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The Curb finale was pretty, pretty pretty good

When I first watched the first episode of the twelfth and final season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” I was anxious. Not the usual gut-wrenching, second-hand embarrassment anxiety that I’ve come to expect from twelve seasons of Larry David being my spirit animal. It was anxiety from a memory of the “Seinfeld” finale. The final season of “Curb” sprinkled reference after reference to the “Seinfeld” finale, both implicit and explicit, for fans to see. Whether it was Ted Danson (playing himself) talking about it or the setup of a protagonist being arrested for an unjust law, I was terrified that “Curb” was going to end in the same way that “Seinfeld” did, in disappointment. Thankfully, I’ve entered from the other side of the finale, and I can confidently say that the “Curb” finale was fantastic.

I think the main reason that I like this finale is that it exploited that classic Larry David angst. I spent the entire season watching the references to the “Seinfeld” finale with a pit in my stomach, feeling like I was about to watch a car crash. That type of second-hand embarrassment – or anger – was something that I, as well as most casual viewers of “Curb,” have become accustomed to. Whether it was Larry interrupting a baptism because of a misunderstanding or opening making a store to spite someone, every episode ended with Larry dealing with the consequences of his actions. That repeated pattern of Larry doing something and then paying for it became a pattern that audiences became accustomed to, and we stopped questioning that trend. That, in part, is what makes this finale so perfect. We’re used to a world in which Larry answers for his crimes; every episode is a trial of Larry David. In that way, it seems reasonable to think that this finale would be just that: a cumulative trial of Larry’s crimes. This answering of Larry’s crimes, this moment where Larry gets his comeuppance, makes viewers expect a “Seinfeld” finale 2.0, and that’s very much how the final episode is set up. Larry, like Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer, are effectively put on trial not only for the crime with which they’ve been accused but for every social faux pas, out-of-context comment, or bad joke they that the accused have ever dared commit. This pattern of comeuppance at the end of every “Curb” episode, and at the end of the “Seinfeld” series, appears to be replicated for most the majority of the final episode of “Curb,” but that pattern is gets reversed when Larry, convicted for his crimes, gets to walk away. Due to a technicality, Larry gets off on a mistrial, effectively exonerated for every terrible thing that he’s ever done. This finale is what “Seinfeld” needed, but “Curb” accomplished.

I think that a lot of people dislike this finale for one of two reasons: it’s either too similar to the “Seinfeld” finale or it’s too referential to the “Seinfeld” finale. I think that these arguments both miss the point of the finale and the series as a whole. I find the argument that it’s too similar to the “Seinfeld” finale to be a strange argument to make when it does the “Seinfeld” finale better than “Seinfeld” did. “Seinfeld’s” finale was focused far more on a recap of every terrible thing that the gang did; the message is based on the notion that the four friends are bad people and are now answering for what they’ve done. The message of “Curb,” on the other hand, is focused on a different message. Larry did all of these things, but the message is focused on an arch of redemption, a point I’ll touch later.

The latter argument, that it’s too referential to the “Seinfeld” finale, is especially ridiculous. I think that the constant references to the “Seinfeld” finale added to the slow burn and anxiety that made the reveal that Larry can walk free all the more perfect. It was set up to be the ultimate joke of the series. In fact, I don’t think that this joke could have worked without how bad the “Seinfeld” finale was. “Curb” adequately took advantage of the vacuum that the “Seinfeld” finale left. In doing so, the “Seinfeld” finale crawled so that “Curb” could walk.

There are so many reasons why I think this is the way that a show like “Curb” and “Seinfeld” should end, but the main reason is that it gives a little reassurance to those of us who are a little like Larry, Jerry, George, Elaine, Kramer, and everyone else on the shows. Part of the reason that shows like “Curb” and “Seinfeld” are so funny is because they provide commentary on social experiences that we’ve been participating in. To some degree, Larry and the four friends have done something that we’ve all thought about doing ourselves. Part of the problem with the “Seinfeld” finale was that it left the audience feeling like they themselves had been condemned with Jerry and co. “Curb,” on the other hand, is clear that the corpus of our past problems doesn’t form who we are as individuals. It shows that we’re more than just the sum of our past bad actions, and we don’t need a certain number of good actions to exonerate us. Larry is the worst among us in terms of bad things that he’s done, and he’s still allowed to leave the show living his life and not condemned for eternity. I think that it shows that on a cosmic scale, if there can be justice for Larry David, there can be justice for all of us. I think that the social assassin did a pretty, pretty pretty good job wrapping up his show.

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About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

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