Even when they’re not together…
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend deals heavily in relationships. It’s in the title, after all. The main focus is on Rebecca Bunch, the eponymous ex-girlfriend who struggles simultaneously with her mental illness and her search for love. And her drama extends to her friends, who are in a constant state of flux involving infidelity, uncertainty, and settling.
With one obvious exception.
At the show’s outset Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner) and White Josh “WhiJo” Wilson (David Hull) are peripheral characters. Darryl, Rebecca’s boss, is a hapless and lonely goofball. White Josh is little more than a physical punchline — a comically buff guy who looks like a white version of Rebecca’s romantic interest, Josh Chan.
But halfway through the first season the two meet and promptly become fully fledged characters, a couple, and the show’s moral compass.
Darryl and Rebecca’s parallels in the first season are clear, and not just because they’re both pursuing Joshes. They simultaneously get a kiss on the cheek and exuberantly wonder what it could mean. Their Chinatown-esque case against Greater City Water leads them to spend more time with their respective Joshes, and sends them both rushing to them in a climactic spliced scene that ends in a kiss. At the end of the scene, Rebecca is confronted with her fake boyfriend, Trent, who covers for her with a creepily enthusiastic makeout and then blackmails her into letting him sleep at the foot of her bed. Darryl, meanwhile, joyfully admits his bisexuality, kisses White Josh, and begins a sweet and hesitant courtship.
So end the parallels, and so begin the stark comparisons.
In a show of extremes, Darryl and WhiJo exist as a reminder of what love can sometimes be, a sweet relationship that progresses slowly and normally, both parties with all their cards on the table. They discuss their feelings, they’re frank when something’s wrong, and they’re generally just good for each other, while everyone around them lies and cheats and makes desperate, one-sided grabs for happiness.
With the first two seasons, if anything, the show runs the risk of portraying their relationship too positively. While Rebecca’s life falls apart, they go on hikes, shop for furniture, and dress in matching tuxedos. It makes for a nice balance to the mayhem, and a welcome reminder that love can be pure and nice, but it also smacks slightly of overcompensation, of making the show’s one same-sex relationship too good to be true.
The third season moves past that, however, giving Darryl and WhiJo an irreconcilable problem — the question of parenthood. It’s a legitimate impasse, and one very rooted in who they are as people — Darryl impulsive, enthusiastic, and affectionate; WhiJo rational, standoffish, and at a much earlier stage in his life.
The show even seems to acknowledge its earlier lapse. The season 3 episode 1 song “Let’s Generalize About Men” features the very self-aware verse “Gay men are all really great/Every single one/They’re never mean, just sassy/They’re all completely adorable and fun.” This song plays between scenes of Darryl and WhiJo experiencing their first serious relationship problems and visiting a therapist. (No, Darryl isn’t gay, but this is a song about gross generalization).
And when Darryl tries to discuss his issues with Maya, resident Millennial, he can’t get a word in as she gushes about how he and WhiJo are her “#goals” and “favorite humans” who give her “all the feels.” The show is firm with all the Mayas out there — Darryl and WhiJo aren’t problem-free, and they’re not cute. They’re real people at a crossroads in their real relationship.
So Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes its model healthy relationship and does the best thing it can do to legitimize it — it ends it.
But even split up, Darryl and WhiJo are model citizens. Darryl sticks to his guns and sets out to have a child on his own. WhiJo has a brief period of denial, but then he escapes to Mexico to build houses and do some soul-searching. No one mails poop. No one becomes a priest.
WhiJo does stop gelling his hair, but maybe that’s for the best. He looks older, and less like a counterpart to Josh Chan.
And that brings us to the most recent episode, the season 3 finale. The episode has two big reunions of estranged lovers. With Rebecca arrested for attempted murder, she and Nathaniel meet in a panic, profess their love for each other, and sing a moving duet that ends in a kiss.
At the exact same moment, Darryl and WhiJo meet in the delivery room where Darryl’s baby has just been born. In a hushed conversation that lasts less than 2 minutes, they admit that they missed each other and express the desire to be friends. They’re not a couple, but they’re reconciled and they’re happy, and they don’t even have to sing about it.
This is an important distinction, because Darryl and WhiJo have never sung together. And in a show with over 100 musical numbers, that’s saying something. At first, the songs seemed to take place in Rebecca’s head, but they’ve since expanded to times she’s not even present, usually representing the characters’ hopes and fears and excitements. And because the songs are funny, they often represent misunderstandings and generally wonky ways of thinking. They tend to spell out the characters’ delusions.
But Darryl and WhiJo have never had delusions about each other. In fact,WhiJo, always rational and self-possessed, doesn’t even have his own song until he’s dumped and sings the wonderful “Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too” with Nathaniel. It’s Nathaniel, the veteran of bonkers self-deception, who spearheads the love duet with Rebecca that claims John Wayne Gacy and Hitler can’t be blamed for their actions. WhiJo’s quiet and decidedly unmusical return to Darryl is a perfect counterbalance.
Importantly, Rebecca’s last-minute denial of Nathaniel’s message shows that she might be on her own path away from delusion. Even if they’re not together romantically, Darryl and WhiJo continue to be the beacon of moral behavior.
And Rebecca, in her most devastating but most promising finale yet, seems to be taking the cue from them. Fairytale love isn’t the endgame. Sometimes the best thing you can do is quietly claim responsibility, accept the consequences, and see where you end up.