SusanP here, with thoughts on the season (series?) finale of Bunheads. A lot is at stake in the episode, but as in real life, not much is fully resolved. I’ll be disappointed if this turns out to be the last episode. Not because it was a bad, but it was anticlimactic for a finale. I’m anxious to spend more time in this world with these characters. I’d hate for this to be the last hour I get.
This Week on Bunheads…
A couple of weeks ago, TFE commenter Denny noted that Bunheads is in many ways a show about what happens when an extremely talented person doesn’t catch a break and make it big. Denny wrote:
I like to think of Michelle as an alternate universe version of Sutton Foster - one in which she's almost exactly the same (except for focusing on dancing more than singing) but somehow always manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to make it the way Sutton has. And this feels very true to me. Growing up in the theater world, I cannot tell you how many supremely talented people I know who have just never made it, and not through lack of trying. This thread of "what does a talented person do when they just don't make the big time?" is one of my favorite parts of the show.
Potential can only get a performer (or a person) so far in life. The show tackles this idea head-on in “Next!” [more after the jump]
The episode was written and directed by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. The centerpiece of the episode – Michelle’s audition for the chorus of a new Broadway musical based on the 1939 Bette Davis melodrama Dark Victory – reminds us that despite Michelle’s exceptional talent, the deck is stacked against her. While you can sense her trepidation about it all, it’s also clear that she takes this chance seriously. She arrives to find a cattle call with hundreds of other dancers vying for a few slots. Before the dancing even starts, more than half of the performers get eliminated for being the wrong “type.” Michelle survives the de-humanizing early round of cuts and gets to sing, but then learns the entire process was rigged from the start. The dancers got chosen weeks ago and the open call was a ruse to satisfy the union. Michelle’s potential to get the part in Dark Victory: The Musical never really existed.
Unbeknownst to Michelle, her temporary triumph but ultimate defeat is witnessed by the younger girls, who have followed her to the audition. Their main story this week explores a different kind of potential – their desire to grow up and do adult things like have sex on their own terms. Control-freak Sasha thinks knowledge is power, but may not be ready for the emotional aspects of that next step, even if she thinks she is. Fearing their boyfriends will lose interest if they have to wait, she decides that she and Boo can no longer wait and must take their relationships to the next level. She pushes each of the girls – including Melanie and Ginny to read up on sex, leading to a peppy montage that shows them each paging through a sexual awaking syllabus that includes “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” “Sex and the New Single Girl” and “The Chemistry Between Us”. The sequence offers clues as to how the girls really feel, based on the books we see them reading. Boo and Ginny’s choices are the most telling. Boo, who isn’t ready to have sex tosses Judy Blume’s “Forever” aside in favor of “The Hobbit.” Ginny reads “Girls Who Said Yes,” a strong hint that she’s already taken the leap that her friends are still preparing for.
In the episode’s final (non-musical scene), she tearfully opens up to Michelle, confiding that she couldn’t resist the beautiful, strange Frankie. The experience is all the more mortifying since she sent him a thank you letter (“as far as first times go, this seems successful”) and hasn’t heard from him since. It’s a heartbreaking, wonderful scene between Bailey Buntain and Sutton Foster. While she’s older, Michelle clearly relates to the younger girl, to the notion of loving someone even if you don’t really know them, and of doing something impulsive about it.
What I’m Loving/Musical Interlude Part One…
Sutton Foster’s singing, dancing and acting. After considering another song, she ends up performing “If My Friends Could See Me Now” for her audition. Her excellent rendition makes me long for her to star in a Sweet Charity revival. [Click to see her performance]
And here’s Shirley MacLaine from the Bob Fosse-directed 1969 film version:
Reference of the Week… Thanks to the helpful piano accompanist Seth (played by New York Theater Celebrity Seth Rudetsky), Michelle doesn’t end up singing “I Dreamed a Dream” at her audition. Apparently the song has become an overdone option for auditions thanks to Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance. Upon seeing Michelle’s first choice, Seth complains,
Freakin’ Hathaway, everybody’s doing this now. If I hear this one more time I’m taking hostages.”
The reference is a timely one for Oscar week and apropos since “I Dreamed a Dream” is all about unfulfilled dreams.
Film Clip/Musical Interlude Part Two…
The episode ends with a topical dance sequence performed to “Makin’ Whoopee.”
Of course, I can’t ever hear this song (and I’m guessing Nathaniel feels the same) without thinking of Michelle Pfeiffer’s awesome performance of the song in 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys.
So, that’s it for Bunheads – at least for now.
Did you like the episode? Were you happy to see Hunter Foster and Kelly Bishop return? Assuming the show does return, where do you see it going next? Share your thoughts – and banana names – in the comments.