Critic's Notebook: 'Schitt's Creek' Bows Out With a Touching — and Timely — Tribute to Perseverance

Schitt's Creek - Finale -Publicity Still - H 2020
Pop TV

The left-field small-screen sensation went out on a high note, with a last episode that offered satisfying closure and a touching hint of topicality.

This piece contains spoilers for the series finale of Schitt's Creek.

We should've known David's (Dan Levy) wedding would be a lovely catastrophe.

Schitt's Creek, the beloved Canadian import and last year's unlikeliest nominee for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, came to a music-filled — and pitch-perfect — close last night, with David marrying his boyfriend Patrick (Noah Reid) in an exquisitely imperfect ceremony. The officiant (and David's customarily loquacious mother), Moira (Catherine O'Hara), could barely choke out a word through her hiccuping tears. The family member walking David down the aisle, his sister Alexis (Annie Murphy), wore an unconventional but still recognizable wedding dress, so that the long-feuding siblings looked like they were tying the knot with one another. Painfully earnest Patrick embarrassed scoff-prone David one last time by singing as part of his vows the Mariah Carey ballad "Always Be My Baby." A tear-stained David was clearly deeply touched, but he also couldn't resist stealing a mortified glance at his best friend Stevie (Emily Hampshire).

In other words, Schitt's Creek bowed out gracefully and satisfyingly, keeping true to the many aspects of the show that made it an improbable critical darling and cultural phenomenon. Created by the father-and-son team of Eugene and Dan Levy (who also starred as father and son Johnny and David Rose), the series, which aired stateside on Pop TV but gained a larger following via Netflix, was a unique love bomb. To be sure, it was premised like Arrested Development: A filthy-rich family full of vapid, entitled idiots with more affectations than good sense is forced to grapple with the sudden confiscation of their wealth. Their one remaining asset is a small town called Schitt's Creek that Johnny bought David long ago as a "joke."

But while the Bluths constantly undermined each other between ostentatious vows to do better, the Roses actually found redemption — without losing those many and sundry affectations. O'Hara was rightly nominated for an Emmy (as was Eugene Levy, her longtime collaborator in multiple Christopher Guest mockumentaries) for making the wig-addicted, Tim Burton-wardrobed, mid-Atlantic-accented former soap star Moira into somebody worth rooting for. Just as talented was Murphy as Alexis, an ex-socialite with a penchant for getting (hilariously) kidnapped, as well as a competitive streak a mile wide. (In the pilot, Alexis and David bicker over who should get the bed closer to the door in the motel room they'll share for the next few years. "You get murdered first!" they scream at each other.) The siblings' parallel journeys toward self-sufficiency surprise no one more than themselves.

The Schitt's Creek ensemble brilliantly navigated the clashes that gave the show its unique feel. The Roses were caricatures of out-of-touch extravagance, but they were also human beings who gradually learned how to give back to the only community that would have them at their lowest point. Moira and David's austere designer garb always contrasted wonderfully with their shabby environs and the show's ubiquitous belching horns. And over the years, the Roses learned how to reconcile their confounded reactions to the eccentric townspeople of Schitt's Creek with their genuine affection for them.

The sixth and final season led not only to David's wedding but the three other Roses' farewells to the small town where they began anew. The show has been noted widely for its particular mix of gooey warmth and sardonic wit, but the uncertainty of these times might make it an ideal rewatch option. Reversing the sitcom trope of a naive protagonist newly arrived in the big city, Schitt's Creek, in landing the Roses in a small town they initially find dreadfully provincial, offers hope that anyone, with an open-enough heart, can start over again anywhere, and find friendship, romance, community, a sense of purpose, even polyamorous throuples, there.

The series finale, titled "Happy Ending" (with a naughty wink toward the accidentally adulterous massage that Patrick got David), was a testament to that sunny vision, as well as a lavish bouquet of character quirks gifted to the audience. Of course Moira donned a bonkers papal outfit, complete with a Pope hat, to officiate her son's wedding. Of course David walked down the aisle to Moira's community choir singing Tina Turner's "The Best" a cappella-style in a callback to one of the couple's most romantic moments. Of course thoughtful Jocelyn (Jenn Robertson) was beyond helpful in making the makeshift, town-hall wedding feel special, and of course her thoughtless husband Roland (Chris Elliott) tactlessly insulted Johnny to his face in the middle of the wedding. And of course David and Patrick got to be surrounded by their friends and family on their big day, offering optimism and cozy, steady passion in a world where queer stories still don't get to have enough happy endings.

The Schitt's Creek finale doesn't give us many clues about what lies ahead for the Roses. Johnny and Moira are headed to "California" to resume their suddenly revivified careers. Alexis will leave for New York to transform her adventure in self-reliance into a sustainable lifestyle. David will stay in town with Patrick and Stevie — possibly the only people, other than his family, who ever cared about him. And that's just fine. With the future so unknowable, the Roses — and we — can always look back on all that they built over the years out of nothing.

Premiered Tuesday, April 7 (Pop TV)