’30 Rock’ Review: “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World”
In the penultimate episode of ‘30 Rock‘ Liz Lemon’s “I can have it all” attitude is put to the ultimate test when she has to save TGS from being cancelled and welcome her adopted twins.
This week is a roller coaster of emotions, from the mad dash to slash the TGS budget to nil in order to save the show, to Liz trying to decide if work or her new kids are more important. But nothing prepared me for the tear-jerking moment when Jack hands over the NBC presidency to Kenneth Parcell. On some level, it seems like this has been the most likely possibility all along, and when Jack asked Kenneth to don his page’s uniform to put his prospective replacements through a Willy Wonka-esque final interview (disguised as a studio tour), I had an inkling that perhaps this was really a test for Kenneth. And I’m glad I was right.
But let’s back up a little. There are so many great Liz Lemon one-liners this week, and it’s the kind of stuff you hope for when a series is preparing to take its final bow. We got new classics like, “You’ve got Liz, make lemonade,” “Dorp,” and “Blorch!” While Liz is frantically trying to slash the budget and save the show by filming everything on green screen and striking up a sponsorship deal with Bro Body Douche body spray (who change TGS to The Man Cave, of course), Criss is running around town trying to find the perfect gifts for their newly-adopted twins, who are set to arrive in the afternoon.
When it comes down to the wire, Liz has to make the most serious decision of her life: stick with her show until the bitter end because no one else is going to fix it, or be there when her new kids get off the plane. But she doesn’t have to make the decision because for once, all of her subordinates — Tracy and Jenna included — step up to make the decision for her by quitting their jobs at the last minute. With no one to boss around, Liz is free to leave.
I can’t help but feel as though Jack not offering to help Liz was a test in and of itself — we’re coming to the end of their friendship/mentor and “mentee” relationship, and Jack trusts Liz now more than ever before. Meanwhile, Jack’s putting together another test with his final batch of prospective replacements. Apparently Jack loves Willy Wonka, whom he believes to be a capitalist role model: “Zero government regulations, slave labor, and an indoor boat.” But the real test is seeing just how far Kenneth will go to protect his network. It’s a test so brilliant that Jack doesn’t even realize he’s administering it until the very end, when he sees just how much Kenneth is willing to sacrifice. Over the years we’ve watched Kenneth heart-breakingly tend to the whims of his employers, giving his entire apple-cheeked life to a thankless job because he loves television and its place in our culture. He’s naive and truly pure of heart; he is the opposite of Jack, which is what makes him so right for Jack’s job. Watching the two of them hug as Jack gave Kenneth the job brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Plus, you know, it’s not as if Jack has to worry too much, since he’ll still be able to ensure Kenneth doesn’t implode the network.
And finally, we meet Liz and Criss’ adopted children — a set of twins, one white girl and one black boy (just like Liz saw on ‘Maury’ once), and wouldn’t you know it, they act just like miniature versions of Tracy and Jenna. As Liz says, it just makes sense. It’s a little on the nose, sure, but I like the karmic justice of it all. Tracy and Jenna were a handful, but Liz loved them and she loved her job, and now she’s lost TGS and she’s not going to have to deal with Tracy and Jenna every day. As much as she bemoaned their demands and insubordination, they were a huge part of her life — it only makes sense that they would be replaced by two tiny clones. See? Liz Lemon really can have it all.