Time travel can help us fix the problems of our past. I think that’s why many people lose themselves in tales of it. But the season finale of Kidding proves that managing to make time stop is the only thing that can help us to remain happy. If that’s true, then Will has been searching for the wrong thing…and Jeff may have just achieved his.
It’s been a tremendous season of television, and the ramifications of Bobby Belongo’s truths last week to Will left the show open for a loud and bombastic send-off. So of course Dave Holstein and director Jake Shreier decided to tell an impactful and human story of love. But first, we’re thrown back to Tibet in 1706 – where the then-Dalai Lama is executed for breaking his abstinence vow and falling in love with a girl from the mountain. After bidding farewell to his love, he tells her that he’ll soon be replaced with a puppet – and the mirroring of Mr. Pickles is loud and clear. As a child icon, it’s easy to think of Jeff as a sexless, monk-like figure. It just so happens that that’s how Jeff used to see himself too. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the aftermath of Jill’s panic about being responsible for Phil’s death, she discovers that Will has told Jeff about the organ donations. He’s overjoyed but it’s unearned. After all the past experiences, Jill wants this to be Phil’s contribution to the world without his father involving himself and inadvertently drawing the spotlight. Judy Greer knocks it out of the park and her chemistry with Jim Carrey throughout this entire scene ramps up with the fire of a blazing inferno ready to break down both of these characters in seconds. All the frustration of the past two seasons needs to be released, and Kidding could so easily submit itself to a half hour of screaming matches and it would still be great television.
“The headlines would read ‘Jeff Pickles saved seven lives’ but Jeff Pickles did not save seven lives. Phil did.” – Jill Piccirillo.
But the show’s better than that. Jeff wants Jill to be happy and move on, but to do so she has to get Jeff to admit he blames her for Phil’s death. This is Jeff’s impossible question. The one he’s avoided and buried since the accident and the cause of so much pain. So at this apex we travel back of course. A younger Jeff and Jill are dancing the Charleston together at their local dance night. They hang out constantly, live in the same building and best of all Jill drinks all the alcoholic shots fans and well-wishers mistakenly purchase for Jeff at the bar. One night after almost letting slip his Julie Andrews story, Jeff takes a drunken Jill home where she finally admits her feelings towards him. It’s obvious they’re reciprocated but Jeff’s monk-like plan for his life prevents a relationship and thus, he fails her ultimatum.
From then on we get some classic Kidding-style whimsy as a single take looms in the corridor outside Jill’s apartment and Jeff watches her life go on without him as he stands and waits. It culminates in her moving out in the new millennium, though as she leaves she drops a small model of the National library – a place she told Jeff you can book for events for only $60,000. It’s the only thing Jeff has to remember Jill by and he sleeps with it by his side as a memory of her. Whilst Puppet Time continues to be a shining beacon on television, Jeff’s personal life is awash with lonesome misery. As the Dalai Lama guests on Puppet Time (they even do the Charleston together), he characteristically spews a page-full of life advice on the subject of love and loss. He even manages to work in his custom-made puppet – Salvador Dalai Lama!
“We could only be truly happy if we freeze time together” – The Dalai Lama.
Jeff has sworn to no one that he has to be alone. In fact, it’s a self-imposed law. He tracks Jill down to New York and sees her riding her bike into a dense crowded marketplace and just when it seems she’s about to disappear, Jeff calls out to her and makes time itself freeze. Schreier and the production team have made a moment that feels like magic. Jeff smiles wide as he worms his way through the static crowd, slipping a balloon salesman money for a dozen to surprise Jill with. And when time resumes and the two converse we learn that Jeff’s stayed away because he’s afraid of the pain it would cause him if she left.
Watching these moments back made me realise two things. One, the subtle de-aging effects, whether they’re makeup or digital are practically unnoticed, and two, Kidding has me wrapped around its finger. We know Jeff’s going to feel this pain but in the moment there’s nothing that can wipe the smile from their faces. Jill promises she’ll never leave, and Jeff promises he’ll never lie to her again. The good times continue to their wedding (we now know why The Dalai Lama’s there) and just as Jeff is about to say those two important words we’re smashed back into the present as he admits he blames Jill for their son’s death (“I do”). He still won’t lie to her even if it kills him.
With this torturous weight off of her shoulders Jill is finally set free, and Jeff resumes his speeches to the children of the world via his ‘Listen-to-me-Pickles’ doll (the viral video of him beating up a paedophile turned out beneficial for their sales). He tells everyone to put their clocks back an hour (on daylight savings day no less) so that they can steal some extra time with their families. See Will, that’s how you turn back time.
“I can’t be there every day for you. But there are people who can. Sisters and brothers, mom and dad, cousins, friends, even your teachers. Family can be anyone in the world who loves you. Anyone who gives you strength.” – Jeff ‘Pickles’ Piccirillo.
As we’re treated to a barrage of characters spending time with the people they love (Will, Josip, Tara Lipinski, Maddie) it seems as though the show has taken on Jeff’s altruistic nature. A calm and composed Deirdre watches as her first ever creation is launched into space, and everything seems okay for the first time in an age. But there’s still one number in Will’s sequence left.
Jill calls Jeff and the family head out for a drive together, one just like that fateful car journey that changed their lives forever. Will’s final number is the number of a marathon runner – the patient who received Phil’s heart after he died. They’re watching their son continue to overcome obstacles, even in death. There’s such a compassionate meeting between the runner and the family that it feels natural for Jill to take out her stethoscope and ask to hear the beating of her son. And as the thump thumps come into play we’re reminded of the happiness the Piccirillos had together. Christmas, pregnancy, holidays and afternoons wrapped in each other’s arms.
Before we know it, time has stopped again. Millions of static runners fill the screen at the end of their long marathon, and all we’re left with is a gleaming Jill and Jeff smiling and longingly looking into each other’s eyes. With all the unease and melancholy scattered throughout the show’s storytelling, the triumph of ending on such a resoundingly positive note speaks volumes. It’s unknown whether Kidding will return for a third season, but if there was any justice in this world then the announcement wouldn’t be far off.
But then again… I don’t think I’d want their time to resume. I want to keep the magic alive.