'Kidding' Season 2 Finale ended perfectly with all characters at peace and it doesn’t need a third installment
Showtime’s absurd and compassionate tragicomedy ‘Kidding’ already seemed like an unlikely candidate for renewal after the end of season 1. Even with a robust star cast -- Jim Carrey, Frank Langella, Judy Greer, Catherine Keener, and Justin Kirk -- the show only had very average viewership. And that is understandable.
Dark comedy is palatable only when it is on the nose. When shows attempt to dissect human emotions through macabre stories, tries to lay bare trauma through a mix of goofiness, magical realism, and darkness, it can become an unsettling watch. And while that has remained what’s charming about ‘Kidding’, there is only a certain degree to which one can push audiences; even if the execution is, to quote Samin Nosrat from ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’, "Bellissimo!"
Season 2 only doubled down on this Wes Anderson-tinted dark humor. The beauty of ‘Kidding’ is undeniable, as is its absurdity. But is there scope for a season 3?
In terms of story, season 1 left things in a certain limbo, taunting a second installment. Will Jeff’s show continue? What will happen to Peter? What will Jill feel when she finds out her estranged husband ran over her new boyfriend with a car? How will kids across the globe react to their idol no longer being on TV? Will Deirdre confront her husband’s homosexuality (and adultery)? Will Jeff’s only remaining son, Will, have a normal life?
These questions required answers and season 2 of the show came to rescue. But season 2, unlike the first installment, ties everything up rather neatly. Even with episodes that shake one to the core, like when Seb goes senile, or when Will discovers magic, or when Jeff and Jill finally confront the big question -- does he blame her for Phil’s death -- there is nothing left to explore once the 30-minute runtime is over.
If season 1 ended on a dissonant, diminished chord, season 2 is the perfect outro to a beautiful melody, where all arcs form a beautiful harmony, each fading out giving the final one space to finish in a soft burst.
Deirdre is happily running the show, even sending one of the show’s many puppets, Astron-Otter, to space. Seb, even with vascular dementia, has once again found love in his wife, who also has a debilitating mental condition and remembers nothing of a sizable chunk of her life either.
The season 2 finale ends with Jill telling Jeff that there’s someone she wants him to meet. She, Jeff, and Will then go on a road trip to meet a woman running a marathon -- one the recipient of Phil’s heart. After the race, Jeff and Jill pull out a stethoscope, and they listen to the woman’s beating heart. As the heart goes "thump-thump-thump", time rewinds, almost like at the end of Jaco Van Dormael's 2009 science-fiction drama 'Mr. Nobody'. You see Jeff and Jill’s life in reverse chronological order. Back in the present, all three of them look happy. Jeff, Jill, and Will are at peace.
If they are all at peace, one way or the other, would it not be unbecoming to wrench them out of that existence just to stretch this beautiful show another season?
One of the many reasons why good shows remain immortal is because showrunners realize when to end them. To understand when a story must end is as important as writing it. Many shows, with immense potential, have squandered that opportunity in an attempt to stay relevant. But zeitgeist should never dictate a story. It should always be the other way round.
Showrunner Dave Holstein, talking about 'Kidding' in a recent interview, said, “The whole show is a bit of a magic trick. It’s hard to pitch a magic trick.” It no doubt is. But at some point, one has to stop pitching it. Because when the magic show stretches, it loses its viewers’ attention and loses all its appeal.