“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” ended last season on a surprise cliffhanger, making it seem like Rebecca would plead guilty to a crime she didn’t technically commit and spend time in prison as a way of finally taking some responsibility for her actions.
But as the CW musical dramedy is wont to do, the Season 4 premiere episode flipped those expectations on their head, instead digging deep into the reality of Rebecca’s situation — voluntarily staying in prison as a symbolic gesture to atone for her past misdeeds is definitely not brave and romantic or even morally good — and forcing its heroine to do the tough work of real self-improvement.
“That’s the thing, it’s not an easy thing to do,” said Aline Brosh McKenna, showrunner co-creator alongside series star Rachel Bloom, in an interview with TheWrap. “In the first episode, she’s thinking she can go to jail and do some sort of penance and put everything under the same sort of umbrella. But what she learns is that it’s going to be a longer, more complicated road to taking responsibility.”
That long, complicated road has already cost Rebecca a carefree trip to Hawaii and possibly her relationship with Nathaniel, two things the Rebecca who first moved to West Covina three seasons ago would’ve dropped everything for, accountability be damned.
“He wants them to just enjoy the fact that they love each other and have fun,” said Brosh McKenna. “That’s what’s most important to him, but she’s sort of striving for something higher.”
Rebecca’s path to self-actualization has been circuitous, to put it mildly, and is long from over, but Brosh McKenna and Bloom have been clear from the start that they’ve always known where she’s headed and where she ends up.
The co-creators originally pitched the show in “four chapters” and Brosh McKenna says they’ve kept with that plan all the way through, thanks to the support from the network and a feverishly passionate — if slightly smaller than ideal — core fanbase.
“Our fans are amazing,” said Brosh McKenna. “We’ve got a very consistent, coherent group of people. And that’s one of the great joys of doing any show. When people find it and appreciate it, that’s a great feeling.”
Read TheWrap’s full interview with Brosh McKenna below.
TheWrap: We ended last season on Rebecca trying to hold herself accountable for her actions, how would you describe her arc going into Season 4?
Brosh McKenna: She’s trying to take responsibility and trying to become a responsible human being. So the first half of the season focuses on her own personal journey toward redemption, making peace with her past and the things that she’s done. Then the second half of the season focuses on the love story, the multiple love stories.
The premiere sees her in jail, but she pretty quickly realizes that’s not going to cut it. So what does redemption look like for her?
That’s the thing, it’s not an easy thing to do. In the first episode, she’s thinking she can go to jail and do some sort of penance and put everything under the same sort of umbrella. But what she learns is that it’s going to be a longer, more complicated road to taking responsibility.
She ends up volunteering in the prison. Is that something she continues with?
Yeah, she does that through the whole season. We have a couple episodes where you see her there, but there are also episodes where she talks about it. We see her doing it from then on.
Are she and Nathaniel done, broken up after their disagreement in this episode?
In that moment they are, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
What’s going on in his head in that moment? Why does he lash out at her like that?
He doesn’t have the same — he thinks her desire to be accountable is kind of annoying. He wants them to just enjoy the fact that they love each other and have fun. That’s what’s most important to him, but she’s sort of striving for something higher. She’s on her own path to redemption and trying to figure out the extent of her own privilege. These are all things he doesn’t want to do.
Is that something he’ll have to reckon with as the season progresses?
He does. And not just in relation to her, but also just for himself in terms of his own life. Learning how to do some of those things not just for her and their relationship, but for himself.
How would you describe Paula’s relationship to Rebecca this season? We’ve seen her try to disentangle herself from Rebecca a few times in the past, but will they find a way to create a healthier relationship?
In the first episode, you saw that Paula has a different idea about accountability and how one should be accountable. So they’ll clash in that respect, but she does appreciate the gesture that Rebecca made in the last season to try and make things better with Paula. To kind of acknowledge the things she’s done and how she’s been inconsiderate. Rebecca is engaged in an honest attempt, from episode one on, an earnest attempt to try and make sense of her life and the things that she’s done. And Paula sees that. But Paula is not flawless in her own behavior, and she has her own stuff to think about. She has her own issues.
Josh goes on a bit of a journey to figure out his life in the premiere, which ends up with him in therapy. Where does that take him this season?
Well, he’s trying to be introspective, which is something that that type of character — and you know, all of our characters are sort of tropes that we’re trying to explore — isn’t usually very introspective. This episode is sort of his first attempt to figure out who he is and what sort of role he’s played in the things that have happened to him.
When should we expect to see Greg pop back up?
Was it ever part of the conversation to have Santino Fontana return or was it always planned as a new actor?
Well, we felt like we had sent off the Santino version of the character and completed that arc. For us it didn’t really make sense to bring him back unless we were re-conceiving the character in some way. So for us, we were thinking about if he was going to be different, he would literally be played by someone else. That would make it really clear that he’s different now, so then what does that mean for her? That’s what really sparked our interest in having the character back. And we reached out to Santino to make sure he knew we were doing that so he wouldn’t be shocked to see it.
Can you tease what role he’ll play in the story?
He and Rebeca have a lot of unresolved tension and issues, which is fun for us. And he’s got a lot of interesting relationships with Josh and Nathaniel and all those other guys. It’ll be fun to have all those characters in play at once.
You put out a call for guest stars on Twitter. Did you get a lot of responses?
We got deluged with responses. It’s been great. We’ve had a lot of cameos this year.
How do you work them all into the season?
Well, we can’t. But as we’re writing, if something comes up and it fits someone who’s expressed enthusiasm for the show, we can try to make it work. And if it works, it works, but there’s a lot of wonderful people who’ve expressed interest. We can’t accommodate everyone, but we really make an effort if we have those smaller parts to try and invite someone who’s been especially supportive of the show.
Do you have a favorite guest star this season?
Yeah, we have Elayne Boosler on the show, and I’m a huge, huge fan. So I was very excited that it worked out. She’s sort of a somewhat overlooked comedy icon to women. But I’m pleased to say that she seems to be experiencing something of a resurgence, because she has a box set out and there was an article in the New York Times this week about how she’s something of an overlooked legend of ’80s stand-up comedy.
Can you tell us who she plays?
She plays someone from Naomi’s past.
You and Rachel have been really open about the four-year plan from the show, pretty much from the beginning. Have you strayed from that original plan at all?
Well, we always pitched the show in four chapters, and we always had an idea of what the end scene is. All of that’s never changed. Obviously, some of the particulars have changed, but we’ve always been very clear about the journey. Even from back when we first pitched the show in 2014.
Was it ever open to conversation to keep it going for longer?
No, never. I have to say, I’m almost glad it’s not a bigger hit so there isn’t the pressure to do more episodes. We got convinced to do the extra five, but there isn’t a lot of corporate thirst to expand shows that are that low-rated. So that’s been great.
But even so, the fans of the show do seem to be especially dedicated.
Yeah, our fans are amazing. We’ve got a very consistent, coherent group of people. And that’s one of the great joys of doing any show. When people find it and appreciate it, that’s a great feeling.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” airs Fridays at 9/8c on The CW.