When I first heard about Go On, a show that seemed specifically written with Matthew Perry's darkly comedic chops in mind, I had no clue how the writers planned to sustain their idea for several seasons of television-sitcomery. The premise, a man’s wife dies leading him to derail a series of mandatory group counselling sessions due to his understandable yet complete inability to deal with his life, seemed ideally suited for the 90-minute Romantic Comedy treatment. The story would be simple: man loses wife, man enters group therapy with a diverse cast of madcap characters who teach him the meaning of life, man realises that he can finally move on, falling in love with his therapist in the process.
In hindsight, my concerns were stupid concerns. A 90-minute Romantic Comedy likely would have minimized the seriousness of grief and the unique ways in which we each deal with our sadness. An entire show that deals with different stages of different kinds of grief over a believable length of time actually makes complete sense. The form really allows us to follow the struggles of the show's protagonist, Ryan, as he tries to move on, but keeps coming up against new problems related to - and feelings about - his loss. These problems and feelings include: dealing with dead-wife-based hallucinations (beginning in Episode 1.05 "Do You Believe In Ghosts... Yes!"), celebrating his first birthday without her (Episode 1.07 "Any Given Birthday"), and even beginning and ending his first serious relationship since her death (Episode 1.14 "Comeback Player Of The Year" through Episode 1.17 "Ring And A Miss").
In spite of that potential, the show effectively began its life as the sitcom-length version of the aforementioned Romantic Comedy - therapist love interest and all; however, after several weeks, Ryan’s therapist Lauren, became simply another supporting player within a large ensemble cast. The writers toned down her initial self-seriousness in episode 1.05 ("Do You Believe In Ghosts... Yes!) when her competence from the first few episodes of the season dissipated in the wake of some fairly intense neuroses. Said neuroses then evolved into a full-blown inferiority complex about her lack of credentials. Couple this to her ambivalent feelings towards the most perfect fiancee ever and you get her season-long arc. Even better, instead of using said ambivalence to throw her at Ryan, the show veered off in a completely different last-minute direction in order to set up a future relationship between her and Ryan's boss Steven (Episode 1.19 "Go For The Gold Watch").
In Lauren's stead, we were introduced to the romantic potential that exists between Ryan and his assistant Carrie (Episode 1.13 "Goooaaaaal Dolllll!"). Prior to a more sustained effort to include her in Ryan's life, Go On did not connect Ryan’s two worlds well at all. In its early episodes, Ryan would often have some emotional crisis with which to deal in group that would somehow affected him at work. His wacky grief-ridden friends would help him fix his problems while Carrie and Steven took the brunt of his acting out. The A Story/B Story structure felt clunky as Ryan remained the only consistent link between Group Ryan and Work Ryan plots. Having Carrie matter to Ryan outside of work made the stories easier to integrate. In fact, in the penultimate episode of the season, Carrie quit her job in order to make a drunk-dialed confession of affection easier for him to act on (Episode 1.21 "Fast Breakup"). That being said, I seriously doubt that this will be addressed in the season finale given that Ryan is still coping with the loss of his wife. Carrie seems like she could be his endgame romantic partner, which probably means waiting for Ryan to be in a better place. Also, the finale's press release made no mention of Carrie (Allison Miller), so perhaps she won't even make an appearance.
Said press release (Episode 1.22 "Urn-ed") indicates that the group verges on completely falling apart as Ryan considers moving away for a better job. Not mentioned in the press release is the purpose of the episode title, namely Ryan's decision to spread his wife's ashes. I'm not sure what to expect, but I imagine that there will be lots of almost failing and separation followed by minor successes and togetherness.
On a bit of a tangent, I want to briefly discuss Mr K., Ryan's most mysterious group-mate. We've slowly uncovered bits and pieces of his past and his personality – for example, he’s a literal rocket scientist– but his reason for being in the group remains unknown to us. The show has actually hinted at a possible source of his grief on several occasions. In the pilot, in a fairly sad grief montage, Mr. K was seen alone in a Lamaze class. In a later episode, Mr. K took on a Mary-Poppins-like persona and happened to be amazing with children. I think that the writers might be implying that Mr. K lost a child or perhaps a pregnant partner. The show could easily play Mr. K’s presence in that Lamaze class off as him being socially inappropriate without need for further explanation, but I hope that the writers are brave enough to explore the sadness of their comedic relief character. Given that the season finale's press release makes no mention of any Mr. K-based story, I have a feeling that we won't hear more about this until at least Season 2.
Well, that's about everything! I look forward to your thoughts about the season as well as tonight's finale.
Feel free to discuss the episode with me on twitter!