Schitt’s Creek Season 6, Episode 1
Posted by Gillian
Knowing a season will be your last must be a tremendous relief for a showrunner. You can thoughtfully plan out satisfying ends to your characters’ stories, bidding farewell to the world you’ve created and the fans you’ve earned along the way. But it no doubt brings a nerve-wracking weight as well. There’ll be no forgiveness for loose ends, no shrugged excuses that if you only had more notice you could have crafted a proper ending. That’s what Dan Levy and his team are facing: the gifts and the pressures that come with knowing the exact time and date of the end. And after last week’s season premiere, it’s obvious they’re taking this opportunity and responsibility seriously.
But, luckily for all of us, not too seriously. It’s still Schitt’s Creek, after all. And the team behind it is clever enough to know that taking something seriously doesn’t require losing the fun.
A big part of the fun of “Smoke Signals” for me was realizing it’s a bit of a re-piloting for the Rose family. They’re far from their first day in the small town, but they’re sure not acting like it. David and Alexis are on each other’s nerves from the start, their sibling rivalry elevated to a level we haven’t seen since the pilot (So many great grimaces from David! So many great frustrated groans from Alexis!), all the more jarring for us having seen the softer side of their relationship over the years. Moira is wallowing in her misfortune (this time at her movie being shelved rather than being newly destitute, but it looks remarkably similar), with Johnny doing his best to take care of her, his supportive husband muscles straining throughout but never failing. Side note: Eugene Levy trying to mask Johnny’s elation over Moira’s retirement decision with supposedly-reluctant support is masterful.
It’s classic Roses all around. And, at first, it feels like a bit too much. Because these aren’t the Roses we know anymore, are they?
But, oh, what a clever way to remind us of who they were when we met them, just in time for us to spend a season appreciating how far they’ve each come, and discovering along with them what lies ahead. I obviously haven’t seen future episodes, but I expect once they’ve aired, they’ll confirm this episode as a perfectly crafted fulcrum on which the show pivots from focusing on these characters’ pasts to their futures.
As much as “Smoke Signals” serves to remind us who the Roses were when we first met them, there are plenty of key distinctions to highlight how far they’ve come. Unlike in the pilot, where David and Alexis never apologize to one another for hoping the other gets murdered first for once, they now have Patrick and Stevie to help them realize (eventually, mostly) that their bickering isn’t actually about being angry with each other, which paves the way for reconciliation – after a hugely entertaining pair of the most Rose “apologies” imaginable.
Sure, Roland almost burns the motel down and asphyxiates Moira because he apparently doesn’t think “Do Not Toast” means you shouldn’t put something in the toaster, but he also not only saves Moira’s life (remind us to reprimand that moody latch!) but a good number of her wig bebes as well. And that’s a far cry from stealing their door out of spite.
While Moira ultimately (thank God for all of us) un-retires at the slightest whiff of potential for her beloved comeback vehicle, The Crows Have Eyes 3, she does temporarily make the remarkably mature decision to leave behind an industry that’s taken more from her and her marriage than it’s given over the years. Her moment of lucidity may only last a few hours (it’s no ayahuasca trip, after all), but it still marks a turning point for a woman whose entire identity has centered for decades around being Television’s Moira Rose.
Even supportive-to-a-fault Johnny gives us a rare glimpse of finally-had-enough-Johnny, refusing to let Moira pretend their afternoon outing hasn’t been spoiled by her abandoning him naked in a (the!) creek to be humiliated and nearly arrested. The anger bubbling up through Johnny’s usually calm demeanor as Moira chats casually with the police officer, and his stern confirmation to Moira that the moment has passed when she suggests they get back to their original plan to swim together in their birthday black tie is reminiscent of Johnny’s reaction to Moira declaring she’s running for Town Council after convincing Johnny not to back in Season 2. I’m curious to see if we get more of this quietly defiant Johnny in the show’s final stretch. Not that I’m hoping for discord in their marriage – I don’t think I could take that, honestly – but getting to see Johnny go for what he specifically wants, and not just what he thinks is best for his family or what happens to present itself as an opportunity, would be a welcome little twist.
