After leaving us with some surprising character growth and platonic relationship-building, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend must, of course, unravel everything it built. Otherwise, the broken protagonist at the center of its premise ceases to be, well, broken. This is why Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) fantastically extends her penchant for unhealthy relationships into the nonsexual (with a few disgusting and sad exceptions) in “Who Needs Josh When You Have a Girl Group?”
Rebecca wants everything to be perfect, those idealized versions of love and friendship taken from old musicals, music videos and movies. When she finds herself in a selfie-taking girl squad, it immediately becomes a Spice Girls analogue: They have to be sexy, world-dominating best friends. (As Paste’s Rachel Brodsky points out, the Spice Girls more or less originated #squadgoals). And she takes that quite literally in the episode’s “Friendtopia” song.
The vaguely Latin beat between samba and salsa keeps the song’s violent message as quick and hilariously abrupt as the absurd dystopia in the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life” music video. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I’d recommend a re-watch because the slick, grimy, Blade Runner-esque cityscape is completely crazy juxtaposed with the upbeat dance track. I know the first thing I think of when someone says “grayscale sci-fi oppression” is bizarre carnival music playing while some British ladies fly in a spaceship past signs talking about Spice Wars (and no, not Dune).
In Rebecca’s Friendtopia (friendtatorship?) she, Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) and Heather (Vella Lovell) have weird hybrid British accents combining the flamboyant trashiness of Essex chavs with the more pointed pronunciation of somewhere like Birmingham. They’re also power-hungry revolutionaries taking the world-domination theme of “Spice Up Your Life” (which was pushed on the Spice Girls by their label for some reason we’ll never know) as literally as possible. They’ve all got the hair for Spice (Valencia with a Sporty ponytail, Heather with a Scary mane of curls and Rebecca’s Ginger… whatever you call it) and the lyrics for a hostile takeover. They might not be in a CGI spaceship surveying their global reign of pop tyranny, but they’re threatening Congress with hangings while performing synced girl group choreography. Coups don’t have to look this good, but I’m sure it helps.
The song’s recurring “zigga zow” recalls the “zigga ahh” of “Wannabe” but with any sexual innuendo replaced by a looming bank takeover. The roll call—assigning the brainy one, cool one, and sexy one—which we can all kind of figure out—doesn’t add a lot, except that we’re hearing Lovell sing as part of the main cast, rather than as one-line wonder in a “Settle For Me” reprise or a Christmas jingle. It also includes a takedown of needless Hocus Pocus nostalgia among those susceptible to ABC Family’s unrelenting Halloween push. Any Friendtopia where that is mandatory viewing is a hellscape where execution would be sweet escape.
“Friendtopia” reflects the odd, always unsatisfied selfishness residing in Rebecca’s heart. She can’t ever be totally happy with what she has, so she must constantly push her social relationships to their realistic limits. That means focusing on the guilt of Paula’s (Donna Lynne Champlin) exclusion rather than the inclusion of any and all new members (maybe Stephanie Weir’s hilariously horrifying Weird Karen or Esther Povitsky’s sweet Maya) in this new girl-group jambalaya. It’s easier to joke about friendships so powerful they lead to world domination or true love so amazing it has its own dance number than the give-and-take pleasantness of reality.
So, when Paulsy (oh, God no, palsy—Rebecca, think your nicknames through) is forced to come together with the Gurl Squad at a sex toy Tupperware party, it’s as uncomfortable as when Josh’s (Vincent Rodriguez III) friends are held hostage by the newly rad surfer, Trent (a perfectly American Psycho Paul Welsh playing “Rent without the T or Tent without the R,” which he helpfully reminds us). It’s an extension of forcing love, which is the entire premise of the series. These people have deep commitment and loneliness problems, and fear losing relationships so badly that they go to completely antisocial means to save these fantasy friends. When the powerful Gurl Squad speaks truth to power during yet another (yay!) Heather song (an excellent “Trapped in the Closet” parody about a construction accident), it crumbles the Squad with rationality.
Rebecca, fearing the cruel reason of the world and her own faults (which Paula brings up quite pointedly in their wrenching, episode-closing conversation), retreats again into fantasy—this time the too-perfect creep, Trent. False confidence inevitably belies low self-esteem, even (perhaps especially) as her imagined songs become more and more grandiose. She and her girls can’t take over the world when she can’t even manage her own life.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.