When Happy Endings was last on TV, the world was a different place. Mitt Romney was still fighting for the Republican nomination for president. Dan Harmon was still running Community. The Avengers hadn’t yet made billions of dollars at the box office. A lot can change in seven long months, but there’s one thing that definitely didn’t change—Happy Endings is still one of the funniest comedies on TV.
Much was up in the air when Happy Endings signed off for the season in April. Brad had just revealed to Jane that he'd lost his job. Penny was replacing her feelings for Dave with a wheelchair-bound Brian Austin Green. Max had reunited with Mandonna, his all-male Madonna cover band. And Dave and Alex had rekindled their relationship. What had happened to this gang of friends since last season’s finale?
Happy Endings' Season 3 premiere advanced the show's plot in three pretty straightforward but significant ways. An unfortunate stairwell accident put Penny in an upper-body cast, and Max took on the role of male nurse. After almost storming out due to Penny’s ridiculous demands (tea that was hot but not too hot, pillows that were cool but not too cool, sandwiches stricken of any crust), Max found himself crushing on Penny’s physical therapist, Kent. Max’s feelings toward Kent caused him to lie to Penny's doctor so as to delay the removal of her cast and keep Kent around, even going as far as drugging Penny with Sleepington’s sleepy tea (and some Lunesta—nature’s Ambien!). Penny, after getting caught in a fence and graffiti'd by a bunch of kids, told Kent what Max had been doing to her, ruining Max’s chances with the physical therapist. Penny also let it slip to Max that if Alex were to move away or die but asked her to marry Dave in her absence, she totally would. So Penny’s not over Dave, huh?
Elsewhere, Brad was putting on a convincing stay-at-home husband show, working on his dance-cooking and candle-making and spending some time with Sinbrad, his ventriloquist dummy, all to hide the fact that he'd actually been working for the past three weeks. A bubble bath and potential game of Loch Ness Monster (seeing as how this is Brad and Jane, one can only imagine what the rules of Loch Ness Monster might be...) exposed Brad’s secret. With an assist from Sinbrad, Brad realized work had been controlling him and quit his job. Is there a better sitcom couple than Brad and Jane? With each season, Happy Endings has upped the ridiculousness of their relationship. Their fake angry fight from Season 2 was one of my favorite TV moments last year.
And then there was the Dave and Alex storyline. Happy Endings first introduced us to this group of friends through the story of Alex leaving Dave at the altar. The showrunners have noted before that we’ve never actually seen what Dave and Alex are like as a couple, as we’ve only experienced their lives after their failed wedding. This episode gave us a chance to see what Dave and Alex are like in a casual relationship. We now know that they’re super awkward and really awful at keeping it casual. Dave let a flirting bartender buy him drinks. Alex gave that same bartender Dave’s phone number. When faced with the question of what two "friends" do on a Saturday afternoon, they had sex. By the end of episode, they realized that they weren’t so good at being casual. Apparently, they’re not very good at moving slowly, either: In the final scene they announced to the group that they were moving in together. Again.
Max and Penny have great chemistry, and Brad and Jane are a great couple, but Dave and Alex were the weak spot in Season 1. Dave has evolved into a more fleshed-out character as the show has progressed, but Alex has quickly become the character whose lines I look forward to the most. Part of this is probably due to my love of Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door is highly underrated, and I may or may not have seen it in theaters four times), but Cuthbert has really come into her own as a comedic actress. While her co-stars get to play characters who are highly aware that they’re saying funny things, Cuthbert’s Alex rarely understands why her friends are laughing at her. This episode’s “be friends with benefits like in No Strings Attached” line was another awesome deadpan that left the rest of gang slightly confused. After years of ridiculous movies and TV shows like The Quiet, Captivity, and The Forgotten, Cuthbert has found a place where she belongs with Happy Endings.
This was a great episode to kick off what I can only assume will be another great season of Happy Endings. I love how this show constantly keeps moving, delivering joke after joke while still molding characters that are grounded in just enough reality to remind you of your own friends. I laughed when Dave and Alex revealed to the gang that they were back together, only for everyone to groan and point out that they already knew. Two of my best friends once started dating in July, then told me about it at the end of the summer as if it wasn’t obvious. The six main characters on Happy Endings are great because they’re not caricatures. They’re not written to check off certain boxes or to serve as plot devices. They say stupid things. They abbreviate words and phrases in ways that they know their friends will understand. They’re real. And that’s ahmahzing. (Damn it. I thought I could get through this review without dropping an “ahmahzing.” I’ll try harder next time.)
– Brad trying out some new Sinbrad material: “Your momma so fat, she died.”
– Alex trying to assure her friends that she and Dave aren’t going to end badly again: “Trust us, the last thing we want is for things to get complicated like in It’s Complicated, so we’re just going to go with it like in Just Go With It, and be friends with benefits like in No Strings Attached.”
– Jane sharing her thoughts with Brad on his stay-at-home role: “I’ve been coming so hard home from work.”
– Max to Kent: “Two thing you should know about me. I’m selfless, and I’ve moves like Jagger, specially the ones he allegedly used on David Bowie in the '70s.”
– Jane upon seeing Alex wearing Dave's V-neck: “You look like the Olsen twins’ burnout brother Larry Kate Olsen.” Alex: “C’mon, his middle name is also Kate?”
– Penny yelling for Kent’s help: “Max is Misery-ing me. He’s like Kathy Bates but way fatter.”
– Alex on keeping it casual with Dave: “When I saw you with Karrisa today, it took everything in my tiny body not to slap the crunchy curl out of her hair and send her back to whatever monster truck back seat she was born in.” Dave: “What makes you think she was born in a monster truck?” Alex: “She said she was from Florida.”
– Max in response to Penny asking if was sure about being gay: “Right now I’m writing a Hot in Cleveland spec script, and I just had sex with Kent in your powder room, so...”