Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett in holy matrimony and to mourn the passing of what was a rather flat, occasionally inspired season of Modern Family.
When I first began reviewing the sitcom back in September 2013, after an impressive double-episode season premiere, I claimed, “Television’s most celebrated comedy is not going through a mid-series crisis.” Well, although several half hours this season will remain among the top episodes of the ABC comedy, I do not stand by that statement. Modern Family was occasionally brilliant this year, but was also marred by silly subplots and rushed pacing. The fifth season began with Mitch and Cam’s poignant in-tandem marriage proposals, and although their impending wedding has always kept some momentum going until this two-part finale – inconveniently airing on two separate weeks – the big day did not live up to expectations.
While this season of Modern Family should have focused on their characters as they made their vows and cemented their relationship, the couple did not even have the most captivating storyline in their own wedding episode. That honor would go to Haley Dunphy, the only character who has shown steady growth over the season. Sarah Hyland has matured Haley in a way that felt natural and authentic, showing us that one of the show’s least fully dimensional characters (at least in previous seasons) could be thoughtful, creative and loving to those closest to her.
She is the season’s MVP; unfortunately, her will-they-or-won’t-they coupling with Andy was far more interesting than Cam and Mitch’s will-they-or-won’t-they get their wedding over with. The saddest part of the episode was not Jay linking arms with Mitch and accompanying him down the aisle, but a deflated Andy telling a cab driver to speed away, in front of Mitch and Cam’s house, after waiting for Haley to ask him to come to the wedding.
The main issue with this season finale was despite the double-episode length, it all felt cluttered and haphazard. The three writers who penned this episode (Megan Ganz, Christopher Lloyd and Dan O’Shannon) tried so hard to give all of the characters something to do that the large emotional pull felt crushed under the weight of satisfying a bunch of storylines. Still, moments of wit and heart kept our spirits jovial even when the pacing was off. (The choice of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home” as the instrumental choice for the ceremony was safe but effectively tear-jerking.)
Looking back, the episode only needed to focus on four plots: the havoc around Mitch and Cam’s wedding, Jay reconciling with Mitch, Haley and Andy’s romance and Claire’s realization that Cam is filling the spot she used to (outlined in the closing voice-over, her toast to the grooms). Everything else seemed like good ideas in theory, but should have been dropped to focus on the weight of this date in the characters’ lives.
Phil’s mission to officiate gave Ty Burrell something to be cheerful about, but at the sacrifice of choice moments with Mitch and Cam. The subplot with Cam’s parents as they decided to split up seemed to be an interesting point to compare their marriage with their son’s, but this also sacrificed choice movements with Mitch and Cam. There is a problem when we are spending more time with the guest stars than the grooms. (Also, why was Lily so ignored in this episode? I had her pegged to give the sentimental voice-over to close out the season. I guess Aubrey Anderson-Emmons is still only good for one-liners.)