At the time of writing and production, this episode was only the Season 3 Finale, however when it was announced on May 10 2019 that Speechless had been cancelled by ABC, it also became the Series Finale.
The finale mainly revolves around JJ’s impending graduation and expected acceptance into NYU. The cold open involves Maya telling her story about how many times people told her that many parts of life for JJ would be unrealistic to achieve and live, ending with her telling the man responsible for graduation photo orders that her desire for a special order is unrealistic. It then cuts to a large floor-ceiling cut out of JJ in the living room and Maya agreeing with the man that the cut out was too big.
As mentioned earlier, the A story revolves around JJ’s impending graduation and expected acceptance in NYU. While everyone is excited for JJ, Maya is faking it as she doesn’t want him to move away, something which has been clear all season. When JJ and Izzy FaceTime to find out whether they got accepted together, JJ tells them that neither of them did. He also tells them that as Izzy got into Chapman and he got into Irvine, he decides to go there, which is only in the next town over and pleases Maya.
The episode than moves forward one month to JJ and Izzy checking out an accessible apartment for them to live in. However later on, JJ tells Maya that Izzy broke up with him. Maya goes over to Izzy to scare her into telling her why, and Izzy reveals that JJ actually did get into NYU and he said no to stay with her, and she broke up with him as he can’t plan his life around her. When Maya tells Jimmy this, she tells him that she’s conflicted as she doesn’t want JJ to leave, however she knows Izzy is right and that going to NYU would make him happy. Just before he’s due to make his speech at the graduation ceremony, Maya tells him it’s his choice but encourages him not to stay out of fear as it’s not love, what is love is her letting him go even though she doesn’t want him to. She also reminds him that he’s spent his life defying the odds when others have told him it’s unrealistic. When he goes to do his speech, which he did write after mentally torturing Kenneth by telling him he was going to wing it, Kenneth breaks down. While the family mocks him and goes to take over, they each break down one by one, with the exception of Maya. JJ abandons his written speech and through Maya and then Kenneth, encourages his classmates to be unrealistic like he has been.
The B story revolves around Jimmy and Dylan bonding over work. When Dylan convinces Jimmy to do her homework for her, which he doesn’t realise until Maya points it out to him, he sternly tells her to do the work or face the consequences of not bothering. Dylan finishes her homework and gets a good grade. The tables turn when Dylan finds out Jimmy’s working on an architecture model to get an architecture job, and that he’s growing his moustache until he gets one. He eventually gets an interview with a firm and Dylan tells him she’s proud, which causes him to doubt himself and panic. When Dylan discovers that he hasn’t done any work in a month (after the episode moves forward), she gives him the same speech he gave her. She also encourages him in her own way of tough love by stomping on all of his models until he founds one he hates the least, which he does. Just before he leaves the house to go to the interview, Dylan gives him a graphing pencil he loves, which he told her about earlier. He tells her at JJ’s graduation that he got a job by revealing he shaved off his moustache with art class scissors.
Overall I found this subplot was a strong one as it showed growth in Jimmy and Dylan’s father-daughter relationship, especially with Dylan encouraging him, and Jimmy’s dream of working as an architect has finally come true.
The C story revolved around Ray showing up to a class camping trip to find he is the only boy as the other boys locked up the coach in a cabin with a rogue squirrel which attacked him, and led him to jump out of the window and into a ravine. Ray sees this as the perfect opportunity to get a girlfriend, only to find that all of the girls still despise him even though he’s the only boy there. Ray snaps and asks them all if he is really that bad, this leads to some of the girls telling him some harsh truths and inspires Ray to have a workshop with them to find out what he’s doing wrong. The girls eventually make him realise that he is chasing a feeling and not a person, and he opens up to them, causing the girls to make him their “project” for senior year.
Overall I felt this subplot wasn’t as strong as the Jimmy-Dylan subplot, however it did show character development in Ray as he finally realises why he’s been so unlucky with all the girls and accepts the harsh truths that the girls have delivered and in a strange way, gets his happily ever after, when the girls decide to pursue him in senior year.
The finale and the show ends with JJ getting himself ready in the morning alone in New York and getting himself to the NYU campus, timed by his family and Kenneth. They are getting him to practice being late by just 15 minutes (he’s currently at three hours), which is the DiMeo way. They reset the stopwatch, start again and start walking back to JJ’s dorm together.
I’ve said in other blog posts about season finales, that the job of a season finale is to tie up the season’s story arcs and set up new ones for the following season. The job of a series finale is to tie up the whole show, leaving its viewers satisfied with its close. I’ve also said that you can tell when a show’s future is uncertain as the finale is usually written to both close off the story arcs but also leave certain subplots or story arcs open ended. When this finale was being written and eventually produced, it’s future was uncertain.
Now that we know that Speechless will unfortunately not be renewed, I’ve re-watched it to review it with a different set of eyes. As a series finale, it closed off the chapter of JJ’s high school life perfectly by having him graduate and give a speech, something unimaginable when Lafayette didn’t seem like the right high school in the pilot. It also showed the strength and love in Kenneth and JJ’s relationship when he broke down whilst trying to deliver JJ’s speech. The fact that the finale and show ended with JJ’s graduation when the show started with JJ starting high school at Lafayette was brilliant, as it completed a perfect and positive full circle.
Overall this finale was one of the best season and series finales I’ve ever seen. Speechless was also one of the best and unique shows I’ve ever seen and I’m sad to see it end.
I want to thank Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Micah Fowler, Mason Cook, Kyla Kenedy and Cedric Yarbrough for bringing the DiMeo family, Kenneth and Speechless to life. It has been an absolute pleasure watching and reviewing your performances over the last three years.
Scott Silveri, you and your family should be so proud.
-Jimmy use to be into model trains.
-According to the girls, Ray is insecure and yet strangely over confident.
-Ray carries around solved Rubik’s cubes in his pocket to appear incredibly intelligent.
-Ray has a doll named Tony that he tells all his problems too.
Best one liners and interactions:
- “Ray, word in the girls’ bathroom is that you’re being way more desperate than normal.” (Dylan to Ray)
- “I wish I could find a woman to read my board like that.” (Kenneth to Maya on Izzy no longer reading out JJ’s sentences out loud)