Look, I’m gonna be honest—season two of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist started to lose me a bit during the middle episodes. A lot of it felt like retreading familiar ground, with the show continuing to rely on the Max/Zoey/Simon love triangle (to the point where it became a love hexagon for a hot minute). But the last few episodes easily won me back, offering buckets of character development, heartfelt moments, and a whole lot of humor. And the season two finale hits a home run, managing to be everything you want a season finale to be. It satisfyingly brings many of the ongoing storylines to a close while offering a compelling pitch for a third season. As the episode ended, it felt like the show had so many different places it could go, not least of all by further exploring that jaw-dropping cliffhanger. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the very beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start. (5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: There are major spoilers for the season two finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Read at your own risk.)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×13: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye”
(Written by Austin Winsberg, directed by John Terlesky)
In the season finale, Zoey must face a difficult goodbye.
This is an episode about decisions, healing, and new beginnings. I’m not a big shipper or anything, but I’ve been shipping Zoey (Jane Levy) and Max (Skylar Astin) since day one. That being said, I have loved the development Simon (John Clarence Stewart) has gotten this season, both with and apart from Zoey. He rapidly became one of my favorite characters, always bringing a beautiful mixture of heart and levity. But his relationship with Zoey has felt strained for a few episodes now. And they’ve both noticed it. The episode’s first big decision comes when Zoey and Simon both decide to break up with each other. For Zoey, she feels she needs to follow her heart, which is leading her toward Max, and it’s not fair for Simon to be dragged along in the hopes those feelings pass. For Simon, he feels that Zoey isn’t sharing all of herself with him, that he’ll never know as much about her as she knows about him.
And honestly, the whole thing is really mature. The two of them share a conversation about how they’re happy they had the experience and how it’s okay that they maybe weren’t as compatible as they thought. Perhaps they bonded over a shared trauma and learned they didn’t have much in common past that. It’s a truly beautiful moment of growth for both characters and I loved it. Plus, it puts Simon on a path where he convinces Danny Michael Davis (Noah Weisberg) to hire this small Black-owned company, allowing SPRQ Point to obtain the company’s tech and personnel. It’s a good way of following up on the sixth episode’s themes and I’m very into the idea of Simon being the head of this smaller company/SPRQ Point vertical.
The biggest theme of the season has probably been how a person heals after a traumatic event. Mitch’s (Peter Gallagher) death has been the centerpiece of so many storylines—particularly those involving the Clarke family. Everyone heals differently and at their own speed. For Maggie (Mary Steenburgen), this means that she’s starting to have the desire to put herself back out there and find love again. She spends the episode flirting with an old high school friend—though he turns out to be married. Still, this unlocks something in Maggie that she wasn’t quite expecting to feel. And, after a season of slowly figuring out who she is without her husband, she’s ready to take that next step. And, honestly, it’s a beautiful moment. She’s so vulnerable as Emily (Alice Lee) helps her figure out what she’s feeling. And she’s even more vulnerable as she asks Zoey and David (Andrew Leeds) to support her. (Plus, David’s reaction feels particularly real and I appreciate this show’s continued commitment to showing moments like these.) Healing after the death of a loved one is hard and I am just so thrilled at how authentic Maggie’s development has been this season.
For Zoey, this healing process has been a difficult one. It’s hard to focus on yourself and figure out what you need when you’ve got this superpower that compels you to help others through their problems. It’s why Zoey’s therapy sessions these past few episodes have been so compelling. It’s been the first time someone has really sat Zoey down and forced her to work through her emotions. It’s through therapy that Zoey figures out her feelings for Max. And it’s through therapy that Zoey finally begins working through Mitch’s death and allowing herself to take risks again and live her life. Therapy was the best thing to happen to Zoey this season and I’ve loved seeing the way she’s grown. It’s been messy and she’s hurt people, but she’s healing. Still, things don’t go easy for her. At Max’s going away party, she tries to keep her cool in support of Max, only making things worse. She’s still too scared to take this risk and it’s coming so close to ruining her friendship with Max.
