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Season finale review: ‘Modern Family’ – ‘The One That Got Away’: Birthday magic

A quick review of the “Modern Family” season finale coming up just as soon as I use a baseball mitt to take this torte out of the oven… 

Last week’s “See You Next Fall” was the last episode of this season to be produced, and on the whole I would have rather gone out with that one, as it was a stronger overall episode than “The One That Got Away,” and I’d rather see a season end on the highest possible note. That said, I understand why the producers and/or ABC ultimately landed on this one, since Jay’s birthday party, and the video montage of characters getting ready for moments we remember from earlier episodes, probably felt like more of a coda to everything that came before this year.

What struck me most about the finale was that it was the opposite of the conundrum I often have with this show. There are lots of episodes of “Modern Family” that have several isolated funny moments but don’t seem to cohere into a whole, and where the attempt to end on a heart-warming note can feel shoehorned in. This was not that, as the various stories had a lot of overlap both in terms of theme (several of the stories were about character pretending to be someone they’re not) and plot (with each individual mess escalating Jay’s birthday misery). And in terms of warmth, I liked seeing the characters learn to appreciate what they had (or, in Mitchell and Cam’s case(*), to want even more of what they have), with Jay’s lament that he misses the old version of himself the right joke to add just a little bitter to the sweetness. Yet at the same time, it featured fewer laugh-out-loud moments than the show usually averages, with Gloria’s run of baby Jesus/cheeses references and Mitchell and Claire acting like troublemaking kids in the back of Jay’s car being two of the comic highlights.

(*) Perhaps the episode’s most welcome development was the first Cam story in quite some time that didn’t revolve around him being a whiny, overly-sensitive diva. This was still recognizably Cam, but the Cam I liked in the first season rather than the season two Cam I’ve mostly had to grudgingly endure while lamenting how the show dialed up its breakout character’s most overtly comic attributes until he became annoying.

I recognize that the chief goal of most comedies is and should be to make the audience laugh, and I’ve seen plenty of comments in past “Modern Family” reviews that an episode I didn’t like made somebody laugh enough that they didn’t care about the things I complained about. But while I’ll certainly tune into a sloppy comedy that makes me laugh (say, “Big Bang Theory”), with “Modern Family” I think I ultimately prefer an episode like this – pleasant but not hilarious, but well-structured and with versions of the characters I feel the most affection for – to some others this season that were just a loose collection of gags, even if those gags were funnier than most of what was on display last night.

What did everybody else think – of both the finale and season two as a whole?







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