As my over-effusive post on the ER finale probably indicates, I’m something of a sucker for finales, in general. So you’ll forgive me if it seems slightly hyperbolic when I say that the Scrubs finale was the greatest episode in the history of television, and probably the greatest piece of art ever made since naked Neanderthals began writing on cave walls.
I don’t really mean that, of course. But it was a good episode of television, and easily the best episode of Scrubs since “My Last Words,” which had in turn been the best episode of Scrubs since season five, at least. The point being that Scrubs used to be reliable entertainment, but lost its way in its later years and actually became actively bad for large stretches of time. This final season has been a nice return to form and consistency, and the finale continued that and brought the show to a positive ending, which is as much as any fan could have hoped for and more than they had any right to expect when the season began.
There are a few specific things a series finale ought to do. If it does them, it will be a good episode. If it doesn’t do them, it will not be a good episode. To wit:
- It has to have a good story, just like any other good episode of television would. This seems obvious, but with all the concentration on the points to follow, this can sometimes get lost. (I’m trying to think of an example, but I’m just a stupid blogger, so I can’t. Examples exist, though. I’m sure of it!)
- It has to bring the main themes of the show to the foreground.
- It has to remind the viewer of the show’s early seasons.
- It has to provide closure on most of the relationships and hanging plot threads.
- It has to give the viewer a sense that the world of the show will live on, even after the show itself has gone.
Getting all of these things right can be a tricky, especially when it comes to balancing the conflict between numbers four and five. But the Scrubs finale is a good example of just how to do it. To wit, again:
- It had a good story running throughout the episode about the mother dying of Hutchinson’s and the son who decided against taking the test to find it if he had inherited the disease.
- That story did a good job bringing the main themes of the show to foreground.
- The flashbacks to the pilot at the beginning of the episode and the hall full of characters from earlier seasons toward the end of the episode acted as totems of times gone by and reminded us just how expansive the world of Sacred Heart is.
- Scrubs isn’t really a plot-heavy show, but the penny thing was sort of fun, as was the unveiling of the Janitor’s likely fake name. More importantly, those little plot resolutions put a nice bow on JD’s relationship with the Janitor. JD got similar moments of varying silliness with Turk, Carla and Kelso. The most well-earned piece of closure, however, came with the
JD-orchestrated Dr.Cox’s speech, which we were almost as psyched to hear as JD was.
- At the same time it was giving us all that nice closure, “My Finale” was making it abundantly clear that Sacred Heart would still be there the next day, providing the same service it always had. (JD himself comes to terms with this over the course of the episode.) The closing home-movie montage of JD’s possible future was kind of beautiful (I admit it: I cried. So did you, so shut up.). And just as much as I’m a sucker for finales, I’m also a sucker for people getting into cars and driving off into the horizon, the horizon of course being not an ending, but the ever-present and distant future towards which we are always striving.
Of course, "My Finale" might not actually be the series finale, as ABC is in seemingly eternal ongoing discussions to bring the show back without Zach Braff. I can’t help but think that’s not such a great idea. The show was about how JD came to Sacred Heart and grew up. Now he’s grown up, as evidenced by his desire to be a better father, and he’s leaving Sacred Heart because of that. So this really is the natural ending point.
On the other hand, the fan in me would kind of like to spend more time with these characters. Add to that my desire to see more Better off Ted, the renewal hopes of which seem to be hinging on another season of Scrubs, and I can almost convince myself that another season might not be such a terrible thing. The critic in me probably knows better, though.