Every week, I’ll be handing out some coveted honors in this recap. Let’s see who earned them this episode, shall we?
Love That Journey for Them: The Rose Siblings
Ok, listen, I know they spent the majority of the episode channeling their selfish and bratty former selves, but hear me out. The fact that they’re each so anxious and stressed – and taking it out on each other – is proof of their growth. We’ve seen them evolve over the course of the show, and they’ve each now gotten to a point where their next steps are BIG ones: marriage for David and moving somewhere 2,700 miles from the nearest Sephora for Alexis. For David, who’s always struggled with intimate relationships, each attempt at romance leaving him feeling rejected and unworthy to the point he’d avoided telling Patrick about his past for fear it’d send him running, committing to one person for the rest of his life is the ultimate show of having moved beyond the fear of being unlovable. And for Alexis, whose world travels and adventures have only been possible because she’s never had to plan them around anything other than her own selfish desires, moving to the Galapagos (a place that’s not at all the kind of island destination she’s used to) with Ted, solely to support him and his passion, is not only the most unselfish decision she’s ever made, it’s hard to imagine one more perfectly designed to prove her development.
As much as landing broke in Schitt’s Creek seemed like the most stressful situation either of them could imagine, it ultimately offered them protection – a place to get to know each other and themselves. And despite seeming like the ultimate fish out of water when they first arrived, the truth is they’ve been safe in Schitt’s Creek. And they’ve been able to grow because of it. Where we find them in this episode is each at their own point of having to face, for the first time, actual, high-stakes unknowns. It’s no wonder they’re on each other’s nerves – their nerves are frayed. Though they’ve changed drastically over the course of the show, it’s been gradual. But they’ve run out of road. It’s time to jump, and that’s terrifying.
And although they love each other and need each other, especially in times of uncertainty, they haven’t quite gotten used to acknowledging it, let alone expressing it. So rather than honestly communicate their anxieties about the future, they resort to the relative comfort of sibling bickering. Because deep down they know – and they’ve shown each other – that fighting won’t make the other leave, that they’ve got each other’s back. They can both take a selfish at the same time and still be there for each other. And if that’s not growth, I don’t know what is.
Before we move on, a quick moment of appreciation for how gifted both Dan and Annie are at physical comedy – my God. Her awkward lead-up to their hug, his sudden grasping of her hand and shoving it away before stepping back. Perfection, both.
Honorable Mention: Johnny has actually learned to grill! Without Roland or Patrick’s help. He’s got a new (pun-less) apron, a new (or at least much cleaner) grill, and has even graduated from burgers and dogs to pork chops!
Moira’s Rose’s Garden’s Honorary Rose of the Week 4856: Patrick
Sweet, loving Patrick selflessly (or maybe just wisely?) offers his accommodating and silver-lining-finding services all over this episode. Ignoring David’s half-hearted attempts to protect him from his family and their antics, Patrick spends his time quietly keeping things civil as best he can. He invites Alexis with them to see the wedding venue when she’s feeling left out, even walking around the grounds of the venue with their arms linked to make sure she feels included. He cautiously offers Mrs. Rose help when she emerges from her armoire and tries to order a continental breakfast from him. And, of course, he supports David as he works to put together his (oops, their) dream wedding.
But because he’s a good partner, he knows that supporting your person doesn’t mean going along with everything they do or want. David may have made him relinquish most if not all of the wedding planning at this point, but Patrick still insists they can’t get married without Alexis there. And he’s the person to not only convince David to apologize to Alexis (Stevie might have gotten around to it once the fun of watching the car crash wore off) but to stand by his side, ensuring that he (eventually) actually apologizes.
