Brow Beat

Josh Groban Is Here to Remind Us That Life, Like TV, Doesn’t Always Make Narrative Sense

“Sometimes you’re an extra just walking by in the background, like me, Josh Groban!”

Still via YouTube

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gave us a good ol’ dose of existential despair this week as Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) alienated all her loved ones in a single swoop and then spent the rest of the episode pushing the limits of the audience’s sympathy as she went completely off the rails. In summary, the universe is chaotic, the people you care about will disappoint you, and there’s no such thing as a happy ending.

With that out of the way, let’s analyze some songs!

After fleeing an intervention thrown by friends concerned about her mental health, Rebecca hides out in a a hostel, where she meets Jarl (Rory O’Malley), a tourist visiting West Covina, California, in hopes of spotting some Danish-American movie stars. Rebecca and her new, weird buddy bond over their shared love of Erika Christensen in Swimfan, whose character Rebecca identifies with even though Christensen plays the villain of the movie—a nice callback to “I’m the Villain in My Own Story” from Season 1.

Swimfan inspires Rebecca to kick her femme fatale transformation up a notch and go full-on bunny boiler, starting by singing the theme song to SwimChan, which is ostensibly a parody of Swimfan but mostly just a sendup of Fatal Attraction rip-offs and revenge thrillers in general.

“Scary scary sexy lady/ Angry scary sexy lady” sings Rebecca over threatening—but still feminine!—imagery of flowers, daggers, and poisoned boba tea. “Angry like a witch but sexy like a sexy witch.” The song itself is pretty silly, but the credits of the movie that takes place in Rebecca’s mind are great, especially “Written by Josh Chan Because He’s Responsible for All This” and “Costumes by Whoever Does Rihanna Because OMG.” In fact, this really should have been the theme song for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s third season as a whole, since it’s much more tonally consistent with the season so far than the theme song we got instead.

The cinematic nature of the episode carries over into another, much more substantial song at its end, appropriately titled “The End of the Movie.” [Major spoilers ahead.] Rebecca’s attempts to reconnect with Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) by tormenting him backfire, for obvious reasons, and a phone call from another one of her exes, Greg (Santino Fontana), turns out to be a butt dial. Desperate and searching for a lifeline, Rebecca finally reaches a new low point: She sleeps with Greg’s dad, Marco (Robin Thomas). While it’s a shocking, self-destructive decision, it also makes sense for Rebecca, whom, as we know, has poor impulse control and constantly seeks the validation of men who don’t fully love her. That doesn’t make it any less devastating, though.

If there is any upside to Rebecca’s downward spiral, it’s that her walk of shame gets a soundtrack by Grammy- and Tony-nominated singer Josh Groban.

“Life is a gradual series of revelations/ That occur over a period of time/ It’s not some carefully crafted story/ It’s a mess, and we’re all gonna die,” explains Groban’s familiar baritone as we look in on other characters in the show and their untidy lives. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has joked before about one of its theme songs acting as an “emotional thesis statement” for Rebecca’s imagination, but that’s exactly what “The End of the Movie” is: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s very own emotional thesis statement. While Rebecca likes to imagine she is the star of her own neatly packaged story—whether it’s a psychological thriller or a romantic musical dramedy that airs Friday nights on the CW—the truth is that reality “doesn’t make narrative sense.”

There is also a more cynical way to read this song, in that it lets the writers explain away some of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s messier aspects by pointing out that real life is also messy. An emotional phone call from your ex at the exact moment you hit rock bottom? That’s something a screenwriter would dream up. A butt dial is, theoretically, much more in keeping with the randomness of the universe, even if its timing is still awfully cinematic. That said, “The End of the Movie” is a beautiful, sad warning about escapism, lightened up with some much-needed humor by Groban’s cameo.

Best Song of the Week: “The End of the Movie,” for reminding us that while we all think we’re headliners, sometimes we’re just background extras in someone else’s story. “Like me, Josh Grobaaaan!”

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