52nd Street: The SMASH Finale


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I’m truly flummoxed by the amount of snark I am seeing on the Web about last night’s Smash finale. After writing half my recap in a dreary stupor at 3 a.m., I surfed around a bit to find that people are downright vicious about how this season ended. Well, they weren’t watching the same show I was. Oh, I can and will bitch and snark about some of the most hilarious and trite parts of it, because that’s fun of course, but overall it seemed that the series was starting to find its footing. Realizing that the show is the thing. Not who got laid. Not who snookered whom last night. The – show – is – the – thing. It should have been from the beginning with this frustrating series. Glorious things can happen in a theater, when everyone remembers to put on their big boy pants.

These are not their big-boy pants.

Most of the characters did just that last night. Most started to come to the realization that their little fantasies need to end: the tough choices have to be made, the crappy things have to be said, the risks have to be undertaken. I nearly cheered when Derek ran backstage to rifle through all the Marilyn costumes to cut the Gordian knot and make his final call. Is it hokey? I don’t think so. Have you ever been stuck on a decision and looked through an old diary? Photos? Blog posts? Tumblrs? Emails? This was his version of that. Somewhere between all the rotating casts Derek remembered that art can and should thrive on instinct: that with all other things being equal, you have to trust your gut. His gut said Karen. So Karen it was. Finally. Someone had the glitzy balls to just say it and DO it and take no bull about it.

"This is always how I do my casting."

And now we are where we knew this was going from the beginning: the 42nd Street makeover, the update for a new era. She’s going out an understudy and she is coming back a star, with some unbelievably high hurdles (learning half a show in a day, including cues and such, is a little much to take but juuuuuuust left of believable enough to skate by) to clear. This is what this show was meant to do, right? Give us a look at how it happens: how a nobody comes from nowhere and rises to the top.

That’s showbiz, kid.

NEXT: Why I loved this episode.

  • Ellisdies

    WHEAT. THRESHER.

  • jpegfilms

    As usual, loved your analysis. I too, was increasingly disappointed in the show when they make Ivy the big bitch villain. I find it MUCH more satisfying to be rooting for both of them. The more conflicted I am, the better.

    I will say just a few things

    1. I do not buy for a SECOND that Karen could learn/memorize a song she’d never seen of heard before that was finished 5 minutes before the curtain went up. That stretched the believability too far for me.

    2. When the Baroness von Huston was on her iPhone, she was holding it upside down! I couldn’t get past it. The earphone plug was by her mouth meaning she was speaking into the speakers and listening to the microphone. How could no one have told her to flip it?!??! It drove me crazy during the whole scene.

    3. Unfortunately, the show isn’t coming back until January. They want to give the new showrunner time to really develop a season and get into his groove as opposed to getting thrown in and having to learn on the job. Plus NBC wants to keep it paired with The Voice.

    • Melissa

      Hey! Thanks! Here’s my couple things back at you:

      1. She definitely DIDN’T learn the whole song in five minutes. As noted a few times during, the orchestrations were done as was most of the song – and a version of the lyrics (even if a bad one) straight at the top of the show. Most likely she learned it in the hour previous to the show (hard, but possible, plus it’s a simple song), and they were tweaking a couple lines.

      2. I didn’t see that at all! Dangit. I have to go back.

      3. Where did you read this? No matter, I’m psyched either way :)

  • http://twitter.com/19yearslater Sarah Moe

    I disliked the Derek looks through costumes thing not because it was nostalgic, but because it seemed pretty boob-oriented (on that note, how can Ivy and Karen wear the same costumes but Karen and Rebecca can’t?). The finale song was cheeseball but appropriate and, as you mentioned, something similar to what Broadway has done. Of course Karen got the role, she’s been at the top of the pyramid since the first ads. However, I started watching the show for Megan Hilty. Knowing that Karen would get the role, I hoped that Ivy would be Norma Jean, sing sad songs because Ivy’s life is crap and Karen can get over it to be the star. Instead Ivy has become the worst of Marilyn and that could be interesting but might not be. We shall see, but I don’t think Ivy’s dead (ohai, Quinn). Also Tom and Sam are adorable.

  • Heather23renae

    Every episode that I see, I seem to love Derek more and more! Jack Davenport is a master! I would like to go back to when I watched the first episode and see my expression when I tell myself that I am going to absolutely adore Derek. I wouldn’t have believed myself for half a second!

    I have been routing for Karen from the start! I thought she represented a more youthful Marilyn and transitioned well in to the more mature Marilyn. Ivy always seemed like she skipped right to mature.

    I think it says TONS about Megan Hilty’s talent that she turned off her ‘it’. Who the heck can do that?!

    • http://twitter.com/19yearslater Sarah Moe

      Jack Davenport is certainly a master. He and Megan Hilty are both playing somewhat dislikable characters well, but I want them on the show because the actors are fantastic. Unlike, say, the dislikable Ellis- that’s just an oddball situation.

  • Saxy

    Thanks for a great summary of this fun show. I love BOTH of these women and both do have IT, which is really great for this show. For me, the thing about Karen is intrigue. Ivy is fantastic and puts it all out there every time. At the same time, I kind of feel that I’ve seen ALL of Ivy, which is OK. With Karen, it seems like it’s held back somewhat (maybe inexperience?). But when Karen suddenly “put the pedal to the floor” on that closing number, I stopped what I was doing and thought “Wow – what’s this?”. And that makes me wonder what else she has hiding in there, i.e. intrigue. Actually, I’m not completely crazy about either one being Marilyn. I’d love for season 2 to invent a new musical that uses both together because I actually like the chemistry between the 2 girls them selves – more songs like Smash.

  • Heathergois

    “Bombshell” will be on the real Broadway in two years, tops, and I know I’ll be looking for tickets. ;)
    Great article, Melissa. I love your snark and your theatre/Broadway related tidbits. (I have no theatre background, but…gahh, that world has always intrigued me.)
    Brava ;)

  • http://twitter.com/bshrib Beverly

    I have so much hate for Ellis. Seriously needs to die.

  • http://lovelyladykatieann.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Best finale recap ever. Your nicknames for everyone are hysterical especially Joe DiAlltheWayggio. Too funny. I was so relieved to FINALLY get an episode that I liked. Now I just want to be able to see the whole musical from start to finish.

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  • Ali

    I found this show so frustrating. Katherine McPhee is plenty talented, but she does not play the part of Marilyn as well as Ivy. I found the writing on this show so frustrating. It was clear the writers assumed we would love Karen and be rooting for her, but they never made me want to root for Karen. If I don’t see her struggle, I can’t root for her. We saw so much of Ivy’s struggle, no matter how many times she was written poorly. It made it appear to me she wanted it more and deserved it. I hope they can improve the characters that seemed so well-written in the first episode.