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Abbott Elementary's Slow-Burn Romance Stays on a Simmer in Season 2 Finale

“Franklin Institute” sees Janine and Gregory continue to take one step forward and two steps back.
  • Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams in Abbott Elementary (Photo: ABC/Gilles Mingasson)
    Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams in Abbott Elementary (Photo: ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 22, “Franklin Institute.”]

    Wednesday nights with Abbott Elementary have been a stable comfort for the past seven months, which makes the end of the sitcom’s sophomore season all the more bittersweet. It doesn’t help that the show keeps stretching out the torturous will-they/won’t-they romance between Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams). We know they’re going to end up together, it’s written in the stars — it’s just a matter of time. But according to the Abbott writers, that doesn’t look like it’s any time soon.

    Nevertheless, the Season 2 finale is not a complete loss for the Janine/Gregory nation. The “Franklin Institute” takes the Abbott teachers and students on a sleepover field trip to the Franklin Institute, where the duo’s classes are paired together. It’s an exciting progression, given how the show has consistently set Janine and Gregory’s biggest romantic developments at secondary locations beyond the school. From intimate dancing at a hookah bar to a blissful first kiss at a teacher’s conference, it’s practically inevitable that spending a night together at a museum would lead to romantic sparks.

    With Janine and Gregory finally both single at the same time, there appear to be zero obstacles blocking their ability to pursue their feelings for one another. Resolution is never that easy, of course, especially in the world of Abbott Elementary. When Janine bumps into her ex-situationship Maurice (Vince Staples) outside of the school, he tells her that she’s been acting selfish, citing the time she broke up with him in front of Gregory at his favorite restaurant. It shatters Janine’s perception of herself, leading her to become completely closed off to Gregory throughout the trip.

    The chemistry between Janine and Gregory has been building throughout the season in the most tantalizing manner — subtle glances when they think nobody is watching, shared inside jokes, and even a secret knock between the walls of their classrooms to get the other’s attention. But it’s in “Franklin Institute” that their feelings come to the fore. Gregory notices Janine’s sudden change in behavior towards him and turns to Jacob (Chris Perfetti) for advice. After deducing that Gregory has a crush on Janine, Jacob has slowly become the person that Gregory confides in about how to move forward with Janine. It’s an adorable bonding moment, providing glimpses of a sweet and prickly friendship developing between the two men, much like the unlikely pairing of April and Ann in Parks and Recreation.

    Jacob’s advice pushes Gregory to voice his feelings for Janine, rather than continue to hesitantly flirt and dawdle around one another. It’s a pivotal moment for the potential couple, as they finally admit out loud that they both like each other, shyly mentioning how their feelings for one another each began the moment they met. But despite their love confessions, Janine is hesitant to pursue a romantic relationship. She values their friendship too much to risk hurting Gregory if it doesn’t work out between them. It’s another step forward and two steps back, making the slow burn all the more frustratingly delicious.

    The unresolved tension between Janine and Gregory adds to Abbott Elementary’s glorious charm, as it’s reminiscent of the iconic slow-burn sitcom couples that took ages to get together. From New Girl’s Nick and Jess to Parks and Recreation’s Ben and Leslie, we know that Janine and Gregory’s inevitable coupling will be satisfying. The show’s deliberate pace in developing their relationship alongside their intricate character arcs has created some of the most dynamic storylines. As we await the next season, one thing is certain — Janine and Gregory’s slow-burn romance has left an indelible mark, and we can’t wait to see Abbott Elementary continue to develop one of TV’s best sitcom couples yet.

    Abbott Elementary is available to stream on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: Abbott Elementary, ABC, Chris Perfetti, Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter, Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tyler James Williams, Vince Staples, William Stanford Davis