Review: ‘Hart of Dixie’: On the road again
The end justifies the means. It’s a phrase we’re all familiar with, but what does it really mean? It’s a belief that dares us to accept that we’re allowed to do things that are not necessarily acceptable, so long as the end result has a positive outcome. It means that when we look in the rear view mirror, every deplorable thing done to reach this point, is forgiven. I don’t particularly care for this phrase because of its negative connotations, but I feel it’s applicable to tonight’s season finale of ‘Hart of Dixie.’
Following what can only be described as a handful of terribly written, barely thought out episodes, we came upon tonight’s finale with the lowest of expectations only to be pleasantly surprised by the show’s return to the emotionally charged stories of early season two.
Up until Wade’s cheating, this show was a fine piece of romantic comedy, a show worthy of being a WB successor. The writing was on point, the laughs were earned, the relationships were electric, and George Tucker was becoming an actual character while stiff Lemon Breeland was on her way to being redeemed. Yes, the first half of the season was a delight. And that’s why it was such a disappointment when the writers dropped the ball following Zoe and Wade’s dramatic break up around the two-thirds mark.
Now, I won’t completely rehash those episodes – in fact, let’s all just pretend they never happened – because if I’m tired of writing about it, you guys have to be exhausted reading about it – but a few things need to be said.
The first half of the season worked so well because Zoe and Wade’s relationship was a stabilizing force, an interesting study in how two opposites can attract in an explosive way. Their relationship became not only the emotional center of the show, but ultimately its bedrock. And when the writers imploded the relationship (a necessary means to an end, as it were), there wasn’t anything to replace it with. The foundation that had made the show so strong in the early episodes of the second season was now gone. Zoe’s heartbreak and Wade’s drive to make something of his life were both fine storylines in theory, but neither one of them was all that successful in execution, due in most part to poor writing. Those storylines never received the depth and complexity that they deserved, and the show faltered as a result.
But to return to my theme: is it possible that maybe we had to sit through those horrible episodes to truly be able to appreciate what happened in tonight’s finale? Would it have been great to have a season full of top notch episodes? Of course. But this is Bluebell guys, we’re not morally corrupt drug dealers in New Mexico. We’re not from Dillon, Texas. We don’t have the luxury of being perfect all the time. We’re not Connie freaking Britton, OK? So let’s take what we can get and accept that despite those rather disappointing episodes, the show was renewed for a third season and that it managed to right itself before the finale ended.
In the end, Wade managed to find a way to break through the fog of his own construction and accept the truth about his relationship with Zoe – that he was in love with her and it was her belief that he could be a better man that scared him so badly the only option he saw was to cut and run rather than face his own fears of failure. It took a road trip with Lemon for him to realize all of this, but those scenes showcased the great friendship Lemon and Wade share and it’s a great triumph for Lemon that even though she still doesn’t care for Zoe, she still helps Wade to figure out his feelings for her. And she only throws a mild hissy fit when he abandons their trip to meet with Gloriana to beg them to play the Rammer Jammer (in an attempt to save face in front of the Belles, Lemon lied and announced they were already booked to play there) to chase after Zoe instead. Progress, Lemon, progress.
Despite the fangirling I was doing internally at the thought of Zoe and Wade reuniting (and at having both George and Annabeth tell Zoe that she very clearly still had feelings for Wade), I have to admit I was conflicted throughout most of the Zoe and Wade relationship storyline. As much as I want the two of them together, and as electric as their scenes were, I was afraid the season would end with the two of them getting back together before they were ready. Despite everything Lemon told Wade in his car about how he’s grown and matured, Zoe hasn’t. And I didn’t want her jumping back into a relationship with Wade, someone committed and willing to go all in, when she herself was still confused and conflicted about who she is, where she is in her life, and what her feelings are for the ridiculously good looking men of Bluebell, Alabama.
When Wade and Lemon bumped into Jonah and Zoe at the restaurant and it was clear Wade was going to confess it all, I panicked that the writers would somehow find a way to ruin this too. And though I have some qualms about it – like that it would have been more dramatic and emotional had we had a few episodes to build up to this moment, episodes that dealt with the inner workings of Wade’s psyche before the confession – the scene in which Wade bares it all was a beautiful one.
His speech to her was what we (and I suspect Zoe) have been waiting to hear for awhile now. All of those episodes in which Wade was presented as having no regrets about what he’d done, all those episodes in which he merely traded barbs with Zoe – those would have greatly benefited from Wilson Bethel’s serious face seen here. But in the end it worked out, the end justifying the means… sort of.
