From its inception, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has been nearly impossible to nail down. The central premise follows a woman picks up her life and moves it across the country to stalk an ex from her teenage years. Did you cringe at that sentence? Don’t worry, the show is aware of the potential downfalls. Even as the theme song of season one plays, our central “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” rejects the moniker of being labeled “Crazy.” The show isn’t an “empowering” look at the traditional strong female character. What’s brilliant is its an empathetic look at a woman with serious mental issues and her quest for satisfaction and peace of mind.
Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) was last seen on the edge of a (literal) cliff, left at the altar with only her inner demons remaining. Back in West Covina, her friends and law associates wonder where Rebecca has gone. Rather than give in to despair, Rebecca swears revenge on her former obsession/fiancee, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), who’s now studying to become a priest.
Rachel Bloom’s Golden Globe-winning creation returns with more warts and all than ever. Bloom announces her character’s return as she storms through a grocery store dressed solely in a robe and scowl. Once put together, Rebecca returns to her law offices, modeled after Sharon Stone’s iconic Catherine Trammell from “Basic Instinct” with similar killer instincts. While her look screams drama, her plans for revenge lack the same inventiveness. Her group of friends indulges her schemes, thinking once it’s out of her system she will be fine. However, when one idea involving a fake sex tape goes further than expected, Rebecca’s support system realizes they need to intervene.
The show’s strength lies in its ability to depict a woman with mental illness who refuses to seek health. With Bloom’s precise and energetic handling, Rebecca is neither sanctified nor vilified for her actions. Like Rebecca’s friends, it’s hard to figure out how to help her. Do you entertain your friend’s unhealthy behavior? Do you implore them to get help? For Rebecca herself, one must ask, what will get her to change? The episode finds her with a renewed energy to put her smarts and law prowess to take Josh down. However, will this bring her happiness? These complicated questions are not easy to answer. Luckily, we have a whole season to delve into these unanswerable questions.
These questions don’t just apply to Rebecca. With each season, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” realizes how much it can rely on its sparkling ensemble. The crown jewel of the supporting cast once again belongs to Donna Lynne Champlin’s Paula Proctor. Rebecca’s best friend and surrogate Mama bear, Donna often times has invested herself in Rebecca’s problems to avoid dealing with her own. Yet, season three Donna has no choice but to take a look at her marriage. Her husband, Scott (Steve Monroe), appears eager and repentant to rejoin the family following an affair. Even as he goes through all the hoops Paula throws at him, including a lie detector test, Paula still feels unsettled about letting Scott back into her life.
Paula’s relationship isn’t the only one in trouble. The effervescent Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner) constantly brings up having a child with his younger boyfriend “White Josh” (David Hull). Unfortunately, “White Josh” comes off much less interested in talking about kids. Darryl discovers “White Josh” has come up with an ant-themed workout bar, but lacks the courage to make it a thing. Their relationship has grown from superfluous to a strong, complex look at a May-December romance.
The musical numbers continue to be a highlight. Early on in the episode, the citizens of West Covina gather together for a “Beauty and the Beast” style opus that’s hilarious in the amount of commitment and skill given. As impressive as that is, it’s no match for the late episode masterpiece, “Let’s Generalize About Men.” Like most of the show’s songs, it works in so many nuances into a poppy, fun song. The song involves women complaining about the flaws of men on a general level. Not only does it voice grievances of women struggling in a male-dominated society, but it also reveals the dangers of generalizing anyone based on specific interactions with one person. Yes, this even applies to generalizing men. Hilariously, it also mocks women’s obsession with the gay best friend. On top of all that, it’s a catchy and eye-popping 80s throwback.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” continues to be unlike any other show on television. That’s not just because its one of the few musical shows that actually succeeds at being a well produced, original musical. It’s because it deals with important, topical issues with the heart, nuance, and lots of laughs. Rebecca Bunch is a character for the ages, whose every inappropriate action takes on new meaning in the grand scheme of the show. As the show airs more episodes this year, sign me up for whatever crazy twists, turns and production numbers the show has up its sleeve.