There’s a moment in the season finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that perfectly captures what it’s like for a woman to make up with her best friend.
After quietly feuding for most of the episode, lovesick lawyer Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and her older co-worker Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) launch into simultaneous apologies, each talking over the other and claiming full responsibility for the fight. Eventually, they start complimenting each other’s dresses.
“You look like a princess,” says Paula, to which Rebecca counters that Paula looks like “a sea princess.”
The dual dialogue, all of it improvised, goes on for nearly 30 seconds and that’s not counting the footage left on the cutting room floor.
“I just let it go on forever and ever and ever and ever,” series co-creator and The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who made her directing debut in this episode, told The Daily Beast. “And when I finally said ‘Cut,’ the whole crew erupted.”
It may be the most romantic moment so far in a series that has seen its lead, played by YouTube-star-turned-Golden-Globe-winner Rachel Bloom, waffle back and forth between two men: the hunky, good-hearted “Asian Bro” Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), whom she has been fantasizing about since she was a teenager, and the sexy but sarcastic Greg (Santino Fontana).
It’s only fitting that the bedrock of The CW’s freshman musical comedy is a friendship between two women of different generations. As Bloom told The Daily Beast in January, McKenna took the younger writer and comedian under her wing after finding some of her YouTube videos online. Bloom brought undeniable talent to the table but it was fellow writer McKenna who taught her the ins and outs of more structured storytelling.
Early in their process, McKenna says, the pair decided that “the real love story of this show” was a platonic one between two women of different generations.
“I don’t think it’s an accident that we ended up writing a show which is a love story between a lady of a certain age and Rebecca,” she said.
In fact, the Paula-Rebecca relationship mirrors the very real McKenna-Bloom friendship and creative partnership behind the show.
“They are way more crazy and broken, we hope,” McKenna said, laughing. “Although, you know, we have our moments.”
Paula and Rebecca definitely have their moments in the season finale. After months of pursuing Josh with the help of Paula’s maternal meddling, Rebecca starts sleeping with Greg instead, only to burden their budding romance with the childish expectation of a fairytale ending.
To highlight Rebecca’s flight of fancy, the show’s executive music producer Adam Schlesinger, who crafted the ripped-from-the-era earworm in That Thing You Do, wrote a musical number about finding your one true love that is fittingly performed by Lea Salonga, the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.
While Rebecca is busy daydreaming, Paula feels spurned by her friend’s sudden course change, storming out on her during a fiery Chicago-style musical number in which she makes some Freudian slips (“mother, I mean friend”) that lay bare the subconscious dynamics behind their relationship.
That friend breakup hits hard—as it should.
“My biggest heartbreaks have been female friendships,” McKenna recalled. “You have your heart and soul in them in a different way because they’re forever.”
It’s a good thing they’re forever, too, because Rebecca continues to stumble in the man department this episode as she has since the show began. In many ways, the season finale reads as an indictment of romantic comedy conventions because it shows how a young woman’s obsession with meet-cutes and star-crossed chances end up hurting her in the long run.
“[Rebecca] lives in a world where she’s willing those things into being—those coincidences and those narrative things that we look for in our own love lives,” said McKenna, who has penned a few Hollywood rom-coms herself.
But lest the audience look down on Rebecca for jamming her life into a preconceived narrative, McKenna points out that we are probably more like her than we want to admit.
“You know, I’ve always said that everybody’s wedding toast is some psychotic story that involves stalking and coincidence,” she noted.
Paula, on the other hand, makes progress in finding that fine line between giving good advice to your BFF and wanting to temporarily take over her life, remake it in your own image, and return it to her when you’re done making it perfect.
“Hey, I am not telling you what to do anymore. I am done with that,” Paula promises, before, of course, giving Rebecca one teeny bit of advice.
But Paula’s counsel, which is actually sound this time around, doesn’t help. The season wraps on a disquieting note, with Rebecca falling back into unhealthy patterns just when it seems like her dreams are finally coming true. She does sleep with either Greg or Josh in the closing moments of this season—no spoilers here for those who are still catching up—but it’s clear, tonally, that something has gone awry.
“She’s in search of a love narrative and she’s bound and determined to find it and in this moment he fulfills that role,” McKenna noted. “But that’s not the answer. That’s not what she needs.”
McKenna offered no hints as to what might happen romantically in Season 2. Both leading men still have feelings for Rebecca and she for them, so anything is possible. But the co-creator did make one easy prediction: Rebecca and Paula are here to stay.
“Those two will be friends forever whatever happens with the boys,” she promised.