Spoiler alert! The following contains details from the series finale of CBS’ “Mom.”
“Mom” came in like a hellion and went out like a lamb – if that lamb, first among friends Bonnie (Allison Janney), has sharp teeth and occasionally nips at your fingers.
The beloved CBS sitcom closed shop after eight seasons Thursday with an episode that was a bit sweeter than usual but still packed with comic bite.
Most important, “Mom” leaves the scene as a wonderful endorsement for a different familial bond – sisterhood – as the brilliant circle of friends at its center bond closer than ever. It triumphantly endorses the possibility of forgiveness and redemption, concepts that can seem forgotten in the current age.
There was happy news (a wedding) and a worrisome development (a health scare) in Thursday’s episode. But the five women whose friendship blossomed as they sought recovery from addiction are there for each other, as we imagine they always will be. (A sixth member of the group – Bonnie’s daughter Christy – was referenced briefly, but Anna Faris, who played Christy and left last spring, did not appear.)
The message is “that life goes on and can be difficult. It can be heartbreaking and frightening. But what’s hopeful is that these characters, because of their sobriety and relationships with one another, can meet whatever obstacles life throws at them,” executive producer Chuck Lorre says.
Thursday’s finale and last week’s penultimate episode featured milestone events while reminding viewers, through a literal fistfight between a mother-daughter duo new to recovery, how far Bonnie & Co. have come.
The finale picks up a couple of months after the last episode’s big event, when Jill (Jaime Pressly) learned she’s pregnant. The friends are sharing at one of their 12-step meetings: Tammy (Kristen Johnston), who has established a successful construction business with Bonnie, talks about dating a guy who is “sweet and and funny and supportive” and Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) celebrates “the most wonderful weekend” babysitting her granddaughter after reconciling with her long-estranged son.
Jill, now four months pregnant, is thrilled to be expecting but also complains of frequent bathroom trips – “I am peeing like a broken sprinkler.”
The positive vibes only make matters worse for Shannon (Melanie Lynskey), a miserable meeting newcomer. She bolts and Bonnie, once a model of self-absorption, follows to check on her, a sign of her growing maturity and concern for others.
She listens to Shannon, who’s having a horrible time with her mother, Jolene (Rondi Reed), a development that echoes the tortured relationship between Bonnie and Christy at the beginning of “Mom.”
Having “a mother-daughter pair of maniacs was very much part of the (“Mom”) continuum, going back to the pilot. It was great to see the other side of sobriety in the finale,” says Lorre, who cast familiar faces from two of his earlier series – Reed (“Mike & Molly”) and Lynskey (“Two and a Half Men”) – as the family tag team. “They were just wonderful.”
Everything is going fine for Bonnie until she gets home and her husband Adam (William Fichtner) tells her he has to see an oncologist after a doctor found something on his chest X-ray. Bonnie responds: “I’m too young to be a widow!”
That leads to a game of telephone as Bonnie wakes up Marjorie to share Adam’s medical news, just before getting a call from Shannon, whose abusive mother is trying to attack her. Bonnie then gets a happier call from Jill, who reports she’s getting married to Andy (Will Sasso), the police officer who’s the father of her baby, the next day at city hall.
At the doctor’s office, Adam notices how Bonnie is dealing with the kind of situation she once would have fled. “Look at you,” he says. “You’re not the same woman I met five years ago.”
“Her concern for others is the real magical component of her evolution,” Lorre says. “She goes from being a selfish, self-involved, narcissistic character to one who is truly concerned for the people around her.”
The couple receive relatively good news from the doctor: Adam’s case was caught early and is very treatable. Then, Bonnie joins friends Jill, Marjorie, Tammy and Wendy (Beth Hall) at city hall. Before the ceremony, they learn Shannon and Jolene, after the previous night’s altercation, are in custody at the police station next door.
Andy can get them out of jail, but there’s a catch: They must stay in his custody. As the couple takes their vows, the unruly wedding guests are brawling on the floor in the episode’s standout slapstick moment.
At a 12-step meeting that night, Bonnie shares Adam’s medical news with her friends, who pledge their love and support as they join in a group hug. The episode closes with Bonnie talking about the crazy events of the day and realizing that “I never once thought about drinking or using. But that’s not the miracle. The miracle is I never thought about myself.”
She expresses appreciation for her longtime friends and offers a salty acknowledgment to new arrivals Shannon and Jolene, who are in a much different place in their recovery. She recounts past feelings of fear, self-loathing and shame and how it bothered her when other alcoholics said they were grateful.
“But now I get, it,” she says. “My name is Bonnie, and I’m a grateful alcoholic.”