looked at each other, it was ambiguous about whether it was romantic or just them being super good friends who have known each other all their lives. And either way, they win. Warm and fuzzy. I needed that, Happy Endings. I’m going to miss you.


QUESTIONS:

– Was that Max’s actual voice?! Amazing!

– Where can I find that Madonna cover? iTunes?! OMG love it.

– What will Brad do as a fired man? How long will he stay jobless? Will Dave hire Brad to help out with the food truck?

– Penny and Dave...?

– Alex and Dave...?

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