By Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi
About six months ago, I decided to get a second job. I thought that I should branch out a bit, expand my horizons, but, alas, the job was dreadful. I was working 14 hour days on the chilly streets of London in December. I would come home exhausted and try to think of a show to watch whilst I questioned all of my life choices. In my hour of need, I turned to Schitt’s Creek. A show that originally started on CBC before hitting Netflix and becoming a worldwide phenomenon, Schitt’s Creek is the little Canadian sitcom that could. The brainchild of father-and-son duo Dan and Eugene Levy, it tells the story of a wealthy family who lose all their money and have to move to a rural town that they once bought as a joke.
The thing that truly struck me though, as I stared blearily at my screen on those cold winter nights, is that Schitt’s Creek is a town of love and acceptance. It is a place where happiness is inevitable, even if characters have to go through hardships to get there. You don’t have to worry that everything will end in disaster because it is more than likely that that won’t happen. After I realized this, I began to consider the idea of the ‘happy ending’. What does that even mean? So often nowadays it means boy gets girl, world gets saved, everybody settles down. In the world of Schitt’s Creek, however, a happy ending is malleable. It shifts depending on which character you’re looking at. The idea of the happy ending is different from person to person, just like in real life.
First we turn our attention to David Rose, played impeccably by writer Dan Levy. I usually try not to play favourites but there is something about David that strikes the very core of me. He is the adult son of the family and seems to begin season one as lonely and a little bit lost. He talks a big game about being an art dealer in New York but, when the family think they are going to escape Schitt’s Creek in season 1 episode 13, David seems to have no friends to return to. In Schitt’s Creek, however, David begins to find happiness in all its forms. He becomes friends with snarky motel owner Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire), a friendship that blurs into a relationship but moves past that and becomes something even more special. They become a touchstone for each other, something they always come back to in the crazy town of Schitt’s Creek. In season 4 episode 8, David even admits “I think you’re my best friend […] I can’t know for sure though because I’m realizing now that I don’t think I’ve ever really had one” to which Stevie replies “I don’t think I’ve ever had one either”. They have found true friendship in each other, something shocking and wonderfully comforting to them both. That is the magic of Schitt’s Creek; surprise happy endings lurk around every corner.
When talking about David’s happy ending, I also find it impossible not to also talk about Patrick. Patrick Brewer (played by Noah Reid) is David’s business partner/boyfriend/husband. Here, I should mention one of my favourite things about Schitt’s Creek; in this town, homophobia does not exist. Nobody looks upon David as any different when he arrives in the town and declares he is pansexual (!!!!!). When he initially explains this to Stevie (“I love the wine not the label”) he is not met with any hostility at all. The characters had just spent the night together (a short-lived fling in season 1) and I had braced myself for some biphobia on her part. It was surprising, then, when she turned to David and said “as long as you didn’t cry yourself to sleep with regret” after they slept together then everything was fine. This is a theme that continues into David’s meeting of Patrick. At first, Patrick is of indeterminate sexuality. We follow along with David’s line of thinking, initially assuming he is straight before Patrick tentatively responds to David’s gentle kiss in season 3 episode 13. Patrick then admits “I’ve never done that before, with a guy […] and I was getting a little scared that I would let you leave here without us having done that”. Once again, I braced myself for the classic trope of ‘guy pulls away from other guy because he doesn’t want to be his first queer experience’. That doesn’t happen here. David just smiles and reassures Patrick and, in turn, I am reassured that moments like this can happen in real life. From here, David and Patrick’s relationship blossoms and they continue to live happily out loud. David’s happy ending, then, comes in the form of both friendship and love. His happiness lies in human connection and the relationships he forms throughout the series inspires joy and truly helps you believe in happily ever afters.
Another character who has truly blossomed throughout the series is Alexis Rose (played by the inimitable Annie Murphy). When we initially meet her in season 1, she is almost a caricature of herself. She comes across as the typical spoilt, bratty draughter but we slowly learn that these traits come from having to be wholly self-reliant and constantly get herself out of scrapes (my favourite of which is “do I have to remind you of the time that I was taken hostage on David Geffen’s yacht by Somali pirates for a week and no one answered my texts?”). For most of her life, Alexis could trust only herself but in Schitt’s Creek she finally allows herself to settle down and cultivate some meaning in her life. First, she finishes High School, then college, and then sets up a public relations company called Alexis Rose Communications. We see that she is actually a far cry from what society has pegged her as, and is actually highly intelligent, witty, and innovative.
