Last week, the final episode of cancelled ABC comedy Selfie went up on Hulu. And although the episode clearly wasn't originally intended to serve as the series finale, I think it worked perfectly to capture the heart of the show and leave the characters in a place that feels both resolved and full of possibility.
The makeshift Selfie finale aired the same week as the Miranda finale, and both shows tackled both their protagonist's need for self-confidence and self-belief, and the ever-present issue of the will-they, won't-they romance. However, while the Miranda finale left me frustrated, failing to properly deliver its message of empowerment, Selfie almost accidentally nailed its conclusion.
Eliza, we know from previous episodes, became the glamorous social media addict that she is because she was bullied for being awkward and ugly at school, and vowed to never be in that position again. She reached out to Henry to "re-brand" her after a social media disaster that made her feel more alone than every. And although Eliza is fairly authentic in most of her interactions, "branding" is one of her biggest concerns. How should she act to win people's approval?
So it's fitting that, in this final episode, Eliza is forced to confront the middle school memories that started this whole thing. On Henry's advice, she's searching for a female role model, and she picks the glamorous and successful author who bullied her as a kid. This already tells us a lot about Eliza's character, and how she still sees the middle school mean girls as superior figures who were right to reject awkward!Eliza. But when she goes to her bully's book signing, she learns that her once-bully has been presenting Eliza's past as her own, saying that she was the awkward unpopular victim who was voted "most butt" and had her hair cut off at a slumber party. After all, a "mean girl" past doesn't sell books.
Eliza is understandably devastated. But the discovery prompts her to both stand up to her bully -- if in an awkward and ineffective way -- and finally embrace all sides of herself, and not just the ones she thinks will be appealing to others. Because Eliza is genuinely the fun, outgoing, lively character that she presents to the world. But she's also still the same girl she was in middle school, and her struggle to never act like that girl again has given her crippling self-confidence issues. As Eliza is forced to face these feelings, she comes to the conclusion not that she's fantastic because other people like her, but that she's fantastic regardless of what other people think.
The episode comes to a particular great conclusion, with Eliza looking at a picture of her post-sleepover-haircut middle school self, and then chopping her hair off at the shoulders to become more like her, grinning all the while. It feels like a moment of liberation, from the need to live up to an idea of perfection, from her fear of ever being like her past self again, from the idea that she needs to "brand" herself to be likeable or successful. It's the moment that Eliza says "I am who I am, and anyone else can get lost," and this feels like the perfect note to end a story that has always been about managing appearances and being unhappy in your own skin.
In the end, Eliza chooses herself as a role model -- both her present self, and the past self she's been trying to forget. Because why not? She's a stylish and successful woman -- her company's best salesperson, full of great ideas, full of determination, and a social media mastermind. Her past self would love every single thing she did, and that is who she's now determined to please.
The conclusion made me sad that we won't get more of this wonderful comedy, but it was the perfect note to end on.
And as for the main romance of the series, I guess some people would say that it was left incomplete. After all, Henry and Eliza don't actually get together. But it follows the same theme of accepting yourself and your mistakes and looking toward the future, and that feels far sweeter and more satisfying for a short-run series like this than a definitive "happily ever after." Henry missed his moment in the past, and now isn't the time to go running after Eliza and making wild declarations of love. But he's aware of things. He's prepared. And next time the opportunity arises, he's going to be ready. The end of the show doesn't really feel like an ending, but a beginning.
And that, I think, is the best way to go.