Tuned In

Modern Family Watch: The Year in Review

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Spoilers for last night’s Modern Family season finale below:

I wrote last week that the previous episode of Modern Family, “See You Next Fall,” played like it was intended as a season finale, ending with a valedictorian speech, bringing the family together for a life transition and putting a period on the year. If it was run out of order—as its production number would suggest—this would have been consistent with last season, in which ABC moved back the intended Hawaii finale one week. (Sidebar: how often have you told yourself, “Man, that network made an excellent decision running the episodes of this series out of order”?)

But while I still prefer last week’s episode, “The One That Got Away” worked as a finale in itself, using Jay’s birthday to call back to many of the highlights of the past season.

Modern Family’s second season has been a mixed bag, but in retrospect its faults have not been that it’s not funny, wellwritten or well-acted, but simply that it hasn’t always challenged itself. Seeing the number of flashbacks and references to previous episodes, though–handled especially deftly through Luke’s video editing–it’s a reminder that this has remained a damn entertaining show that has built on its characters over the year, and given many members of a big cast room to shine. (Maybe my favorite callback was not on the video but the Manny’s closing gesture of bringing the boat into the pool, reminiscent of “Manny Get Your Gun,” the season’s best episode.)

Compared with the themes of aging, moving on and letting go in “See You Next Fall,” I don’t feel there’s as much of a meaty theme to discuss in this finale, but that’s all right; it was a strong reminder of why the show is still worth carving out time for on a Wednesday night. And why I’ll be eager to get back in the pool next fall.

Quick hail of bullets:

* Dear God, Lily actually uttered a noise! Quick, find a new silent baby for Mitchell and Cam to adopt!

* Mitchell Cam and Manny are two of the remaining characters who haven’t had as many moments to connect one-on-one in the series. So it was good seeing them find something to bond over—though Manny is Cam’s opposite when it comes to sports—and touching in the end to see Cam reminded that Jay is the dad that Manny wants to play ball with. Also: “I only used it once, and that was to take a torte out of the oven!”

* “Yeah, I did blame her for no reason. You have a little bit of an attitude, you know that? You know who did your job in my day? A hose!”

* Other great callback: the many Baby Jesuses (a.k.a. “baby cheesus”) still in the kitchen drawers. Your favorites?