When Mom started out it was that rarest of things, a sitcom on CBS that wasn’t mawkish and trite, the gags were strong and it had often had a strangely perverse sense of humour as it examined a group of women who were all trying to overcome their various addictions. It dealt with a number of very serious subjects with an appropriately careful touch, and in Anna Faris and Allison Janney had two leads with fantastic chemistry and the ability to carry off such an unusual selection of storylines.
Faris bizarrely left very shortly before season eight began shooting, giving a vague excuse about how her “journey as Christy had come to an end” and that she wanted to pursue new opportunities and it’s an enormous shame as Faris and Janney’s relationship was the main draw for me, to the extent that after watching the first episode of the eighth season I decided not to return. Perhaps unsurprisingly the show was then cancelled, which may partially be due to Faris leaving, but it was also a show which has burnt through pretty much every storyline you could imagine and was beginning to repeat itself. As a season finale this would have been no disaster, and filled with everything the show was well known for from a serious issue for one of the cast in William Fichtner’s Adam who was diagnosed with cancer, to a wedding for Jill (Jaime Pressly) and Andy (Will Sasso), but for a series finale it’s slightly lacklustre.
The way it dealt with Adam’s cancer was in typical Mom fashion, as it took a heavyweight subject but handled it in a delicate manner, introducing such a thing might seem strange for a series finale of a sitcom but it was heavily hinted that he’d be okay as it was caught early, and largely served as a plotline just so we could see how much Bonnie had changed as she didn’t rush out to the nearest bar but instead turned to her friends for help, and did everything she could for Adam when he needed her. Along these lines was the introduction of Shannon (Melanie Lynskey) and her mother (Rondi Reed) who were also both struggling addicts, and both doing pretty badly, clearly echoing Bonnie and Christy’s relationship when we first met them, with Bonnie on hand to support them as best as she could.
Lacking in sentimentality was one of the best things about the show but if anything it went too far the other way here where you’d expect the odd emotional moment, but it was missing that despite containing a wedding between two of the characters. Pressley and Sasso have every right to feel a little hard done by given how rushed it all was, and all of the supporting cast could well feel the same as Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy), Wendy (Beth Hall) and Tammy (Kristen Johnston) were given very little to do here.
The main aim of the episode was clearly to show how much Bonnie had grown, but while satisfying it still felt like a series finale that was lacking in anything that memorable, and the big speech Bonnie gave at the end hammered everything home in a manner lacking in any of the subtlety that you’d normally find in the series. There was still the odd sharp line, an acerbic comment or amusing suggestion, but it felt like this could have been any episode of the series and not the final ever one.
An interview with showrunner Gemma Baker suggests this was very deliberate, that it was meant to show how these women’s journeys are far from over, but it led to something which was rather dull. The interview also vaguely hints that they weren’t overjoyed when Faris left, but by not even mentioning the character’s name (or the names of her children who we haven’t seen in years) it felt slightly off, even if Faris didn’t want to appear a minor reference to some good news about her would have made the episode feel a little less disappointing, she was the main character for the vast majority of its run after all.
I doubt many will mourn Mom’s passing, it was running on empty for a couple of seasons, though thankfully it never jumped the shark or did anything absurd or stupid that made it unlikeable (*glares at Arrested Development*). And there’s an awful lot to admire about it, as it was a rare network sitcom revolving around strong, independent and vibrant women, but it’s definitely a disappointment that we only got to see one of them at her best right at the end, and not each and every one of them.
Episode rating: ★★★
Series rating: ★★★★