And so we come to it at last: The final episode of Ghosted. (Except for all those other episodes of Ghosted.) The grand resolution to the Agent Checker saga. (Hey, remember him?) And the second series finale this show has somehow managed to air in as many weeksâand the less satisfying of the two by far. Which is all to say that âHello Boysâ would be a lumpy, unsatisfying finish even if it was airing under ideal circumstances; as is, weâre going to have to do a bit of contextualizing before we can even dig into the heart of why it doesnât work.
Because in case it wasnât immediately obvious from a whole plethora of factorsâthe opening credits, LaFreyâs abrupt return to the captainâs office, the absence of Merv, Bird, and the rest of the office dronesâtonightâs episode of Ghosted isnât really a part of the TV show weâve been talking about here over the last six weeks. Instead, this is the series finale for a six-months-dead comedy Iâve come to think of as Ghosted 1.0, shot back before Fox softly rebooted the series under a new creative team, in what now feels like a blatantly mediocre-faith effort to keep Adam Scott and Craig Robinson fans from screaming down their doors. As such, the episode acts in blatant contradiction, plot-wise, to pretty much everything from the Ghosted 2.0 era, meaning weâre just going to have to ignore a bunch of weird plot shit if we want to get anywhere tonight. Stuff like: Max and Leroy no longer being fired. No mention of triangles or time travel. The sudden reemergence of blatantly supernatural phenomena. And, of course, a renewed fascination with headless alien abductions and missing, super-ominous wives.
All of that, I can roll with. (At least the Dreaded Max-Annie Flirtation stays well and truly dead.) After all, itâs not hard to imagine these episodes airing in a different order on some lucky streaming service a few months from now, with âSnatcherâ leading directly into âHello Boys,â before âThe Wireâ marks a gentler tone shift into the Paul Lieberstein era. (It would be weird, given all the big plot reveals from tonightâs episode, but it could just barely work.) The more damning whiplash, though, comes from the way this latest juxtaposition highlights the old showâs weaknesses (and a handful of its strengths), as it desperately tries to build some sense of stakes for the fate of a world that isnât just ending; itâs already dead.
Itâs all on the table from the âPreviously onââs, which helpfully remind us that Max and Leroy (still Scott and Robinson, still the one thing this show has always had going for it, in any and every form) only got their jobs as paranormal investigators because the mysterious, missing Agent Checker recommended they be recruited. And despite their sub-kangaroo performance on a variety of fitness tests, it turns out that Checker was dead-on, because our two heroes really are the certified, signed and sealed Chosen Ones for this particular supernatural threat. Or possibly the Chosen Infinites; as Checkerâs decapitated headârecovered after Max has a textbook TV epiphany about where he might have been hiding all this timeâreveals, a whole multiverse of Earths is under attack from an invading alien horde right now, and Max Jennifer and Leroy Wright are the ones who always come closest to stopping it. (Not close enough to actually save anybody, but still: Close.)
As with so much of Ghosted, thereâs the core of a really good idea here, one thatâs then left to just sort of vaguely flop around, useless, on the screen. Outside of one fantastic jokeâthe reveal that the Max and Leroy of at least one universe were a team of very happy-looking professional dog groomersâthe alternate Earths are represented in the most generic fashions possible, just some screen filler that plays while Checker talks. As a sucker for a good alternate universe soryâand now Iâm hungry for a Fringe re-watch all of a suddenâitâs frustrating to see the concept used merely as window dressing, especially for a scene that doesnât even have any real comedy to make up for the gap.
But, then, that was always the problem with Old Ghosted; it was never about anything, except watching people just sort of ramble and riff as zombies or demons ran around in the background, doing shit. True, it was frequently funny rambling and riffingâand Iâll admit to feeling some nostalgia while watching Scott and Robinson idly bounce off each other in a car for the first time in foreverâbut it always carried with it an assumption that a loosely edited silence was just as funny or gripping as an actual dramatic moment or a well-crafted joke. The showâs Office period might have been just as pointless, in the end, but at least that deliberate nothingness felt like a stylistic choice. Here, it just feels like a very familiar flavor of sloppy. And attempting to play all of these big moments serious, just because itâs the last episode, does tonightâs finale no favorsâsomething that goes double for LaFrey, whose return to being a humorless scold was extra galling now that weâve seen what Ally Walker can mine out of this character when sheâs allowed to get all bitter and pleasantly weird.
Iâm convinced that, one of these days, thereâs going to be some sort of public post-mortem on Ghosted, and itâs going to be an absolutely fascinating document of all the things you can do to a TV show if you donât particularly care what happens to it first. It seems to have been created, way back when, as a vehicle for Scott and Robinson to improv together, and in that respect, it could be considered a mixed success at best. (Like, couldnât we have had something just as funny, but with fewer chupacabra jokes and exploding heads eating up screen time and money?) As a sci-fi show, it was far too interested in comedy and anticlimax to ever pay more than lip service to a handful of cool ideas. As a straight X-Files parody, it was too loose to give enough attention to the all-important element of specificity. As a place for Adeel Akhtar to make a million strange, beautiful jokesâbecause if thereâs one best thing I loved about tonightâs throwback, it was watching Barry thrive as the officeâs sole weirdoâit probably canât be beat. As a TV show, itâs unlikely to be missed.
Iâll leave off on a final excerpt from my notes, focused on the very last scene of the series. Max and Leroy, buoyed by their new-found destinies (and ignorant of the vagaries of TV production that are about to bring them down) cheerfully argue about what to call the alien threat: Energons, or Zappers? (Leroy rightly argues that âZappersâ sounds like an enemy that can be beat, which might be good for morale.) Itâs a warm, goofy conversation, a peak example of the things this show did at its best over the course of its initial run. But then, the camera pulls back, and we see Maxâs ominous wife, watching them ominously from a car. Britt Lower waxes (ominous!) for a moment, asking (ominously), âOh Max, whatâs going to become of us?â And although she was only talking to herself, my fingers couldnât help themselves as I immediately typed out, unbidden from my actual brain, a response: âWHO GIVES A SHIT?â
It turns out you really can only get so far on charm alone.