Wade came clean to Zoe by telling her, “You saw more in me than I ever saw in myself. And I was scared I couldn’t live up to that image. It was easier to wreck it all.” Though we already knew this, Zoe needed to hear it because she had herself convinced her entire relationship with Wade was a mistake, when in reality, it was probably the happiest she’s ever been. The semi-apology that followed would have probably been better had it come sooner, but it worked here because it was accompanied by a grand gesture worthy of the Seth Cohen Stamp of Approval.
“I know how much I hurt you, Zoe, but everything that I have done since, everything I wanna do, is to be that man you saw. And if you would, if you would even consider giving me another chance, I’m ready. I’m ready to be here for you in every way. I love you, Zoe Hart.”
I’d say that beats the hell out of a declaration of love atop a kissing booth in front of the entire high school (including a long haired Wilson Bethel himself). And Zoe handled it the way I wanted her to in that she admitted that her feelings for him still ran very deep, but that she was still trying to move past her pain and anger as a result of his cheating. Returning to my opening sentiment, Wade’s cheating was a necessary but unpleasant means of reaching this end point. Though it was heartbreaking and though the episodes between the break up and the finale were underwhelming, the break up itself had to happen in order to set our lovebirds on this path.
Zoe going to New York for the summer is actually the option I had preferred when discussing the three paths the story could take. And though I feel many of you might disagree with me, hear me out. Zoe needs time away from Wade, George and the entire world of Bluebell to figure out who she is. I generally dislike these sorts of storylines because they can lead to a very painful relationship death (see Casey and Dana on ‘Sports Night’ for a great example), but I feel that this is the best course of action for Zoe to take. Wade is very much at a place where he’s happy with his life whether or not I feel that he’s matured all that much or not since the break up. It’s obvious he has achieved his dream of owning a bar and he’s ready to take the next step. He knows what he wants and he is ready to take that leap. But if Zoe is still conflicted about her fantasy of George as the perfect leading man, and if she’s so insecure about attending a wedding by herself, then she has no business being in a relationship with Wade. It would be unfair to him. Relationships don’t work when both people aren’t on the same page, and until Zoe is able to feel comfortable in her own skin and in her own life, she and Wade will never work.
Though I still have my reservations, I feel much better about where we’re headed than I did a week ago, even with Jonah trying to throw his hat in the ring (seriously, did he really show up to that fancy wedding without an RSVP? As Cher would say, AS IF!). I really don’t get this, by the way, because, like, what’s so great about Zoe Hart other than she has medical training and a great fashion sense? I know that Jonah probably sees her as an equal, but aside from his medical degree, he’s very much a rich version of a less mature and complex Wade. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Jonah’s presence, but the last thing we need is another person to confuse Zoe. And a less developed, poor copy of Wade at that.
It’s possible that the writers will look back on this season and say this what the path they’d always intended to take, both with the love triangle and in general, but I don’t know that I’ll believe them. So much of the second half of the season was unstable and unsavory that it taints everything before it. Having redeemed Wade and having Zoe admit to both herself and to Wade that her feelings still run very deep was a step in the right direction, but was it enough? I am definitely optimistic about where season three might take us, but I’m also extremely cautious. Fool me once, shame on me, but full me twice, shame on you.
Overall, this season finale was much better than the episodes that preceded it. Lemon and Wade finally had something go right when Gloriana showed up to play the Rammer Jammer despite missing their meeting, and that coupled with the emotional arc of Zade, allowed the season to end on a happy note even if it wasn’t necessarily a high note. In the end we have to ask ourselves, does this ending justify those lousy episodes from the middle of the season? Probably not. But it was definitely a good try.
Some stray observations
- To balance out the emotional drama, Lavon is involved in southern Alabama’s version of ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ after the mayor of Filmore kidnaps Burt Reynolds. Lavon, being the absolute perfect person that he is, gathers an elite team of Bluebellians that includes Meatball, Tom, Wanda and the Reverend to get him back. This storyline by itself would have been funny but kind of ridiculous, but when paired with the drama of the emotional Wade and Zoe story, it worked well to counteract the heaviness. And anything that leads to Lavon being called Big Papa cannot be wrong.
- George, after realizing that he and Zoe will probably never be more than a fantasy for either of them, goes day drinking and hangs out with resident crazy Lily Anne who tells him the best way to get over the pain is to write a song. Because clearly that has worked so well for her. She’s totally not still angry at Wade for hurting her. Nope, not one bit. Except that’s exactly what she is.
- George and Lily Anne’s storyline seems silly, but it leads to George going on tour with Lily Anne for the summer, because of course there won’t be any lawyer business that needs tending to over the summer. Whatever, I just can’t wait to read George’s What I Did During My Summer Vacation essay when school starts in the fall.
- And one final thought: Annabeth is still flawless.
What did you guys think? Did you like the way the episode turned out or are you upset Wade and Zoe didn’t immediately reunite? Is Jonah growing on you? And can Scott Porter just sing in every episodes from now on?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.