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Saturday, May 19, 2012

30 Rock poses the question, "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?"

NBC's 30 Rock is drawing to a close, with only thirteen episodes left to air next year before going off the air forever. This knowledge hangs over last night's season finale, "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?" Several of the major characters begin new stories, or reaffirm old ones, that could lead to a complete ending for them. It's bittersweet, as it's great the series is going out before it loses what makes it so good, but it will be missed.

With Avery (Elizabeth Banks) home, she and Jack (Alec Baldwin) decide to renew their vows. But neither heart is really in it, so they have Liz (Tina Fey) officiate, knowing that she will likely screw it up, and they refuse to let her remove the part of the ceremony when she asks if anyone objects. No one does, as the three people in attendance who have reason to butt in all back down at the last minute. But that just sets Jack and Avery off, and they end things themselves.

It's sad to see Jack and Avery's marriage come to an end, even if it is never built on a solid foundation in the first place. They seem like such a terrific match, but because both are uber stubborn and competitive, their daring behavior goes right up to the edge, with neither one being willing to step in and be the reasonable one. In a way, it's a more extreme version of Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Paul's (Will Forte) relationship, strange as that may seem.

So will Jack find a happy ending? Maybe in the arms of Avery's mother (Mary Steenburgen), as creepy as that would potentially be to date his daughter's grandma? Will we even see Avery again, as she is not a main character? And will she find love, as both the man she adores and her Korean "husband" Kim Jong-Il (Margaret Cho) are not right for her?

In contrast to Jack's dissolving union, Liz breaks her terrible cycle in "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?" Instead of dropping Criss (James Marsden), she affirms her commitment to him, and starts actually talking about having a baby, instead of a plant, as she has been saying. It's a healthy, mature step that shows major growth in the character of Liz Lemon. It's also one that sets her up to finally achieve her dreams. If the fictional TGS gets canceled at the same time as the real 30 Rock, that might even be better for her, allowing her to pursue a project that doesn't drive her crazy!

This new dynamic, of Liz having her life together, while Jack's is falling apart, makes for a big change between this central pair. Despite Kim Jong-Il's assertions, the two should not end in a relationship, something not even hinted at regarding them since early in the show's run. But it's hard for Jack to be a mentor to someone who is doing better than he is. Liz understand this, but with her new wisdom, asks for his advice anyway. Now she is the propping Jack up, but she is doing so in a way that lets him maintain his pride and dignity. Smart, and sweet.

Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) finds love, too. Hazel (Kristen Schaal) may originally try to sabotage Kenneth, but before the episode ends, they are making out. Has Hazel come around, or is she just desperate to keep living with Kenneth, rather than be out on the street? How will having physical relations change the uptight and super conservative Kenneth? This is a rich mine to dig in!

Tracy (Tracy Morgan) also faces a crossroads in "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?" Cornel West (himself) visits and tells Tracy that he needs to find a black role model to look up to. Dot Com (Kevin Brown) and Grizz (Grizz Chapman) try to lead Tracy towards some historical figures, but, in the end, Tracy is more drawn to Tyler Perry. Is that such a bad thing? True, Tracy may not live up to his potential doing cheap comedy. But then again, Perry makes a good living, and provides black-centric entertainment that fills a serious void left in pop culture. Tracy doesn't usually stick with things anyway, so this could all be for naught. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Lest anyone think otherwise, "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year" is incredibly funny, on top of all the other stuff that's been discussed in this review. Kim Jong-Il really is the best waiter in the world. Liz has a fantasy sequence where she raises a plant, and even sees it have its own plant grand babies. Criss claims to have seen everything James Van Der Beek has done except for Dawson's Creek, yet names his van after the series, and basically quotes the theme song to Liz. Hilarious!

30 Rock will return next fall to NBC to complete its final season.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to read every 30 Rock review I've ever written. To catch up on 30 Rock with DVDs and streaming episodes, please go to amazon.com. Article first published as 30 Rock poses the question, "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?" on TheTVKing.com

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