Modern Family Season Finale Review: “The Wedding (Part 1)” (Season 5, Episode 23)


And we have made it – well, almost – to the climactic gay wedding promised in the first episode of season five, which was itself spawned from the decision to reinstate same-sex marriage in California. The wedding is a tried and true staple of beloved, long-running sitcoms, and splitting the big event into a two-episode finale (the second half will air next Wednesday, May 21) was a smart move.

The two-part finale of Modern Family should give the writers enough time to chart where the characters are at in this pivotal moment, which could be a midpoint of this blossoming series. However, there were probably too many cooks in the kitchen for part one, with episode scribes Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin and Jeffrey Richman carving up the ensemble into six separate groups for 21 minutes, cluttering the very special episode.

The major story this week is between the almost husbands. Cam realizes that his tuxedo was left at the cleaners. The family emergency becomes even dourer when they arrive at the Laundromat to find that it is closed due to the owner’s family emergency. Although Cam’s flamboyant reactions have grown strained throughout the last few seasons – I feel it is too much that he called 911 due to this setback – this story has some creative touches. Mitch and Lily try to help him deal with his hysteria: he through asking about changing it up to the suit he wore to Bea Arthur’s funeral, she through lowering herself through a mail slot and retrieving it from the conveyor belt.

However, instead of focusing much of the episode on the mutual happiness of Mitch and Cam – although no Modern Family episode to this point has – the writers explore the division between the already married couples, as well as between parents and their children. Dede, Jay’s ex-wife, cannot make it to Mitch’s wedding, which upsets Claire (the best man) to no end. When Claire goes up to pick up Luke from a wilderness retreat, she struggles to come to terms with whether her son will want her at his eventual wedding. (I am looking forward to the season eleven finale, though, when Luke marries Kate Upton.)

The Modern Family writers like to pair up Alex and Claire, as well as Phil and Luke. So, when Claire tells Phil she will pick up Luke, her husband makes a rude comment with Alex standing nearby. Phil and Alex have not had a lot of father-daughter time, but Burrell’s sly attempts at silly humour merged with Winter’s deadpan stare made their trip to retrieve a delicate wedding gift the best subplot of the episode.

Speaking of tense parent-child relationships, Jay bonds with Merle Tucker (Barry Corbin). Both are hesitant about their sons getting married. The situation becomes even more awkward when, during their time in the sauna, two men walk in and start asking questions about which one is the father of the bride. (Speaking of Father of the Bride, doesn’t Ed O’Neill look just like Spencer Tracy? Perhaps it is an inspiration for this very Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner-esque plotline. A poignant speech for Jay next week akin to Tracy’s at the end of that 1967 classic would be a cherry on top of the season.)