There may be no greater illustration of Patrick’s love for and commitment to David than how fully invested he is in the wellbeing of the entire Rose family, and that shines through all episode. Of course, David is still David, and so the episode ends with him clutching Patrick and “joking” there’s no backing out. As if, of all things, Johnny’s creekside tribulation would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As Patrick just spent the entire day (and their entire relationship, really) making clear, he’s not going anywhere.
“Roland in the Bedroom” Funniest Bit: Johnny Nearly Gets Arrested for Indecent Exposure
Johnny getting caught by an off-duty police officer while floating au naturale in a creek is the gift that keeps giving. While we don’t get to see the moment itself (pour one out for all the embarrassed, panicked Eugene Levy faces we didn’t get to see as he struggled to explain himself to the officer and then desperately tried to climb up the slippery creek bed), it provided plenty of comedy, from Moira’s flawless handling of the police officer to her delighted non sequitur announcement over dinner, to the perfect reactions from David, Alexis, and Johnny himself.
And bonus points (for all of us) for how stone-cold foxy Eugene Levy looks angrily following the officer, sopping wet and half-buttoned, revealing his eyebrow-rivaling chest hair. God only knows why being wet elevates every single person’s attractiveness tenfold, but I’m never mad about it.
Aw, David! Sweetest Moment: Stevie Gives Alexis a Compliment for the First Time
Stevie and Alexis have never had the strong friendship that Stevie and David do, but last season’s Cabaret rehearsals, with Alexis taking Stevie under her wing, gave us a look into what something more substantial could look like between them. And though they’re not a couple like Clive assumes, their conversation on the Elmridge Manor steps where Stevie also explains to Alexis what about her behavior is upsetting David is welcome assurance that there’s still a warm undercurrent of caring between them.
And in a lovely little continuation of Stevie’s dressing-room confession to Mrs. Rose from the Season 5 finale, Stevie admits to Alexis that she’s jealous of her impending Galapagos adventure, feeling since Cabaret is behind her, she should think about getting out from behind the Rosebud Motel desk and seeing the world a bit more, too. Clearly, Stevie’s season arch will revolve around this struggle to identify what kind of adventure she actually might want, and I’m really excited to see it.
Blouse Barn Durability Award for Best Look of the Episode: Moira
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Moira Rose 🌹 #SchittsCreek Season 6 Episode 1 “Smoke Signals” #CatherineOHara grasping her #Wigs while wearing this Snow-White-poodle #Wig backwards outside the #RosebudMotel with #JohnnyRose is one of my favourite scenes. #Hair by me #Makeup by @luckymakeup #WigStylist #WigStyling #TorontoHairstylist #Film #Filming #Set #CBC #NetFlix #POPtv
I have a feeling this is going to be a tough one every episode, friends. Luckily this is all made up and I can do whatever I want. (See copout below.)
Even under duress (and hiding in an actual closet), Moira’s look is on point. We don’t get to see until Roland comes to her rescue, hoisting her over his shoulder to carry her to safety, but Moira has selected a black, full-length, form-fitting, button-back dress, y’all. I’m no fashion expert (I literally googled “what’s it called when the buttons are on the back?”), but since childhood I’ve thought of button-back women’s clothing as the epitome of sophisticated fashion. They just seem so…needlessly difficult? And so I love them. I fully gasped at the reveal. Of course that’s what she’s wearing. Just because you’re hiding out of sight, floundering in self pity, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be serving looks.
And although Moira is apparently physically unable to dress less than her best even while spiraling, she still respects a theme. So, naturally, she’s selected the absolutely perfect wig to express her mental state.
Runners Up: The Entire “Kids” Generation
Obviously David’s culottes alone deserve at least an honorable mention. But I’m declaring a four-way tie for David, Alexis, Stevie, and Patrick simply out of appreciation for how perfectly them every single one of their outfits is. The costumers on this show always hit it out of the park (sorry, David, I know you don’t play cricket) but I just so enjoy how perfectly in character they crafted these looks for the first episode back from break. A perfect sartorial representation of who each of these people is, all in one dose.
