30 Rock 7×08 My Whole Life is Thunder Recap and Review
As 30 Rock takes its own stride of pride into the abyss of cancellation, it continues to earn that pride by staying true to itself in near-top form. Tonight’s episode was no exception. Liz Lemon enters showing the writers her wedding ring, but assuring them that she’s keeping her name. Jenna enters and reveals that she is secretly wearing her wedding dress in preparation for her surprise wedding, complete with her nude fiancé and leather-wearing Gimp priest. One thing that has always amazed me about the ever-vacuous Jenna is that she manages to stay enduring even in her most self-obsessed moments. I can imagine that she is like the person Liz secretly wishes she could be, but would never allow herself to become.
Next, Liz discovers that she has won a dubious Women in Entertainment award that will be broadcast in Lifetime.com’s garbage cache file. Something tells me that this is not an exaggeration. If only Lifetime had had the sense to broadcast Liz & Dick in this manner.
Cut to Liz speaking to Jack in his office. Jack reveals his old-fashioned and disapproving mother is arriving on Pearl Harbor Day b/c she still thinks scoffing at the Emperor of Japan will prove her patriotism. Jack is not thrilled, but Liz tells him to enjoy this time with his 87 year old mother. Considering this season is wrapping up the series, this can never be end well.
Next, we learn what might be the best possible twist of the season thus far from Kenneth: that Liz has finally gotten rid of Hazel and that Hazel has broken up with him. With luck, we will never see Hazel on this show again. Kenneth strangely seems disgruntled about this and upset with Liz. I seem to share Tracey’s confusion in this scene over it. The joke about those annoying pop-up ads during shows seemed ripped-off from an old Arrested Development episode as well. I just expected more from Tiny Fey at this point.
But Kenneth is not alone in wanting to get Liz. I enjoyed the scene where Liz asks Jenna to accept the award with her on stage not just b/c Jenna sings (which seems to always over-compensate for her lack of character development) but also b/c we learn that Liz used to work as a lighting technician back in Chicago. Does this revelation come back to effect the rest of the episode? You betcha.
Next we get not one, but two special guest stars that steal the rest of the episode. Elaine Stritch plays Jack’s mother and Florence Henderson plays herself hilariously. Less noticeably, the third guest star is Andrea Martin as the Women in Entertainment presenter. As if the episode couldn’t have any more guest stars, Gayle King plays herself as well. Jenna is also planning to do her surprise wedding as Liz accepts this award, but we already figured that out by now.
The next scene where Jack’s mother claims to be prepared to die emphasized how 30 Rock is not just a diabolically clever comedy series; it is also one of the most under-appreciated heartfelt shows currently on broadcast television. Elaine Strich’s performance highlights the sincerity between the lines that the show’s loyal viewers seem to overlook when watching the show.
While Tracey, Kenneth, and Florence Henderson deal with an underdeveloped sub-plot involving an intentionally broken elevator, Liz and Jenna argue over how selfish Jenna is (a lot) surrounded by a group of seriously typical Tina Fey-styled feminist caricatures. I enjoyed the predictable twist in the scene where Liz rigs the lighting so Jenna will be too vain to interrupt her moment.
The following scene in the carriage doesn’t exactly deliver on the promise of the previous scene with Jack and his mother simply b/c it was far too moist and clichéd, especially for this show. Even Jack’s mother would’ve disapproved had she not suddenly died in a most television sitcom manner.
The next scene where Liz confronts Jenna as she accepts her reward seems to cement Tina Fey’s stance on feminism’s hypocrisy into the ground. I must admit that I loved Jenna’s vampiric-esque “double.” Don’t we all kind of look like that in bad lighting?
The next two scenes didn’t do the promise of the episode justice. Jack and Jenna confiding in Liz their deepest sentiments seemed to just cheapen whatever emotional subtext we were already kind of onto to begin with. I did like the idea of selling Jack’s mother to a haunted house, though.
At the funeral, Kenneth then realizes that his life is better than in television in a truly made-for-television type of diatribe. Glad he finally came to his senses…and that the actual Hazel did not make an actual appearance. Her “replacement” showed real promise, though.
Jack’s subsequent speech is exactly the kind of sentimentality 30 Rock has been fighting to stay away from all these years, but exactly what Jack needs for some much needed character development. And he Kermit the Frog cameo felt strangely appropriate, but not as appropriate as Jenna’s predictably selfish decision to have her wedding…at the funeral. If you’re going to be that selfish, you might as well marry someone in full statue make-up and fake wings. And…where was James Marsden’s character Chris? I mean, Liz and Chris just got married and all…
While this episode was named after Jenna’s thunder, it could’ve used some more of Tina Fey’s lightning. If 30 Rock has decided to cash in its cynical chips for some much needed emotional gratification, it probably couldn’t have picked a better time for the holidays. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go overboard with it for the series finale next month.
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