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’30 Rock’ Review: “Hogcock!; Last Lunch”

30 Rock Last Lunch
NBC

It’s the series finale of ‘30 Rock,’ which brings two episodes packed into one final hour of Liz Lemon-y goodness. And it’s up to Liz to keep everything from falling apart, as always.

’30 Rock’ is over. WHYYYYYYY?!?!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, we can discuss how touching and hysterical and delightfully simple this week’s episode was. Yes, some threads sort of dangled and went nowhere in the end (we didn’t get a proper goodbye with Criss), but we got to bid farewell to the people who mattered to us most.

Liz and Criss have swapped places, leaving neither of them in the position they desire — Liz loves to work and Criss loves to be at home with the kids, but being a stay at home mom is making Liz into a catty New York message board mom. Unfortunately, her pitch to Kenneth about a female writer living and working in New York goes nowhere (he’s trying to avoid “no-no words,” like “Justin Bartha”), and then she finds out she’s contractually obligated to produce one final episode of TGS.

Meanwhile, Jack has made his own pie chart based on the Six Sigma wheel of success, but this one is for his own happiness and fulfillment — now that he has the job he’s always wanted, something is still missing, and he can’t figure out what it is. He fulfills every requirement on his wheel of happiness, but still feels nothing.

The finale gives everyone a chance to say goodbye in their own way, from Liz having to hold it together one last time to the writers bickering over their last free lunch (which comes with a glorious Lutz meltdown that’s been building for seven years). Jenna struggles to find her place in a post-TGS world and realizes that the only thing she’ll miss about the show is her own reflection, while Tracy has to come to terms with… being Tracy, as usual.  If I take issue with anything in the finale, it’s the lack of any real moments between Jenna and Liz, characters whose friendship goes way back and deserved at least an acknowledgement that their friendship would continue even after TGS (and ’30 Rock’) ends.

But watching Liz and Jack grapple with their friendship one last time was fantastic — Jack dismissing Liz as nothing more than an employee, and Liz rejecting his reconciliation only to leave Jack bawling in Jenna’s dressing room? Sublime. Alec Baldwin has given the performance of his life on this show for the last seven years, and I can’t imagine a Jack Donaghy without his perfect cadence and comedic timing. Watching him cry tonight was, as Jenna disturbingly elaborated, like watching my own father cry. Jack and Liz need each other because, as their argument alluded, they complete each other. Liz had no real career drive before Jack and was content to live in her limited vision of success, and Jack never really tended to the emotional side of himself before Liz came around.

Like all great pairs, each character has what the other lacks — Liz has the sensibility and Jenna has superficiality; Tracy is playful and wild, and Liz is responsible and focused; Jack is the emotionally vacant corporate capitalist and Liz is the over-feeling creative type. The common denominator in every one of these is Liz Lemon. She is the glue that holds everyone together, and like Jack said, the two of them didn’t even need to interact on a regular basis, but she kept coming back into his office day after day — and he let her because he needed her.

Jack decides to set off on a boat in search of what he’s missing, but not before launching into a long-winded explanation of how he loves Liz. Hearing these two say they love each other may have been the greatest love-moment in television history because it wasn’t romantic love — it was hard-earned, long-lasting love. The kind where you know this show ends and their love for each other continues; there’s no divorce or infidelity in their future, just friendship. And of course, in true Jack-fashion, it takes him less than two minutes on a boat to figure out what his life was really missing: a transparent dishwasher, where you can see everything that goes on inside.

In a bit of fan service, the finale also provides a “one year later” stinger, where Pete’s attempt to fake his death has failed, Liz is enjoying having it all by being a mom and working (on her new show, ‘Grizz and Hers,’ which I would totally watch), and Jack is still running GE like a champ. And in the future Kenneth is indeed immortal, and he hires Liz Lemon’s granddaughter to write a show about Liz’s life. A perfectly wacky ending for a perfectly wacky show.

I want to take a moment to say how much I’ve loved this show. Liz Lemon is a woman I think a lot of women relate to — she wants to have it all, and “having it all” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different ladies. The bottom line is that whatever your ideal set of dreams is, even if they sort of clash and seem too difficult to manage, and even if you’re a total mess who gets food on her sweater and/or in her hair, and even if you struggle to find the right mate or can’t ever seem to please your boss (or your friends, or your employees), you can have it all. Liz Lemon was flawed and complex, but she was also witty and smart and no-nonsense, especially when it came to herself. We relate to her because she made our most basic and common flaws hilarious to watch every week. We are all Liz Lemon.

Good God, Lemon, I’ll miss you.

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