A few thoughts on the series finale of 'Greek'
ABC Family's college dramedy wraps its four-season run
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For nature, spring is a time of renewal. For TV, spring is a time of renewals, but also of cancellations. Fans spend a lot of time saying "Good-Bye" each spring as favorite shows end their runs, sometimes abruptly and sometimes on their own terms.
The result is that some shows get gala send-offs and other shows get more intimate farewells. We'll dedicates weeks of interviews and columns and podcasts to the departure of something like "Friday Night Lights." We'll devote introspection and discussion to the last episodes of something like "Big Love." We'll ponder the significance of the waning moments of a low-rated network show that hovers on the bubble, shows that may or may not return.
But not every show gets an extensive celebration. Not every show gets a parade. In certain pockets of the Internet, Monday's series finale of ABC Family's "Greek" received loving recognition. In other corners, it's something that never happened at all.
And you know? That's probably fair. "Greek" was a show that served a key purpose in the evolution of the ABC Family brand, but it's also a show the network largely left behind several years ago, with fairly low ratings to match. You could argue that "Greek" probably had at least one bonus season, if not two and that, like "Friday Night Lights" to some degree, it ended several seasons and half-seasons with what could have just as easily been series finales if they'd needed to be. "Greek" was a fine show, but not a great show. But it was also never a show that I thought of as a guilty pleasure.
I liked "Greek" and the finale that aired on Monday (March 7) matched the series perfectly: It broke no new ground, but it respected and rewarded loyal viewers, offering a few laughs and a couple sentimental sniffles along the way.
A few thoughts on the "Greek" finale after the break and then I'll open the floor to see if folks have any comments...
I talked to "Greek" creator Sean Smith back in January and one thing that was clear was that the show viewed these 10 episodes as a gift, but they were also approaching them as an end-point. Despite having that finality in mind, I think many fans would agree that this last season felt particularly rushed. Every episode seemed to be simultaneously bringing characters back into the fold and shoving them out.
Spencer Grammer's Casey, for example, had achieved independence in last season's finale, preparing for life at GW Law School, far away from Cappie and Evan and Rusty. So in the early episodes, Smith and company had to bring Casey back to CRU, had to bring Ashleigh back, and then, just when things seemed resettled, everybody had to find new independence, often with less-than-convincing results. Casey didn't want to go to law school. Then she did. Then she thought she didn't belong in law school. Then she realized she did. Then she was out of place at law school. Then we were led to believe that she was an excellent law student. And then finally, Casey decided to leave law school and head to Washington without a plan, with very little motivation. We were told that it was good for her to be with Cappie. Then it was bad. Then Cappie was growing up. Then Cappie wasn't growing up. Finally, because Cappie had taken so many classes in college, he had enough credits to graduate with a major in philosophy even though he'd apparently only decided to take an intro philosophy class that semester and then they were driving off into the sunset.
If you stopped to think about it, you might wonder if the last finale was a more progressive ending for Casey. She decided she didn't need to be with the man who wouldn't grow up, she had a professional direction and she was going off to live her own life. Now, she's going off to an uncertain future with a man she's fooled herself into thinking is a grown-up even though he has no more sense of what he wants to do with himself than he did before, despite his diploma. She wasted a semester at CRU and the associated tuition and she made a completely arbitrary decision to decide she didn't belong in law school just a week or two after the mock trial nonsense proved that she did belong in law school. She simultaneously stood up to her bully of a professor, but mostly she let him win.
Last season was about Casey finding herself, but losing her man. This season was about Casey losing herself, but deciding that she really wanted to be with her man. I think the point of "Greek" is that we're all unformed people when we're in our 20s and that we waver and change. But the series ending for Casey was positive in love, uncertain in future, exactly the opposite of where we ended Season 3. With a few extra episodes, maybe Casey would have done something that actually propelled her in her choice to leave Ohio and law school for Washington and nothing. Instead, it was a choice made with 15 minutes to go in the finale.
With a few extra episodes, maybe the "Oh No, Evil Jonathan Silverman Is Going To Destroy The KT House" plot wouldn't have come up so abruptly and also ended so abruptly. I could have used two or three episodes of Cappie and company trying to save the house, rather than one amusing heist, one speech-heavy media opportunity and then a montage of bulldozers and crying. Instead, it appeared that the decision to buy the KT house, the decision to bulldoze the KT house and the actual bulldozing of the KT house took place over two days. And by my calculations, the KTs never would have known about the bulldozing if not for Rusty's research and Casey's research position with her professor. If not for those things, all signs point towards Evil Jonathan Silverman bulldozing the KT house without warning and with everybody inside. As it was, the KTs only had time to move out their necessities, but not time enough to take down the satellite dish from the roof.
