Speechless Season 3 Finale Review


On the day JJ and Izzy (Kayla Maisonet) are both supposed to hear back from NYU, Maya pretends to share everyone else's excitement about her baby boy possibly going to college so far away. As they await the news, this episode's other plots emerge:
-- At school, Kenneth learns JJ has been chosen by his class to give a speech at graduation; since he'll have to read for him, he wants it to be their last hurrah at Lafayette together (as he later puts it at the graduation ceremony, "Your words, my voice, for the last time") and it upsets him that his little buddy would rather just "wing it."
-- Ray tells Dylan about an upcoming Junior-class trip to Catalina Island, presumably to study the native marine biology there... though he'd rather study his female classmates.
-- After school, Dylan (whom Jimmy gave a "dad lesson" about work ethic that morning when he learned she'd manipulated him into doing a homework assignment for her) finds Jimmy preparing for a job interview with an architecture firm (scheduled a month in advance, which seems odd to me, but I suppose if they wanted him to bring in a scale model of a sample project, they knew he would likely need all that time to design and build one); Jimmy tells her that to further motivate himself, he's growing out a mustache that he won't shave until he lands "some sort of architecture gig," and she tells him she's proud of him.
When NYU posts its acceptances, JJ claims neither he nor Izzy got in. This threw me a bit, because at the end of s3e15 "G-A-- Game N-I-- Night" when he said "Izzy's going to college in New York," I thought that meant she'd already been accepted by a school there -- so I guess he must have just meant she had applied at NYU as her top choice (as opposed to a "safety school," which I assume was the case for the place that does accept her, Chapman University in Orange County).

A month later:
-- Ray learns his male classmates are being sent home from the class trip for pulling a prank on Coach Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar), but the girls still ignore him when he tries to hit on them; when he snaps and demands to know what they think is wrong with him, their responses are hilariously spot-on (he takes any sort of attention as interest, he's insecure yet weirdly over-confident, "you got too tall too fast," etc.). After he's accused of being "so busy trying to get us to notice you, we don't get to know you," he lets his guard down and opens up to the girls... only for the boys to suddenly come back (one's dad happens to be a lawyer who threatened to sue the school).
-- The day before his interview, Jimmy is still laboring over his sample project and blames his lack of a real drafting pencil, so Dylan dishes back the same "no more excuses, do the work" lecture he'd given her; this only sets him off into a frenzy of throwing together multiple scale models he's not happy with, and he admits that since she told him his dream matters to her too, he's been feeling a lot more pressure not to disappoint her. She sets him right again by assuring him she doesn't really care that much; and on the day of the interview, she compliments his finished project and surprises him with the drafting pencil he wanted ("for good luck").
-- Izzy goes apartment-hunting with JJ, but soon breaks up with him; when Maya confronts her, she reveals that JJ's been accepted to NYU after all but is instead settling for University of California - Irvine just so he can be with her, and she doesn't want to hold him back. When Maya tells Jimmy and he insists their son can't just stay close to home for his high-school girlfriend, she admits she doesn't want him to go to New York and won't push him to pursue a dream he no longer seems to want.

At graduation, Dylan informs Ray that his moment of vulnerability with the Junior-class girls has actually made them want to help him become more desirable -- which I think is the best thing that could've happened for him (rather than simply finding a new girlfriend), considering how his vow to work on himself at the end of s.2 ultimately didn't come to much.

Speaking of the s.2 finale, Jimmy and Dylan's pairing in that ep (when he first opened up to her about not liking his airport job) gets a sweet sequel here as the architecture firm calls him with a job offer and she's the first person he tells -- revealing that he shaved his mustache (with art-class scissors). Of course, in any other episode, this moment would've been the clear highlight for me; but literally everything after it left me a teary-eyed mess...

Mere minutes before JJ is supposed to give his speech, Maya assures him he could still try to make it work with Izzy if he goes to NYU. His reply is heartbreaking enough ("Because I'm so good on the phone? Because I'm so worth waiting for? I found someone who loves me, Mom. If I leave, I lose her. I may never find someone again. Be realistic"), but her response may be some of the most beautiful writing I've heard on this show: "My love, you know what you have to do. I've opened so many doors for you, but you've walked through every one. And look what it got you -- [chuckling] this silly hat. Don't tell me to be realistic. Don't tell you, 'cause that's not what got you here. You be afraid, fine. But don't stay out of fear -- that's not what love is, darling. This is love. Go."

After JJ reveals to Kenneth -- who had been frustrated with him for putting off writing his speech -- that he has a speech after all, the big guy breaks down as he tries to read it ("I'm just so proud!"), and so do JJ's siblings and dad. The young man decides to scrap what he wrote and instead share "one message, a lesson I was learning every day for years without realizing it. I learned it again today from my first teacher"; he looks up at his mom, who has Kenneth read from JJ's communication board: "It's a hard lesson. It can make you do things you don't want to... like say goodbye. [JJ looks at Izzy, who smiles and nods.] Be unrealistic. Be unrealistic. Thank you."

Musical Moment: "Outro " by M83 starts during JJ's speech, and continues as he gets up in his New York dorm, dons his adaptive gear and makes his way through the city. (It turns out classes don't start for another two months -- his family and Kenneth have just been timing him as he practices getting to class on time.)

Grade: 10/10. A near-perfect ending to a strong -- very possibly (though hopefully not) final -- season, it smartly works as a series capper (unlike s.2's fate-tempting cliffhanger) yet leaves me wanting more time to follow these delightful characters into the next phases of their lives: Architect Jimmy living his dream (not to mention the show still hasn't really explored his relationships with his parents... or his sister, first mentioned in a throwaway line in s3e16 "W-H-- Wheelchair P-L-- Planet"), Maya continuing Fashion 4 All with her pal Melanie, Ray being a "project" for the girls in his class as he prepares for his own graduation from high school, Dylan adjusting to life without JJ at home as she continues to grow into a young woman, Kenneth balancing college classes with work (coaching the Lafayette girls' basketball team) and his personal life (his friendship with the DiMeo family and his relationship with Melanie), and JJ dealing more with the real world as he gets into college life. So how about it, ABC? Come on -- be unrealistic#renewspeechless

Bonus: Full s.3 cast and crew photo :)

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