HBO’s ‘The Rehearsal’ Finale Recap: Daddy Issues

Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal ends with an unexpected twist, but the finale was arguably the weakest episode out of them all.

The finale begins with some hilarious, Fielder-esque antics, as a bunch of background actors are hired for “Adam’s” birthday party, but forbidden to speak, bound by union rules. Hence, Adam enjoys a truly surreal party, with the guests miming conversations, and even silently clapping.

There’s another random bout of anti-Semitism, as the mother of one of the actors who played Adam isn’t happy about the time her child spent with a Rabbi, learning about Judaism. Hence, Nathan tries to convince the child that Christianity is the one “true” religion, and that he, Nathan, is bound to burn in Hell, much to the mother’s satisfaction (this show has really exposed the ambient bigotry simmering in America).

The scene is hilarious, but foreshadows the fact that some of the younger actors are having trouble understanding the context of their role in the show, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Hence, Remy, a six year-old “Adam” actor, is shown to be having trouble letting go of Nathan.

Remy, as his mother explains, doesn’t have a father of his own, so the child has grown emotionally attached to Nathan during their time play-acting, and still wants to call him “daddy.”

While The Rehearsal has constantly challenged its audience to consider the morality of Nathan’s actions, Remy’s distress is, without question, the worst thing Nathan has ever done. What was everyone in this situation thinking, to mess with a child’s mind like that?

While the previous episode showed Nathan’s persona slipping, here, there’s nowhere left for Nathan to hide – he has to face up to his mistake, and can’t hide behind his usual awkward mask. Hence, Nathan visits Remy’s house to try and explain the situation, but Remy is brought to tears, confused by his experience in the house.

Nathan then attempts a series of rehearsals, trying to engineer a scenario where he doesn’t confuse Remy – one version even sees him horsing around with a teenage actor playing the child. A hilarious shot of the teenager vaping outside while wearing kid’s clothes pretty much encapsulates the surreal humor of the show.

Nathan moves through multiple scenarios, bringing back fake Angela, and even apologizing to real Angela, who true to character, recites a Bible verse about forgiveness, emphasizing the importance of forgiving yourself.

Throughout these rehearsals, Nathan teams with an older child actor who understands the assignment, and proves to be a hell of an actor – at one point, he calls Nathan “a great scene partner.”

Nathan then revisits Remy’s house, using the child actor as a playmate for Remy. At this point, Remy seems to have accepted the situation and moved on, to some degree, although he still seems slightly confused by Nathan’s presence in his life.

But Nathan is still rehearsing, now dressing as Remy’s mom and repeating the entirety of Remy’s Rehearsal experience with Fake Remy. There’s not a lot of comedy left in the scenario – Nathan and his child actor are too self-aware to really inhabit these roles – but the finale ends with an unexpectedly emotional scene between the two.

Nathan gives Fake Remy a speech about his sadness, a life lesson on how adults make mistakes, during which he refers to himself as Remy’s “daddy.” The actor corrects Nathan – after all, Nathan is supposed to be playing Remy’s mom, hand tattoo and all. Nathan seems to take a moment, before doubling down, and confirming himself as “daddy.”

It’s a difficult scene to read – is this the moment where Nathan’s rehearsal finally makes him “feel something,” as Fake Angela once accused him of attempting? Was it the point he realized that maybe he enjoyed being a father figure?

Or was it a scripted ending to a wild concept that had gone off the rails?

I’m not sure, but I found The Rehearsal, like most of Nathan Fielder’s works, to be strongest when exploring the oddballs and eccentrics that Nathan manages to attract. When the show revolves around Nathan himself, it just doesn’t feel as authentic; we simply don’t know when Nathan is telling a story, or exposing a real vulnerability.

Overall, The Rehearsal was endlessly fascinating, and impossible to explain, an intelligent, hilarious series from a creator with a truly unique vision. I think seeing a behind-the-scenes episode would be incredibly interesting, as so much of this show seems cobbled together in the edit, fueled by the momentum of Nathan’s ever-shifting schemes.

Season 2 has been greenlit by HBO, so Nathan is bound to take his absurd concept another step further – I’m sure we’re due to be surprised all over again.

If you enjoyed reading, check out my recap of the previous episode here

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