Happy Endings has never really been about... well, anything. Although a riff on the likes of Friends and Cheers and Suddenly susan and all the will-they-won't-theys of the sitcom history books with its Dave and Alex throughline, the emotional investment in these two characters' union has been tepid at best. Although we might love spending time with the sextet week in and week out, we never really seemed to give much of a damn if the goateed V-neck addict and the flighty, rib-scarfing half pint would actually end up together in the end. There wasn't much meat to Penny's unrequited affections for Dave; never a good deal of intrigue in any turns taken by Jane and Brad's relationship. This show has forgone the manipulation of audiences' sap centers in favor of nonstop comedy. Happy Endings might tout itself, in title, a show working up to an ultimate romantic explosion, but it is really the joke-paved path that we sign on for.
Or so I thought. This week's episode of Happy Endings, tragically, might well be our final farewell to the Chicago clan. The double header introduced the ill-fated plan of Dave and Penny's still-dating parents (Michael McKean and Megan Mullally) to adopt a baby; it created a new character, Jane and Alex's controlling older sister (Stephanie March), fully acknowledging the peculiarity in her never having been mentioned before; it had Max wearing a headband; and, most importantly, it broke up Dave and Alex. This time, perhaps, for good.
Now, if this were a simple season finale, I'd have hope. We've seen this song and dance before. The pilot tore this lifelong couple apart. Subsequent twists and turns had them reconnect, decide against a union, and then wind up together again. Their relationship throughout Season 3 has exhibited some bumps and some sweet moments alike. And if a Season 4 does amount, there's a large possibility we'll see them back in each other's arms at one point or another. But if not, then this is what we're left with: Dave and Alex broken up forever.
And while I still do firmly believe that Happy Endings is pretty much all for the jokes, I'm not sure I want to live in a world where there's no shot of a Rose-Kerkovich future. While the couple doesn't exactly have a perfect track record, the reveal seemed to come out of nowhere — a cliffhanger for cliffhanger's sake. Season finale 101. As such, I'm not validated by their separation, and not too comforted by their decision to stay friends. I'm sad that it seems to have not worked out, and for no particular reason. Just because, hey, we've gotta do something to cap this year.
Season 2 ended with Dave and Alex back together, so I can only assume that the show's plan has been to wrap each season with a new update for the central couple. And that would be fine. A long, torturous, misguided love affair is all we need from Dave and Alex. Ross and Rachel hopped up on Zimas. And those two, no matter how wrong they might have been for each other, ended up together. Happily. That's what I, and so many of us, want for Dave and Alex.
It took this possibly eternal breakup for me to realize how much their staying together meant to me. And it took that realization to come to terms with how much, in fact, all of these characters mean to me.
Back when we first meet Brad and Jane, they were discussing the possibility of having a baby. No advancement yet there, as Happy Endings is perhaps pathologically phobic when it comes to shark jumping (no changes... ever). But I'd like to see them start a family — the pair is tailor made to raise a child.
And Penny. The poor, unfortunate Penny has been through so much heartbreak, this year especially what with her self-loathing despair following her breakup with Pete. If not through a relationship, I'd love to see Penny find happiness in some way. Through her job or another creative exploit, perhaps. She deserves it.
To cover the affection I have for Max would take three additional articles. But this harried, self-sabotaging goon, this conniving little brother to the world, what will it take to bring him to a place of self love? A doting boyfriend? A steady job? A shower? Who knows. But I want it.
Yes, I want Dave and Alex back together. I want Jane and Brad to start a family. I want Penny to find something to make her happy. And I want Max to pretty much just do anything — it's all gold. If this is truly the end for Happy Endings, I'm going to miss it. Not just the jokes, as I realize now. But the characters. Through their quips and references and pile-ons, I've really come to love them.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter