"I'm a star! I'm on top! Somebody bring me some ham!"
Almost three years ago, American hero Elizabeth (unspellable) Lemon (Tina Fey) sang these words out to her boss and friend Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), her imagined Dealbreakers talk show audience, and her childhood self. By that time, we had already fallen full force into the life of the harried TGS showrunner — feeding off her occupational stresses, her romantic follies, and her harem of emotional problems. We've stuck with you through your discord with the revamp of your show, through your futile efforts at adopting a baby, through Dennis, Floyd, Drew, Wesley, and Carol. We've loved you, Liz Lemon.
In the early chapters of your story, we watched you buy all the hot dogs, attend the birthday party of an inbred Hapsburg, endure a particularly offensive derogatory term, and wolfed a Teamster sub at the airport. In the middle chapters, you found out you were your high school's bully, issued a robot warning, discovered love in a Bon Jovi ficus, and attended three weddings in the same day. And the later chapters saw you try out a cowboy hat, do two live shows, and finally plant a kiss on Jack Donaghy... it wasn't as magical as audiences have always hoped. And now, we're in the final chapter of your story: the ultimate season of 30 Rock, which kicked off on Thursday night with the aptly named "The Beginning of the End."
Liz's Final Chapter: Will she have it all?
From the get-go, we've wanted to see Liz have it all: the perfect job, the perfect family, the perfect sandwich. And 30 Rock's final season looks to satisfy our wishes. Opening with a suspiciously foreshadowy scene of Liz cradling a baby outside of the GE Building, declaring her departure happily (it turns out to be just a sketch for TGS that she is demonstrating for Tracy and Jenna), "The Beginning of the End" does seem like it is setting a pattern in place for episodes to focus on a happy ending for Liz.
Although we don't see her stablest of boyfriends (laid back hot dog vendor James Marsden) in this episode, Liz assures Jack that she and he are going strong and still trying to have a baby together. The episode has Liz dealing with Jack's manipulation of NBC's Fall TV output: shows like vampire-offshoot Hunchback, the old-men-in-tank-tops series Tank It, and crime drama God Cop (in which Jack himself stars... as God). Intentionally bad programs that Jack is putting on air in order to tank NBC so that CEO Hank Hooper will sell the network, allowing Jack opportunity to rise to the top (Hooper is dead set on keeping NBC "in family" a — his ambitious granddaughter, played by Chloë Moretz, is vying for Donaghy's job).
At first, Liz rejects the advice of Jack and Tracy — doing a bad job on purpose in order to solve a problem — but following her reluctant acceptance of the title of Jenna's maid of honor, she realizes that this is truly the righteous path. Liz throws Jenna a horrible bachelorette party to convince her friend that she is wrong for the job. At first, the clown- and Liz's neighbor-filled apartment shindig earns Jenna's wrath, until Liz convinces Jenna that the only person worthy of being her own maid of honor is, in fact, Jenna herself.
Afterwards, Liz joins Jack in the intentional destruction of NBC's reputation. Under new ownership, Jack can take the reins, and give Liz the platform of creative control of which she has always dreamed... at least we can assume. Either way, she's on board. No new advancements in her personal life beyond the off mention of her impregnation attempts with Criss (Marsden), but we'll get there.
Jack's Final Chapter: Will he rise to the top of the business world?
After Jack's beloved GE sold NBC to KableTown, it seems like his dreams were dead. But then, something magical happened: Jack got divorced. It was something for which some of us had hoped would happen for quite a while, but that many never thought actually would. The show admitted it made a mistake pairing Jack with Avery (Elizabeth Banks), and Jack and Avery themselves admitted the same. Now, they're happily split and sharing custody of baby Liddy, and Jack is free to pursue his one true love: business.
Jack institutes the steps he needs to take to earn the conclusion for which he has vied since day one, and we might well see him earn it by the finale... unless, of course, he has someone to compete with. No, not Devon...
Kenneth's Final Chapter: Will he run the network, or kill them all?
...but Kenneth. True, Kenneth's story of rising high in the professional world has been ignored since he fell down to janitorial status and took up with the manipulative Hazel (Kristen Schaal). But we can't forget Jack's Season 1 premonition: "In five years," Okay, he was a little off there, but still, "we'll either all be working for him or be dead by his hand." So which is will it be?
This week, Hazel invites Tracy to dinner at her and Kenneth's apartment, hoping to seduce him so that he'll give her a part in one of his movies (Tracy owns a production company now, remember? I didn't either). Of course, Tracy resists Hazel out of loyalty to his wife, his friend, and what appears to be a general repulsion with her. He tries to convince Kenneth that Hazel is using him, and is unfaithful, and Hazel of course contradicts this story. Kenneth (in logic only Kenneth can manage) chooses to believe both Tracy and Hazel. They're both telling the truth! Everything is hunky dory!
Again, no real progress with him starting towards his ultimate conclusion yet, but we know that it's going to be the one to stick around for.
Jenna's Final Chapter: Will she settle down (and sane up)?
Ugh, Jenna. Long ago, you were a simple-minded, narcissistic but goodhearted actress strung along by your own insecurities. You genuinely cared for Liz, despite sometimes acting selfishly, and occasionally put others before yourself. Now, as was my main complaint with Season 6, you're a complete monster. Jenna asks Liz to be her maid of honor only because Liz is a "nobody" who won't outshine her, not because they've been friends for 20 years and have gone through a tremendous amount together. It's actually sad to see what Jenna has become, because she used to be a genuinely sad, sympathetic character, and an important part of Liz's life. Now, she's just pure evil (she killed a whole bunch of doves!); there is no real reason to care about where she'll end up.
But maybe this can change... right? Maybe her wedding to Paul will allow her the self-assurance she needs to humanize, just a bit? Who knows. Let's just get back to the nice people.
Tracy's Final Chapter: Will he do anything?
As Tracy realizes during the episode, he (as a husband of 22 years, a father of three, and a business owner) is the most stable adult among his coworkers. Tracy doesn't really need to accomplish anything; he's pretty happy, and lives a pretty healthy life (considering his "mental health issues"). So we can assume that his journey will be helping his pal Kenneth escape the clutches of evil Hazel. Other than that, probably just a bunch of falling asleep on Ted Danson's roof and buying various exotic animals. No problem there!
So, things are wrapping up for ol' Liz Lemon, ol'-er Jack Donaghy, and (hopefully soon) impossibly-ol' Kenneth Parcell. Meanwhile, Jenna remains vicious and Tracy remains in his own humorous world. What conclusions would you like to see the gang achieve?
[Photo Credit: NBC]