A Vocabulary Lesson from Schitt’s Creek’s Resident Sesquipedalian
Balatron [bal-uh tron], n. A jester; a buffoon. As in, “How mercurial is life. We all imagine being carried from the ashes by the goddess Artemis, and here I get a balatron from Barnum & Bailey!”
Habilimented [huh–bil–uh-muhn-tid], adj. Clothed or wearing clothing. As in, “Thank you for your almost militant commitment to the protection of our community. I promise to keep my husband habilimented from now on!”
Kismetic [kiz-met-ik], adj. Pertaining to or characterized by fate or destiny. As in, “What an emphatically kismetic turn of events!”
Peregrination [per-i-gruh–ney-shuhn], n. A course of travel; journey. As in, “Sadly, I won’t be able to squire you for today’s wedding venue peregrination.”
A Lotta Bit Alexis
Much like they were with Moira’s vocabulary, the writers were having a blast with Alexis’ past. It’s as if they’d been storing all their references up in their cheeks between seasons and couldn’t help but unload when they finally got into the writers’ room. I’m always delighted to learn even one more tidbit about Alexis’ history, and this week we were gifted with three:
- She snuck her high school BFF across the Vietnam/Laos border in a carry-on suitcase.
- She dated Sean Penn (apparently fifteen years ago, which, yikes). Plus, Alexis apparently ended things and it was dramatic enough that her parents needed to plan a luxury getaway afterward.
- She was invited to Kate Winslet’s wedding but got the date flipped and showed up a month late. At least Billy Zane did the same thing! (There’s no way the two of them didn’t end up having a fling, right?)
Estate Sale Auction Items
I’ll do my best to not include every single line of dialogue or gesture or facial expression in this section each week, but I make no promises.
- Moira confusing people’s voices is such a great running gag. When Roland burst into her room to save her and she gratefully shouted, “Stevie!” I L’d OL.
- David once planned an ex-girlfriend’s intervention in under an hour AND once dated someone who left him for a stuffed animal. He might actually be Leslie Knope.
- Something about Clive’s intonation and speaking cadence reminded me of Wendy and now I’m obsessed with the idea of them being siblings.
- Moira’s vision of Johnny’s life as a widower, “aimlessly wandering through life, stoic but stymied, not a friend in the world and so very lost,” is surprisingly apt given what we saw of him when she was off filming in Bosnia.
- “You could be bopped on the head by a tiny piece of space debris!”
- I love that Stevie’s astounded “wow” whispers are identical regardless of which Rose sibling’s behavior elicits them.
- Moira sitting outside the room post-rescue, dazedly stroking the pile of wigs clutched in her lap, is a great sight gag. But it gets even funnier when you picture her demanding Roland go back to save them all, one by one, shrieking another name in desperation each time he deposits the one before into her hands.
- “Do they not let people in economy check in for the flight?” Alexis, please don’t give airlines any ideas.
- “I am remorseful over an action I participated in.” David, please don’t give men any ideas.
- The fact that David is even considering getting married at the motel (despite thinking it’s the equivalent of getting married under a highway overpass) is a perfect example of how beautifully their relationship has affected David. (While Noah Reid’s insistent, soft delivery of, “You could make it beautiful,” affected me to the damn floor.)
- I had been assuming this season would lead up to Patrick and David’s wedding as the finale, but that could mean Alexis (and Ted) being absent for most of it. And as much as I want to see Alexis (and her beach curls) reacting to life in the Galapagos Islands, I certainly hope Dan and his team have arranged a way to avoid her being separated from everyone else for the bulk of the season.
Did you like “Smoke Signals” as much as I did? What are your hopes (or guesses) for the final season? She cut off his WHAT? Join me in the comments, won’t you?
Featured Image Source: CBC/Pop