There’s a beautiful scene about two-thirds through the episode where Zoey has a conversation with Mitch in a dream. As the scene began, my first thought was how I wish we’d had more scenes with Zoey and her father throughout the season. But, on second thought, it’s better that we didn’t because it makes this one more special. Here, Zoey is at a crossroads. Her powers are overwhelming her, she feels like she just keeps messing everything up, and she needs that last little push to jump into the deep end and take the biggest risk possible with Max. And Mitch tells her to stop yelling at the universe in frustration. Her powers shouldn’t make her feel ostracized; they should give her an avenue to allow herself to be vulnerable with people. She can’t be so afraid to take risks that she forgets to live. Basically, he echoes the lessons she’s learned in therapy. And it’s a beautiful moment accompanied by a beautiful song. It’s a perfect way to bring Zoey and Mitch’s relationship in the wake of his death to a sort of culmination and it’s an even better way to double down on Zoey’s need to put herself in situations that she can’t control. To allow herself to be vulnerable.
Which sends us careening toward the episode’s ending. Throughout the episode, it looks like Max’s mind has been made up. He’s going to go to New York with Rose (Katie Findlay) and open a pop-up shop for MaxiMo’s. To Zoey, he looks happy with his decision, and she doesn’t want to ruin that. Even as she enlists Mo (Alex Newell) to drive her to the airport in a last-ditch effort to confess her feelings toward Max. But, when she sings him singing a heart song to Rose, she makes the mature decision to back off and let Max be happy. Except… Maybe she’s mistaken. Because Max finds her at a park after he’s supposed to have left for New York. And he tells her he couldn’t leave. That he and Rose broke things off, because his heart was still leading him to Zoey. And it’s in this moment that Zoey finally takes the risk and tells Max how she’s feeling.
It’s such an exciting, emotional moment, the perfect payoff of thirteen episodes of buildup. It’s nice to have the love triangle put to (what feels like) a pretty conclusive end. But there’s an unexpected wrinkle—Zoey breaks out into song (specifically, “I Melt With You). At first, it seems like it might’ve been a planned thing; a flashmob or something. But then we see Max’s face—and he’s wearing a similar reaction to the ones Zoey has when she hears a heart song. And it all clicks. Max is hearing a heart song. And it’s a jaw-dropping moment, one that opens the door for so many different possibilities. Do they both have this superpower? Well, that’s a question for a third season as the episode ends in the traditional Zoey way—when Max tells Zoey he’s heard her heart song, they look at each other, exclaim “What the —,” and the camera cuts to black before they can finish it.
So, where does that leave us? Well, Simon’s about to be the head of a new company/division/vertical at SPRQ Point. Maggie is about to put herself back out there. Mo and Perry are committed to making things work with each other, showing a lot of growth for both characters. And Max and Zoey are, seemingly, together again. And, it seems, they both may have the ability to hear heart songs. I can’t say enough good things about this finale. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye” is a perfect season finale. It brings the season’s ongoing plotlines to a satisfying close while kicking the door wide open for a third season. It’s not as heartbreaking as the season one finale, but it’s every bit as satisfying. I love this show, and this episode just reminds me of why. Every single aspect of the episode works brilliantly. Winsberg and the other writers have such a grasp of these characters and have such skill at expertly executing these plot points. The directing is superb, the choreography is thrilling, and the performances tie it all together. I love this show and I loved this finale.
At the time of writing, there’s no confirmation of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s fate. Perhaps it’ll be renewed for a third season on NBC. Perhaps it’ll be canceled. Perhaps, even, it might be moved to Peacock and become a streaming show. Whatever its fate, I’m glad we’ve had these two seasons. They’ve been beautiful case studies in losing a loved one and healing from that loss. They’ve brought me so much joy each week, and it’s rare for a network show to bring such joy. I think there’s something very special about Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and this finale has made the most compelling case for the show’s continued existence. I really hope it lives to see another day. I mean, we’ve gotta see how Zoey and Max navigate this new reality where they both can hear people’s thoughts in the form of popular songs.
5 out of 5 wands.