Saying A Bittersweet Goodbye to The Kominsky Method
I put it off as long as I could, but I knew at some point I would have to watch the series finale for Chuck Lorre’s brilliant Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method. Unlike a lot of other series I delay watching, it’s because I really didn’t want to come to the end. This has been one of the true joys of the Netflix experience — watching one of the greatest actors in history, Michael Douglas, play one of his greatest roles, Sandy Kominsky, a man who spent his entire career trying to become an actor and now has become an acting teacher.
But as almost every lead on that show knows, you can’t run from the end. So I watched the final episode earlier and it was everything I expected, and more. Sandy has been dealing with a great joy and a great sorrow almost simultaneously. Halfway through the season, Barry Levenson decided to cast him as a lead for his first real role: the title role in a remake of The Old Man and The Sea. It was a last act of kindness from Norman, who Sandy couldn’t help but really thank.
Simultaneously, he has been dealing with the engagement of his daughter Mindy to the much older, but still sweet Marty (Paul Reiser more than deserved the Emmy nomination he got for this role) Sandy’s first ex-wife, Roz flew in from South America, and while they spent a lot of time throwing knives at each other, enough time has passed that they have forgotten the bitterness that broke them apart. (It was wonderful to see Kathleen Turner acting again. She’s been a true joy in this season.) But as is always the case, there’s always bittersweet. In the fourth episode of the season, she revealed she’s dying of leukemia and is near the end of her treatment. Her last real wish was to officiate at her daughter’s wedding.
And so in the finale, we got just about everything we wanted. After a really bitter fight between Mindy and Marty involving Marty’s mother (Christine Ebersole really was impressive in looking a lot older than the other actors, especially Reiser) Mindy and Marty got married and it was funny and charming, especially when we learned how they met and Roz’s dig as they reached the end of the ceremony. Then we had a flashforward of a year as Sandy and Roz had one last conversation as he saw the billboard of his movie and couldn’t help but react the way his life had turned out: “I’ve lived my life with a broken heart,” he told Roz. She gave him some encouragement — for the last time. In one of the last scenes, he walked into her room to find their daughter in tears — Roz had passed away.
But rather than end on this dismay, the series ended on a moment of triumph. The movie was released for television and we see Sandy receive the Best Lead Actor Emmy in a Limited Series or Movies. We saw all the people in Sandy’s life — his students, Marty, even the waiter who patiently served him and Norman drinks for years — cheer as their friend made it. And Sandy gave a speech that honestly, all future Emmy nominees should consider it as the model going forward: He thanked Barry for giving him his shot, he thanked Norman and said he wished he were here (‘maybe you are), he thanked his students, his daughter for making him a better person and Roz, for always believing him. Then the last scene showed him returning to his space, putting the Emmy on the stool where we always see him, and simply saying: “Let’s get back to work.”
The finale was funny all the way to the end. In addition to this, we saw Norman’s daughter and grandson trying to hire a hitman to kill Sandy to get the inheritance that he’s been entrusted with — and just like everything else in their lives, they bungle that too. Sandy’s student, the one who got her big break in the new Quincy (kudos for nominating Morgan Freeman for his guest appearance) was seen crying in front of the billboard celebrating her role — and then also being triumphant at the Emmys. And Marty’s battle with his mother — which we saw in that final episode must’ve made his life miserable — was no less wretched as she collapsed in her front yard. The scene where he tried to get into his car with a kid who had no plans on helping him was hysterical, as was the scene where we see that Estelle is alive, but basically unable to speak. This may be the first time in the show’s history that we actually rooted for a character to die. And true to Lorre, there was one last poke at himself as Jon Cryer presented the Emmy to Sandy — and took one more dig at Lorre, who was clearly in the audience.
In a perfect world, Douglas and his co-stars would be rewarded with Emmys in the next month and maybe they will be. But the realist in me — perhaps my inner Kominsky — knows that life just doesn’t work that way. (Of course, Douglas already has an Emmy for Best Actor in a Movie — and won a Golden Globe for The Kominsky Method. So he’s gonna be fine.) But it deserves to be found and savored not just by its demographic — the ones who remember Douglas and Alan Arkin when they were young — but by anyone who knows just how tough life is, how it’s always a struggle, and how they’re can be triumphs along the way. In short, all of us. No one’s ever going to consider this Lorre’s greatest triumph — too many Big Bang Theory and some loyal Mom fans out there — but it is his subtlest and his most enjoyable. So let’s race a Jack Daniels and a Coke for The Kominsky Method.
My score: 5 stars.