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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist - Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad (Season Finale) - Review: This’ll Be the Day

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” brought its first season to a bittersweet conclusion this week, and I’m willing to bet that you probably cried as hard as I did watching it.

The episode begins with Zoey waking up and immediately getting a bad feeling about the day - demonstrated by her finding herself singing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” She immediately thinks to go to her dad and check in, but by all means, he seems to be doing well. As Maggie says, “this is one of the good days.”

Still, Zoey is very much on edge, and she spends much of the rest of her day trying to avert disaster. From stopping her mother from accidentally turning on the garbage disposal while her hand was inside (a false alarm, thank goodness), to telling Joan not to take a call from Danny Michael Davis that she is worried is a form of a pink slip, to rushing to the hospital after David frantically texts that Emily is in labor (again, false alarm).

Zoey finally identifies what she believes is the culprit for her “bad vibes” when she finds out about Max being fired by Ava, and decides to fix it by appealing to Danny Michael Davis himself, who, surprisingly easily, agrees to let her hire him back. Danny, by the way, is at the SPRQ Point office in the first place to talk to Joan, although not about firing her. In fact, he admits to her that he is under investigation and is about to go to jail, and asks her to take over as interim CEO of the company while he is indisposed.

Mo is also actually having a pretty good day, as he decides - after an honest talk with Zoey and another heart song for Eddie, this time in the form of “I Will Follow Him” by Peggy March - that he wants stay together with him, “hell or high water…” (that, as he points out, was a cruise ship pun). He goes to Eddie, and after a deeply personal, touching monologue, the two reconcile.

Even with all this good news though, Zoey is still on high alert. She goes out to lunch with Max and where they encounter Simon, back from Las Vegas. Simon sees the two together and begins singing Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” (Just a note: even though I’m technically Team Max, man if John Clarence Stewart can’t sing! I love it whenever Simon gets a number). Even with that and a light fixture coming crashing down on the table next to her, Zoey seemingly still has a very nice time with Max, as we see later on.

That night, at Zoey’s apartment, she and Max are prepping for a movie night when she breaks the news to him that she managed to get his job back. However, to her surprise, he says he doesn’t want it, and that he’s actually looking forward to moving on and stepping out into the unknown (I know they never would’ve been able to acquire the rights to it, but did anyone else subconsciously start humming that song from Frozen when he said that?). Zoey, having never seen this forward-thinking side of him before, decides that now is as good a time as ever to act on those “I’m Yours” feelings for him she discovered in episode 8.

As Max/Zoey ‘shippers rejoice everywhere, the two kiss, leading Max to start singing what is possibly the most romantic modern love song in existence - John Legend’s “All of Me.” When Zoey tells him that he’s singing and asks him to think less romantic thoughts, He breaks into “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” by Pitbull (to be fair, Mr. Worldwide is admittedly much less romantic). While Zoey finally manages to quiet Max’s mind, it’s not long before they’re interrupted again...this time by a call from Howie. It’s about her dad - the Bad Moon rose after all.

The second half of the episode feels almost as if it’s set in a parallel universe from the first. As Zoey, David, Emily, Howie and Maggie prepare to say goodbye to Mitch, the show’s signature quirky, off-color, upbeat vibe is thrown out the window in favor of a simplistic, brutally real depiction of how silently devastating losing a loved one can be.

Genuinely, it’s not common to see a TV show, and especially a network show, play down the drama of a particularly important moment. But as Mitch was dying, “Zoey” certainly didn’t embellish with slow motion shots of all the characters sobbing as “Fix You” by Coldplay blared in the background. There was no dramatic subplot where Emily went into labor just soon enough so they could show Mitch his grandson just before he died. The moments were quiet, and arguably so much more effective because of it.

The first people to say goodbye to Mitch are David and Emily, as Zoey hears the father and son singing Billy Joel’s “Goodnight My Angel,” which is, to be honest, a lot for me to handle from the get-go. The fact that this was just the first goodbye song was a good indication that my tear ducts were going to be pretty active for the next 30 minutes.

Later in the night, Simon comes by to bring Zoey a lasagna (“I just remember a lot of people brought over casseroles for us”) and after talking with him for a while, she returns inside to hear Maggie singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Mitch’s bedside.

Then, Zoey and Howie have a talk about dying, and at Zoey’s request, he dispenses some wisdom about the different ways to look at it - it can be horrible and unfair, or it can be beautiful and necessary.

