We've come to the end of the season that fans built: the season four finale of The Game. For a variety of reasons, I feel like the fans deserved better.
Let's get to the action:
Melanie & Derwin
If you missed last week's episode, Melanie really, really wants a baby. She's frustrated that she's not pregnant by now, which leads her to such interesting thoughts as wondering if the microwave irradiated her ovaries. (I can't answer that, but I can say that if you put Christmas lights in the microwave, fun things happen.) The two visit a doctor for help, and that's where we learn that Mel once had an abortion. That's pretty much out of left field.
We learn in passing that Melanie and Derwin have a maid who takes out their trash for them. I guess that's one of those perks of being rich and famous, but somehow I didn't figure them as needing a maid. Certainly Derwin's life is hectic, but is Mel's that busy that she can't take out her own trash? Or does she just not want to? Maybe success is going to their heads just a little bit. At least, Mel's later spat with Tasha (more on that in a second) seems to point to that as well.
Tasha & Malik
"Tasha the Macknificent," as she's started calling herself, is still Derwin's manager - and now she's apparently resumed her duties as Malik's manager as well. Her brief relationship last week has made her realize that life is short, and her family is family. Derwin isn't happy that Tasha plans to represent them both, worrying that Tasha will favor Malik.
She goes out trying to help Malik make a social media push to save his career when she runs into her now ex-boyfriend and his family. Seems he wasn't exactly honest with her, so it's good that he's an ex.
Melanie invites Tasha over and basically asks her to choose between Malik and Derwin. Tasha susses that out almost right away and takes immediate offense. A fight breaks out, and Mel retorts that she convinced Derwin to sign with Tasha, therefore saving Tasha's career. She also reveals that she's not really that fond of Malik. "Your druggie son is done, everywhere," Mel snaps, before firing Tasha outright.
Malik is still trying to reconcile with Jenna, who is now convinced that she was little more than his rebound girl. He's trying so hard that he's set up an entire fake photo shoot just to see her. This only serves to make her feel humiliated, and she walks out on him. That's not the last he sees of her, though, as she rolls up to his mansion later, obviously drunk. With all the screwups Malik has had in the past, it's nice to see him be the one in a position to save someone else instead of being saved. I think he's made more strides than anyone this season, and good for him.
Jason meets Derwin for lunch, only to be irritated that he's only been invited because Derwin wants him to talk to the new QB who might be replacing Malik on the Sabers, since they went to the same alma mater. He's convinced to stay, however, by the kid's hero worship of him. Jason's huge ego almost always rules all.
Unfortunately, the new guy's ego is just about as big as Jason's. At his press conference, he calls the season "shameful," raising Derwin's eyebrow.
Also at said press conference, Jason runs into old flame Camille (Stacey Dash, everyone's favorite continuity error; remember in an earlier season when Jason said he'd dated Stacey Dash?) and asks her out to dinner. He gets what he deserves, though, when she says yes - but then goes over to her new boyfriend, said hotshot quarterback.
And that's it. No reference to whatever happened to Brittany and her behavioral problems. No real explanation of what happened with Jason's career (though I guess we can assume that he somehow went back to the show; at least, there aren't any signs that he's doing anything much different). And Kelly isn't present whatsoever, so good luck finding out how she's doing. It's almost as if she was written out for good.
As promising as season four started, I can't help but feel like this finale is a rocky landing. There's one big obvious problem for me, and that's the complete omission of several plot points from earlier in the season. It's as if the writers got bored and just decided to skip out on finishing them. We have no idea where Kelly went to, or how she is doing. No idea how Brittany is doing. (We rarely got to see Jason or Kelly even be parents to Brittany except for the episodes in which she was in trouble.) What did Jason ever do career-wise? I don't care what happens with him and Camille (although I admit to wanting Jason and Kelly back together) when we've established that there are more serious problems for him to deal with. But the show skips those, and instead brings us Camille back out of the blue. Not unlike Melanie's abortion revelation.
And that's why this finale just doesn't work for me. It seemed like one big tease for season five rather than cleanly wrapping up season four. It presented more questions than it gave answers. We're left to figure out what happens to Malik's career. What happens to his relationship with Jenna. What's up with Melanie and her abortion. Whether or not she and Derwin will ever get pregnant. All these things and more left unanswered, basically ending the season on multiple cliffhangers. To me, that just smacks of sloppy writing. I understand leaving a few possibilities open for next season, but the fans who've watched these plots unspool all season long deserve some answers, not to be strung along for a season five that might not happen. (I'd be surprised if it didn't but nothing is for sure.) The writers knew how much time they had to resolve these plots and it seems like rather than do that, they're moving from one thing to the next. I'm all for new plots, but not at the expense of finishing what we've already started.
Then there's this interesting bit of news: The Game is no longer a comedy, at least according to the people in charge. Maybe.
What do I mean by that? Answering questions from the fans on the show's Facebook page, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil spoke of "a better transition from comedy to drama," which sounds like they now see the series as a drama. That explains a lot about season four (and parts of season three). The sticking point for me is that I'm not sure anyone else got the memo, including the audience. The show is still listed on several TV websites as a comedy, and over the course of season four, I've gotten a lot of feedback asking where the comedy went. It seems like while the audience was expecting a show fundamentally similar to what they'd come to love, the creative team envisioned something entirely different. Would people have come back to The Game knowing it was going to be a drama series? We'll never know, but the show's erosion in ratings (while not weak by any standard, it went from a 7.7 million opening night to holding steady around 4.5 million by this point) signals to me that a decent portion of the audience didn't like what they saw.
Only adding to the confusion, later on in the same Facebook Q&A, the Akils promise that season five - which they seem pretty confident will happen - will be "the funniest season ever." In fact, there are a few answers that are less answers, and more teases for the not-yet-officially-announced season five. So it's up to you which quotes you choose to believe or not believe. Such responses usually signal to me that The Powers That Be don't know any more than we do. Which is strange considering this finale seems like they've been looking past season four at season five for a little while now.
What bothers me even more than the vague answers is the reaction amongst the fans of The Game themselves. Over the course of the season, I've interacted with the fans of the show on various platforms, and I've seen two camps emerge: those so glad to have the show back that they're fiercely loyal to it, and those who are less satisfied with the current incarnation. Neither is right and neither is wrong; it's all subjective, of course. But what's upsetting is that some of these fiercely loyal fans have turned on those who dare to disagree with them. I've seen people who express dislike of any aspect of the show dismissed as "haters," called "whiners," and all sorts of other unflattering things. There's a certain group amongst the fans that seems to say, "If you're not explicitly with us, you're against us and you have no right to speak." And that's not fair, since without the combined efforts of everyone involved, we wouldn't have a show to be loyal to. I sincerely hope that everyone calms down and remembers that we all share a common interest.
Okay, soapbox moment over. Back to the show. Although I can't say that season four was as good as I was hoping, I'll be the first to admit that I had some very high expectations, so I was perhaps damned to be disappointed. I'm glad that The Game came back, if only because I have been blessed to meet some wonderful people over the course of this season. Am I excited for Season Five? Less than I was in January, but yes. This isn't the show I fell in love with, but it hasn't changed enough for me to stop watching - so I guess that says it all.
Let's just hope that season five learns from season four, because there's only so long that my love of these characters from the first three years is going to keep me tuned in now.
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