More accurately, it was an aggressive “Screw You” to anyone watching. It was incredibly meta, with many of the jokes being dedicated to the characters pointing out how the show has long overstayed its welcome, and totally irreverent. Seriously, everything the season was building up to prior to the finale (Walden’s surprisingly heartfelt adoption arc, or Alan’s growing up and proposing to his on-again-off-again love interest Lyndsey) were all tossed to the wayside and mercilessly mocked, almost as if the show was actively trying to make anyone who was even marginally invested feel as terribly as possible. And if it wasn’t obvious from just watching the series, a couple of jokes were even devoted to how painfully unfunny the show has been as a whole for the past 12 years (I told you, it was a really meta finale). Mixed in with all of this were fitting character send-offs, misdirection, and of course the “Return of Charlie”. This is where the show gets really mean-spirited.
Throughout the run of the finale, Charlie (who was said to have died in France after being pushed in front of an oncoming train by his new wife Rose as a result of his infidelity) had his return built up. It turns out he was never killed, but rather, he was kidnapped Silence of the Lambs style by Rose and kept in a hole in her basement for the past 4 years. Having escaped near the start of the finale (and now bent on revenge), Charlie sets out to terrify Alan and Walden for the run of the episode by sending cryptic threats (that readily reference Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown) and sending ominous clues and cheques to various characters he feels deserve his money. This sends our leads to several past characters of the series, filling the finale up with a ton of callbacks and phone calls to significant past people in the lives of our main characters. Even Jake, Alan’s son and a character that no longer appeared due to the fact that the actor who played him was fired over his rant about the state of the show, was brought back for this finale. The theme of mending old wounds was reinforced and the notion that anyone could return was firmly established. The entirety of the episode was leading up to the moment where Charlie would make his return, with tons of hints and comments that seemed to point to the event of Charlie coming face to face with the man who replaced him. What happened instead was the equivalent of calling a mother to tell her that her long lost missing son was found alive, and then yelling “Psych!” and explaining that he was actually found dead before promptly hanging up.
As many of you know by now, Charlie did not make an actual appearance in the finale, but rather, was seen from behind before being killed by a falling piano (which was then followed by Chuck Lorre himself sitting in a chair and uttering the now infamous phrase “Winning”). The original plan was to have Charlie say a few lines before being crushed by a piano, but the sentiment was read loud and clear. This is a finale that just did not give a crap, and it knew it. If Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up as a police officer wasn’t indication enough, the writers stopped caring a long time ago. No one was going to be “winning” here. Fans of Charlie were sufficiently trolled, fans of the show’s final season storyline were ignored, and people who liked Ashton Kutcher’s character were shafted as well because it was Charlie that got all the focus. This finale was an exercise in pissing off as many people as possible, which was actually part of Chuck Lorre’s mission statement for the series ending.
If you hated the show, you’ll be greeted with an intentional trainwreck of a finale that does everything it can to remind you why you hated the show in the first place, and if you liked the show, the finale does a great job of insulting your intelligence for feeling that way. It’s pretty much the most well executed television slap in the face I’ve ever seen. It seemed thoroughly thought out and designed to anger as much people as possible. This was a finale that was absolutely meant to piss off its viewers, and I gotta say it succeeded; although, I’m not sure if it is really something anyone should be succeeding in.
The scene that will undoubtedly be one of the most infamous final scenes in television history:
Quote of the Day:
“I love it! You managed to find a way to win, and everybody still loses! Hahahahahahaha!”
– The Joker, Batman: Under the Red Hood