“Which way do you think I should choose to look at it?” Zoey asks.

Before he answers, though, Maggie comes in, telling Zoey that it’s time for her to go and say goodbye. She goes and, instead of offloading her worries onto him as she usually does, tells him all the good things happening in her life. She’s successful at work, the guy she has a crush on likes her back - and it turns out she might also have feelings for her best friend. Her powers, which once felt like a curse, have become a gift. She admits that, however scary this will be, she believes she will be OK.

As Mitch is dying and his family surrounds him, Zoey turns around to see him, dressed up and standing in the living room. This time, however, no one is singing. The two dance together to an instrumental of “True Colors” - the song Mitch sang to her in episode one - and Mitch promises her that even when she can’t hear him sing anymore, he’ll always be with her, as long as she listens. When the dance is over and Zoey turns around again, her father is gone. I can tell you for a fact, that both when I first watched this episode as it aired, and now, watching it again for this review, I am fully crying at this scene. It’s a ridiculously perfect way to have Zoey say goodbye, and it brings her arc with her father to such a perfect conclusion. But beyond all that analysis stuff, it’s just really, really moving.

The final scene of the episode is also probably the most impressive of the season. At Mitch’s wake, the Clarke family (and the entire show’s cast) sing Don McLean’s “American Pie,” with each prominent player getting a few (surprisingly apt) lines to sing.

The scene is shot in a full, 7-plus-minute one-shot take, which, according to Creator and EP Austin Winsberg’s interview with TVLine, was completed in only 6 takes. I also discovered, upon my second watch, that the track is even panned for headphone users, so that as the camera turns, you can hear the song playing from the direction in which the singer actually is at that moment. Honestly, if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is. Also in that same TVLine interview, Winsberg talked about how “American Pie” was one of his father’s favorite songs, and mentioned that his experience of his passing influenced how he approached Zoey’s own experiences in the finale.

All this is to say that while I don’t usually put actual clips from episodes into my reviews, I feel like it’s necessary to make the exception for this one - it's phenomenally effective on both a technical and an emotional level, it may just be my favorite scene of the TV season, and be honest; you want to watch it again, too.

The episode ends with Zoey herself singing the final lines of the song acapella, acknowledging that losing her father feels like “the day the music died.” Ouch - right in my feels.

I really want to thank the entire “Zoey” cast and crew for a truly (pardon my pun but) extraordinary season. What had seemed to me at first to be just a fun little musical comedy actually turned out to have an emotional depth and complexity that simply isn’t portrayed anywhere else on TV right now. With every episode, I realized more and more that there was so much to this show beyond what I had originally thought or expected, and whether or not it gets a season 2 (although I really hope it does!), I wanted to take a minute to recognize one thing: this show is doing something completely original on network TV and doing it well, something which is absolutely a rarity in the current TV landscape.

After the episode, there was also an “In memoriam” card for Winsberg’s father, as well as a link to a website that offers more information on PSP, the neurodegenerative disease featured in the show. (You can find that website here).

So, what did you think of the finale? We still have a few loose plot threads hanging out in case we are gifted with a second season - what do you most want to see developed/resolved? Any other thoughts you had about the episode, or the season as a whole? Let me know in the comments!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Quotes-List:

Tobin: Zoey, I’ve had three omelettes today. Egg whites only. Gotta keep those triglycerides low when your cholesterol’s sky-high, son!
Zoey: Are you bragging about having high cholesterol?
Tobin: Top 2% for my age, you know it! Purely genetic. Now on all the statins. I am worried, this is how I compensate.

Joan: I got a voicemail from Danny Michael Davis. A voicemail. Now I have to call him back and I’m afraid I’m getting fired, and I’m hoping it was just a butt dial from his Smart Pants.
Zoey: What are Smart Pants?
Joan: Uh...Nothing, never mind.

Zoey: Come on, you know Danny Michael Davis. He’s got a million things on his plate. Don’t call him back this once, he’ll forget about it for six months. And by then, AI will probably have taken over...probably because of Smart Pants?
Joan: Don’t ask me about the Smart Pants.

Zoey: I’m Zoey Clarke, I left you a message earlier.
Danny: Yeah, you also sang “Pressure” to me in a room full of people. I find you charming and disturbing, like a Pomeranian wearing a tutu.
Zoey: Thank you?

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