Review: 'Con Man' Season 2 Finale Is Cathartic, But Heartbreaking

Thursday, 26 January 2017 - 11:21AM
Thursday, 26 January 2017 - 11:21AM
Review: 'Con Man' Season 2 Finale Is Cathartic, But Heartbreaking
Image credit: Comic Con HQ
Alan Tudyk's "Con Man" works best when it's in its groove. There are always three or four subplots going on in any episode, and the show hits its highest points when they all tie together in a brilliant climax that brings Wray tantalizingly close to what he desperately wants: to escape his past and start again. Some episodes feel like holding patterns, but the show always has the tragicomic payoff that simultaneously hollows out your heart and makes you giggle at the unlikely chain of events that brought Wray to that moment.

The Season 2 finale, despite some slow points in the lead-up, does just that.

Episode 11: "A Shot with Finley"


Like previous episodes, the real highlight of "A Shot with Finley" is the two Shock-a-Con Talk-a-Thon hosts, whose unrelenting cheerfulness and shit-eating grins have been completely drained by the sheer tedium and exhaustion of being trapped in 24-hour news coverage of a con where nothing really happens. I felt bad laughing at the two of them getting increasingly fed-up with each other, until "Rico" begins aggressively shouting "Shock-a-Con Talk-a-Thon!" so the infuriating guitar riff keeps playing in Janet's studio, driving her to the brink of tears.

The plot of the episode, however, revolves around Wray trying to get some alone time with Finley, the female lead on Doctor Cop Lawyer (the part he desperately wants). It's fun to see Wray try his best to say the right things (all while hovering on the edge of a nervous breakdown), and Finley's reactions give just a little ray of hope that Wray might somehow get the part. Still, the episode seems mostly uneventful and the out-loud laughs are few. It mostly serves to set the scene for the next episode, which goes off-the-rails crazy real quick.


Episode 12: Shock to the System


Janet is officially out of commission at this point, leaving a lone boom mic operator to take over the Talk-a-Thon. It's fun to see him slowly inhabit the role, especially when things start to get real over the course of the episode. The recurring background subplot of Shock-a-Con has been the incredibly dangerous obstacle course (now dubbed the "Obstacle Corpse"), but it's in the finale that it finally comes to the forefront: Wray tries to fight the handsome and rugged Girth Hemsworth (all while denying that he wants a "punch-em-up"), but ends up having to run into the obstacle course to escape. The excitement and tension get turned up a couple notches when you realize that death is on the line, and it makes it so much more satisfying when you see Girth haul Wray out of the course, battered but alive.

Then comes the moment of truth: Wray is told by Finley that she wants him to play the lead role in Doctor Cop Lawyer. Wray is ecstatic and makes it to his panel triumphant, covered in cuts and bruises but smiling like a man in love. He's been through hell, but now it's all okay...until Jack announces that the Spectrum movie will film at the same time as Doctor Cop Lawyer. The ensuing speech from Wray is tremendously cathartic—he's turning his back on the past, even if it means burning bridges with his former cast members and the fans. In his words, "It's not about you. It's about me." For once, it's about Wray. But the look of betrayal and hurt on Nathan Fillion's face says it all.


Jack (Fillion) then picks up his phone and texts Finley, revealing that he was originally approached for the lead in Doctor Cop Laywer, and that he secretly gave up the part for Wray. Jack tells Finely he's changed his mind—he'll take the lead after all.

TL;DR


The genius of "Con Man" is how it deals with Wray's misery: fate always seems to be conspiring to frustrate his dreams, but the underlying message of the show is that Wray's hell may be of his own making. The Season 2 finale shows that if the long-suffering Wray had just held on a little longer, if he hadn't been willing to abandon his friends and all the fans who care about him, he could have had it all. But by choosing to be selfish ("It's about me!"), he loses his chance at happiness at the very last moment. There's a beautiful, painful irony to seeing it all come full circle, and it reaffirms "Con Man" as one of my new favorite shows. It's a rare thing to have an actor that consistently makes you laugh through the tears, but Alan Tudyk pulls it off wonderfully.

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