The perfect example of Alexis’ development towards her happy ending, though, can be seen through her relationship with Ted (Dustin Milligan). When Alexis and Ted first start dating, Alexis seems to be using him as a distraction from another man she has taken a fancy to. She wants to wile away her time just being adored and having everything bought for her. Eventually, she does the right thing and breaks up with Ted, allowing him to move on from her. Over the next couple of seasons, however, she slowly begins to genuinely fall for him; Ted, who is kind and sweet and the antithesis of every man she has ever dated. In season 4 episode 11, she finally tells him how she feels: “I’m in love with you […] and I know you’re in a relationship, and I’m happy for you, I really am, I just feel like if I didn’t tell you how I felt I would literally go insane”. This is Alexis’ great turning point. This line is what her entire character hinges on. For the first time in four seasons, she admits her feelings without expecting anything in return. She knows Ted is in a relationship and she doesn’t expect him to break up with his girlfriend for her. She just needs to tell him that she loves him, so she does. This being Schitt’s Creek, though, of course Ted loves her too and they enter into a relationship. This love story, however, has a somewhat different type of happy ending. In season 6, episode 8, Alexis and Ted break up. For good, this time. Ted has been offered his job of a lifetime in the Galapagos Islands whilst Alexis needs to be in Schitt’s Creek to maintain her PR company. It is bittersweet and perfect and shows that a happy ending doesn’t have to be a wedding or a kiss, sometimes it is just two people realizing that they love each other so much that they have to let each other go and be successful. Their jobs are both so important to them and they have worked so hard to get where they are. Despite being in love, their relationship was holding them back. For once, the pretty girl does not choose the handsome man as her happy ending and it is both beautiful and bittersweet to see.
That neatly brings us to Johnny and Moira (played by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara respectively). They are the parents of the Rose family, the ultimate power couple and, for me, the backbone of the whole show. Johnny and Moira began season one together and they will end season six together. They bring so much comfort because I never once in six seasons thought that they might break up. It is never even an option for them. When was the last time you watched a TV show and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the main couple would start together, stay together throughout, and finish together? In today’s world of modern entertainment, that assurance is so rare. From the moment in season 1 episode 1 when Johnny hides Moira’s diamond earrings (“the only thing [she] can fit under [her] tongue”) so that they don’t get stolen, to Moira telling David that “your father and I have produced beautiful wine together for over 40 years” in season 6, episode 7 (I’ll let you figure out what that one means), these two have always been blissfully happy together. That’s not to say they haven’t been without their blips. In 5×02, Moira finds love letters that Johnny has been hiding. She assumes they are from an old flame that he is still pining for. Watching the episode, however, I was so convinced of their love that I knew something else had to be going on. It all comes together when Johnny announces to Moira “you wrote those letters”. Turns out, Moira had forgotten writing her own letters and, with that reveal now out in the open, everything goes back to normal. For these two, it feels like they will always have a happy ending as long as they are together. They are each other’s happy ending, one that has weathered all storms and lasted through each of their personal disasters. Sometimes, a happy ending is being part of a loving and perfect team.
Schitt’s Creek doesn’t aim for perfection, or drama, it aims for happiness. We meet a family at their lowest ebb and watch as they slowly clamber back up again. In the end, they each find happiness in each other and the lives that they can now create for themselves. David happily marries Patrick, Alexis becomes a high-powered business woman, and Johnny and Moira go from strength to strength. Though Schitt’s Creek is ending, the warm feelings it inspires will live on. It proves to us that there is room for happiness in the world of storytelling and that people find relief in stories that are not particularly hard-hitting. At this point in time, don’t we all need to see a town where laughter and acceptance reigns? I will always be thankful that Schitt’s Creek came into my life on a cold winter’s night and I will miss it dearly when it goes. If you need a little pick-me-up, trying entering the town of Schitt’s Creek. There is more happiness there than you will ever know.