But the KT house needed to be bulldozed, because there was a lesson that needed to be taught about how the true measure of the Greek System isn't in the paddles and the kegs and the physical trappings of a House, but in the forged bonds and relationships that develop. And that lesson apparently couldn't be taught without the KT house being reduced to rubble with no notice at all right before finals.
Speaking of things that were rushed, there will definitely be fans who either felt like the Rusty/Ashleigh relationship came out of nowhere or at least felt like it was a somewhat arbitrary choice as a happy ending for both characters. I agree with the latter point if not with the former. As I've mentioned before, I've never watched "Greek" on a week-to-week basis, instead gorging on episodes in seven or eight episode bursts on long plane flights or Hulu/OnDemand viewership. Perhaps because of the condensed nature of my viewing, I have a solid memory of four or five early episodes that planted the seed for Rusty and Ashleigh having a connection, or at least for Jacob Zachar and Amber Stevens having chemistry. I totally bought the two characters giving a relationship a chance, but what they didn't do was convince me that this was a great pairing to leave us with. With two or three episodes to actually show Rusty and Ashleigh dating, to see how they complimented each other and each provided something the other lacked, I might have been ready to leave them all couple-y in the rear-view. Instead, I lamented that Johanna Braddy's Jordan wasn't recruited for one last visit.
The truncated season also messed with Evan and Rebecca. After the contortions they put us through to make us care about that couple in Season 3, Evan made an abrupt shift into "losing himself in law school" and then, in the last two episodes, made an abrupt shift back to being likable, redeemed Evan. I don't think anybody believes that Evan and Rebecca are a stable long-term couple, but "Greek" wanted to leave them together and happy. OK, I guess.
Dale got humiliated by the Greek System, welcomed back into the Greek System and then... ended up with Laura. I don't know if that really constitutes a happy ending for the character, but OK, I guess. [In one episode, Dale simultaneously got to lavalier Laura and satisfy his unrequited crush by kissing Casey. Sure, he ceased to have a character or motivations of his own this season, but he did fine.]
Katherine continued her evolution into the Taylor Townsend/Paris Gellar of "Greek" by embracing her sexuality and was seemingly left to Beaver. OK, I guess.
Calvin suddenly became neurotic about his lack of major, chose accounting, realized that wasn't his passion and decided to study approach in India with Heath. Ummm... OK?
So all of our main characters found resolutions, but none of them found resolutions that wouldn't have made just a bit more sense with two or three more episodes to support them.
And that's all OK, because "Greek" was always a show about sometimes under-motivated soft landings, rather than the nitty-gritty harsh realities of college life. That's part of why "Greek" lasted 74 episodes.
A few more thoughts about the "Greek" finale and the final season:
*** Lots of great nods to the fans. Officer Huck returns to support the KTs! Arielle Vandenberg's devirginating Lisa Lawson returns! Derek Mio's Wade returns! And, best and most amusing of all, Jen K (Jessica Rose) comes back, now as the editor of the school paper, to express regret for the anti-Greek expose that caused at least two or three episodes of trouble back in the day. Why hasn't poor LonelyGirl15 had more of a career, anyway?
*** Not a return, but a funny cameo by "Buffy" veteran Tom Lenk as the tour guide at Lasker Parkes' company. I loved the paddle heist with all of the characters using big glasses as their only disguise. It wasn't much of a plan, though.
*** Lots of fine emotional reactions to the bulldozing of the KT house. Zachar and Aaron Hill gave particularly fine "side eyes."
*** "Captain John Paul Jones." Good to know Cappie's real name. Though given what we learned about his parents, how much sense does it make?
*** Cappie also got to articulate the theme of the entire series in his silly philosophy final, when he observed "Our purpose is to figure out our purpose. That's what college is." And yet neither he nor Casey figured out their purpose beyond being together. Fair enough. He also delivered the only line of the episode that made me sniffly, when he looked at Rusty and observed, "You are my legacy, Spitter." Awwwww.
*** Casey's resolved respect for Rusty may have been the most fully realized arc of the entire series if you think back to where the show started. When she tells Ashleigh, "I was wrong when I told you to be careful with Rusty. He's a lot stronger than I gave him credit for," that was a good summation. Casey and Cappie may have driven off into the unknown together, but this was still a series about a brother and sister who think they have nothing in common, but grow into friends and allies.
*** "Greek" closed its run with the usual blend of generation-spanning pop culture references with nods to Matthew McConaughey, the original "90210" and "The Empire Strikes Back."
What'd you think of the "Greek" finale? Are you happy with where we left the CRU gang?
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