In a season full of format-breaking big swings, The Other Two delivering a 44-minute series finale that skews more dramatic than comedic is perhaps the biggest one of all. Sure, The Bear can get away with an hour-long episode, but The Bear is basically a drama anyway. But in the wake of the most recent season of Ted Lasso, which crumbled under the weight of extended episodes, there was reason to be wary about a comedy clocking in around 10 minutes past its usual runtime.
It's a risky move, but The Other Two has been taking risks all season with its most absurd, reality-bending, sympathy-testing collection of episodes yet. The show's Season 3 finale — which officially became a series finale on Wednesday with the show’s cancellation — yanks its two central characters back down to earth with a pair of emotionally painful thuds.
"Brooke & Cary & Curtis & Lance" understands that Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) have gone too far this season. Previous seasons of The Other Two have followed similar arcs, with the siblings tumbling down the entertainment-industry rabbit hole, chasing fame and success to the point where they become self-obsessed d*cks and need to pull back. With every season, they've leveled up in notoriety and clout, and have thus been capable of increasingly bad behavior.
Season 3 has been a lot to take, in this regard. Cary's determination to capitalize on his Night Nurse success turned into a desperate need to earn industry respect, whether as a dubiously groundbreaking queer Disney blob or as the star of a hit Netflix series who's decided to chase an Oscar. He also began obsessively checking his Twitter mentions, getting embarrassingly thirsty on Instagram, and whoring himself out for the chintziest of publicity opportunities. You know the kinds of celebrities that creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider had in mind while writing Cary this season, and their cringe factor is high. Cary's journey into the navel of his own C-List fame turned him into an egomaniac and a horrible friend to everyone, but in particular to Curtis (Brandon Scott Jones), whose own minor successes made Cary petty and jealous.
Meanwhile, the pandemic had seemingly broken Brooke, who couldn't handle the appreciative public attention that was being lavished on her nurse boyfriend Lance (Josh Segarra), which in Brooke's eyes came with an implicit moral judgment that her work and ambitions were shallow and worthless. Brooke's subsequent journey of self-sabotage saw her break up with Lance, quit her job, fail miserably at philanthropy, go back to her job, and produce a telethon so bankrupt of actual altruism that it nearly involved chloroforming Ben Platt.
Anybody who'd watched The Other Two up to this point could have told you that things were going to catch up to Brooke and Cary in the season finale. Both previous seasons have ended with the elder Dubek children realizing they've lost the plot and pulling together out of genuine concern for their family. That's always been one of the biggest charms of The Other Two: no matter how crazy things got, this was a family that genuinely cared and looked out for each other (...eventually). But hitting bottom felt different this time around.
After Cary, crazed with Oscar fever, obsessively calls his agent, Mackenzie (Nadia Dajani) for a full day, ranting about finding a director for his Oscar vehicle, he ends up screaming at her from the lawn of her house in the Hamptons. Only it's not her house, it's her brother's house, and she's been spending time there all season because of a sad family situation. In any other episode of The Other Two, Cary would get just enough rope to hang himself, look ridiculous, and leave his agent either bemused by her insane client or so immune to the behavior of actors that she just rolls with it. Instead, what we get is a righteous evisceration. Mackenzie furiously dresses Cary down in a blistering scene, devoid of mercy or levity, and it's exactly what Cary deserves. Faced with his selfishness and shamed by Mackenzie offering him a place to stay when he can't get a jitney home, Cary breaks down (privately, to his credit).
The next day, he tries to make up with Curtis in an emotionally honest scene that's tremendously acted by Tarver and Jones and scripted in a way that values queer friendships and doesn't take the easy way out. Both scenes are well-executed, narratively-supported drama. They're just very much not the tone we've been conditioned to expect from this show.
Brooke's comeuppance feels a bit more in line with a typical Other Two resolution. At the Peabody Awards to accept an honor for doing unimpeachable good with the telethon, Brooke, Chase (Case Walker), and Pat (Molly Shannon) are hit with the news of a pair of takedown articles about Chase using the telethon to promote album sales and Pat accidentally tweeting those unkind thoughts she had about her basic Ohio friends two episodes ago. With Chase about to be canceled and Pat about to lose the support of her entire target demographic, Brooke makes the decision to sacrifice her own career, taking the blame for the tweets and drafting a statement from Pat and Chase firing her as their manager.
It's not precisely growth for Brooke, who still desperately craves the validation of the media-industrial complex to assure her she's a good person (when she deep down is certain she's not). She's just willing to sacrifice all of it for the good of her mom and brother. Brooke's always been a far better daughter and sister than her character type lets on. But it's not until Lance — who of course backs up Brooke's lie about the texts without even being asked, because he's great — returns and tells her he actually did hire a publicist to get on People's "Sexiest Man Alive" cover that Brooke is finally able to dismantle her inferiority complex.
After a season of pushing Cary and Brooke into the most absurd spaces — a simulated Applebees with Marvel's Simu Liu; a Brokeback Mountain tent in the middle of Central Park; actual outer space (twice!) — "Brooke & Cary & Curtis & Lance" trusts the audience to follow them into the most unimaginable space of all: naked emotional accountability. Curtis sums up the root of Cary's monstrous behavior pretty succinctly, telling his (former, but maybe not forever former) friend, "You wanted to be the most famous actor in the world, so everyone would love you and be impressed by you, but also scared of you, and then never judge you in any way because they were too constantly in awe of you," before adding, "That's what we all want." The "we" there is doing some sneaky business. "We" isn't really everyone. "We" is actors. "We" is gay people. "We" is the kind of creatively-inclined, Hollywood-pilled person Cary and Curtis used to bond over being.
After agreeing to resume detente talks with Curtis after some time has passed, Cary instead wanders the Hamptons shoreline before encountering the world's most convenient Vrbo listing (lots of things have made The Other Two's third season feel like a dream space, but none more so than that) and escaping for a week. Ultimately, he runs into his old Emily Overruled co-star down the beach, an older gay man with a partner and a circle of friends whom Cary doesn't need to impress or defeat. The season ends for Cary on a note of the healing power of gay friendship, which is a more poignant way to wrap a season that has spotlighted both Cary's d*ck and butthole more than viewers may have expected.
Had The Other Two been renewed for a fourth season, this finale might have been a red flag. After two seasons of tightly-controlled Hollywood satire, Season 3 was a wild beast. Kelly and Schneider pushed the series further into the realm of the surreal than it ever had before, from black-and-white film parodies to musical numbers to that one episode where Brooke was invisible. Running times grew longer, Cary and Brooke became more abominable, and the swerves in tone from savage comedy to desperate pathos got less elegant.
If "Brooke & Cary & Curtis & Lance" had been a regular episode, leaning so heavily on drama to bring its two main characters down for a landing might have seemed too much to swerve back from. As a series finale, it works better. Cary gets a little bit of grace and the hope that he might be more grounded when his next big opportunity comes along. Meanwhile, Brooke does the right thing for the right reasons, kisses Lance in the rain, and has proved herself willing to take a bullet for her clients. Which is why right, at the very end of the episode, Brooke maybe becomes the most powerful manager in Hollywood? We'll never know, and that's probably for the best.
The Other Two Seasons 1 to 3 are available to stream on Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.