Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 1×11 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mother” is the kind of episode that hits you deep, the kind that’s meant to make you acutely aware of time, and what it means to let that time pass you by.
In a way, that’s what grief does, in its best iteration. It makes you appreciate what you have. Because yes, grief is complicated and messy and painful, but sometimes it’s also transformative. The person who comes out on the other side of grief is never the same person that entered it.
Zoey is just beginning to go through the grief of losing her father – in a muted and advanced way – but the fact that she hasn’t yet lost Mitch doesn’t mean that the lesson that life is short and we must hold onto the people that matter can’t be appreciated in advance. And for Zoey ..as much as that has to do with her dad, it also, inevitably, it all leads her back to Max.
Max is the person Zoey “lost” and that she can’t imagine living without. Max is the person she loves (even if she herself cannot quantify that love right now), and the person she needs by her side as her loss threatens to suffocate her.
There’s no cure to grief, no magical pill to make it all better. And no, love, whatever kind of love that is, won’t make Zoey feel better about losing her father. Max cannot fix Zoey and his presence cannot even make what’s coming better. But he can be there for her, a shoulder to lean on, comforting arms to fall back on. And that means so much more than words can say.
So let’s talk about the groundwork of letting go, the journey of Zoey and Max and the decisions we make out of fear as we review “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mother”:
Grief is always complicated, and it’s also always unique to the circumstances. No one feels loss the same way, but it’s more than that. For Zoey, and for David, they’re getting ready to lose their father. But for Maggie, she’s losing the love of her life, and that’s a different reality. A different feeling. And yes, her kids can be with her in this time, but they can’t really understand how she feels.
So Zoey’s powers allow her to do her mom a solid – put her in contact with someone who might understand. Someone who can be there to give it to her straight, because she doesn’t have to sugarcoat it. She’s been through it.
That’s a great gift that Zoey realizes. Sometimes the hardest thing is realizing we don’t have all the answers. We can’t fix all the problems. And yes, Zoey has spent this entire season listening to heart songs and fixing everyone else’s issues, but when it comes down to it …the most important things aren’t always up to her to fix, and the most important realizations are not about songs. They never were.
THE STORY OF MAX AND ZOEY
For example, it didn’t take a song for Zoey to realize that she needed Max, that they were “inevitable” (Maggie’s words, not mine), and that sooner or later, she’d have to be brave and apologize to him, because …there was just no other possibility. Life without Max wasn’t something Zoey wanted to consider, especially now.
Because the thing is, Zoey is losing her father and she gets no choice in that. It’s out of her control. But losing Max would have been completely her choice. And if there’s one thing that grief gives you, it’s clarity. You close your eyes and you know, with absolutely certainty, what means the most to you. What you can’t lose.
There was no song needed for Zoey to realize that was Max, because Zoey always knew it. This whole season has been about fighting against the obvious. In a way, as long as Max was suppressing his feelings Zoey could do the same to hers, but when her power forced her to face what he was feeling she was forced to do the one thing Zoey never wanted to do: examine her own heart.
Part of this has to do with Mitch, of course, and with Zoey’s understandable fears. She didn’t want to risk Max, because she didn’t want to lose him, but by not taking a chance she almost lost him too. But this is about more than her father’s illness, this is about Zoey’s innate desire to just …not get too deep, with anything.
She can love her father, and yet she doesn’t have to truly understand his pain, his struggle. She can love her mother and never truly know how to be there to support her. She can love David without ever realizing that he might need her. And she can love Max without ever allowing herself to truly love him.
That’s safe. It feels good, and it has very little risk. Very little reward too, but Zoey didn’t care.
Except then she got her powers, and everything changed, so instead of allowing herself to change, Zoey threw herself into the one relationship that didn’t truly matter to her – the one with a hunky coworker who was going through as much pain as she was feeling. And yes, she liked him, and yes, she understood his pain, but feeling all that she felt for him was, in many ways, the safest option for her heart. It was the scenario with less possible risk and more possible reward, in her mind.
But life isn’t that simple, and we saw that implode in her face last week. She wasn’t being fair to him, and more importantly, she wasn’t being fair to herself, to what she truly wanted. And though it’s still hard, this episode Zoey finally takes the first step towards …well, towards allowing herself to truly feel.
And Zoey is not the only one making decisions out of fear in this episode, no. The usually on-point Mo has an episode where everything comes crashing down, and it’s all because as easy as it is to see clearly when it comes to other people’s issues, sometimes your own issues catch you by surprise.
To put it clearer: Mo is scared. Scared of committing to Eddie and being burned, scared of what long-distance means, and more importantly, scared of taking the chance and being hurt. Just like Zoey was, not that long ago, regarding Max. And yet, how did that turn out for Zoey?
Not well. She ended up hurt anyway, even though she made no choice, and more importantly, she was the one who hurt herself in her quest to avoid any hurt. Mo is doing the exact same thing, inflicting some pain upon himself to avoid having someone else hurt him.
This is all understandable, in a way. It’s very hard to let other people in to the point where they could hurt you, it truly is. But if you’re going to hurt anyway, isn’t it better to take a chance that you could be happy? It’s either 100% hurt or 50/50, after all. Why not take the better odds?
Things I think I think:
- Oh, fuck, funeral arrangements.
- These dudes are way too happy to be at a funerary.
- “I’m fine, honey.”
- Yeah, right.
- Zoey, after the way you treated Max, what do you expect?
- “Zoey, you’ve been there for me, I’m gonna be there for you.”
- It’s A LOT.
- Wine with a straw is a mood.
- EIGHT MONTHS?!
- Oh, Leif.
- Making decisions about funerals is the worst. No one’s gonna remember the funeral. YOU won’t remember the funeral.
- “Feeling Good” is a weird song for a funeral home.
- “Work might seem like it’s the most important thing, but you will never get this time back, so stop apologizing.”
- WE STAN JOAN.
- That means the “won”?
- Everyone? Yes, everyone, Max.
- This karaoke is the worst.
- Bye bye bye kinda hurts.
- Bernardette Peters is a joy.
- “Oh, like you did with Max?”
- Good burn, Mo, but you’re deflecting.
- Joan and Ava – wow.
- Everyone BUT Max and Zoey. Now, that hurts too.
- “Proud of you, mom.”
- Postpone the inevitable indeed.
- “If I had to die tomorrow, I couldn’t stomach being this far apart from you.”
- Kill me now.
- That’s like …almost better than a love confession.
- “Maybe with time we’ll get back to …whatever we are.”
- THAT SMILE.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mother”? Share with us in the comments below!
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.
Love your analysis of the characters’ motives, stuff I never would have thought of. I immediately look up your reviews after the show, makes me a little less frustrated with the characters to understand better why they act the way they do. Especially Zoey.
Thank you so much, Kristen! I really enjoy doing this and writing this, and it’s great to hear my words help others enjoy the show a little more.