After not being able to catch a break throughout most of the season, Deborah (Jean Smart) finally gets a win in Hacks Episodes 7 and 8 – but not without taking another massive L first. When she attempts to pitch her stand-up special to the networks, there’s only one network interested. And they’re not interested in Deborah’s terms. Instead of giving her the hour she’s got perfectly fleshed out and timed after performing it for audiences who absolutely loved it, they want to give her thirty minutes in a series about women in comedy.
Knowing Deb, that’s not going to cut it. Instead of accepting their offer, she and Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) decide that they’ll produce and shoot the special themselves. Jimmy, unhappy with the agency because they also don’t want to give Deborah the opportunity to produce the special on her own, quits in order to pursue it. Kayla (Meg Statler) comes with him (much to Jimmy’s chagrin). And Deborah calls in reinforcements to get it done. The first is her ex, Marty, (Christopher McDonald), who she convinces to let her use the Palmetto to film her special by offering him a Kandinsky painting she outbid him for at an auction. As he’s not an idiot, Marty agrees to give her the one night. And the second reinforcement is Elaine (Susie Essman) a female director she’s worked with in the past and the only person Deborah wants to direct her special.
Meanwhile, Ava (Hannah Einbinder) has been asked to punch up jokes in a pilot script. She struggles with the work because it’s a week-long job and she wants to be there for Deborah while she films her special. In an uncharacteristic move, Deborah tells Ava to take the job even though it means she won’t have her right-hand woman with her during the special. If this had been a year earlier, Deborah would’ve laughed in Ava’s face for even considering missing one of her shows for another job. Letting Ava go off on her own, knowing that what she really wants is Ava at her side, shows audiences how much Deborah has grown since Hacks began and how she’s actively trying to be less selfish.
Another instance of this growth? When DJ (Kaitlin Olsen) confronts Deborah to say she wishes Deb had told her the things about her childhood in person so DJ wouldn’t have had to find out about them the same way everyone else did: as jokes in a stand-up set. DJ is questioning whether having children is right for her, because what if she screws it up? Deborah tells her that she will screw it up, just as she did when she was raising DJ – but that, in the end, she won’t regret having children, because Deborah never regretted having her.
The night of shooting the special comes, and, while Deb’s getting ready, there’s a knock at her dressing room door. It’s Ava, who left her gig early in order to support Deborah. It’s a heartwarming moment. These two clearly share so much love and respect behind their constant banter and little jabs at one another. At the end of the day, they each just want the other to be successful.
And success does come. Deb kills it recording her special. She also kills a man who has a heart attack in the audience, though Jimmy lies and tells Deborah he’s fine so the show can go on. And when she goes on QVC to sell DVDs of the set, Deborah blows up the line, with thousands of orders in mere minutes. Ava’s finally starting to network thanks to the pilot punch-up gig – something Deborah takes notice of. So, when she has a party to celebrate the success of her stand-up special, Deborah thanks Ava in front of everyone, before pulling her aside and firing her.
Yep. That’s right.
In a scene that moved me to tears, Deborah lets Ava know that she’s letting her go because she sees and acknowledges that she is just like her. Deborah can’t be the one to stagnate Ava’s career, to burn out the star Ava has the potential to become on the opportunities sure to come thanks to this special’s success. It is, quite frankly, the most selfless thing Deborah has ever done and shows just how far she’s come: she’s willing to let go of the one person who understands her and helped Deborah complete her comeback in order for that person’s career to flourish without her.
Hacks‘ Season 2 ends on a bittersweet note when, a few weeks later, Ava receives a call from Jimmy, letting her know that the pilot she worked on was picked up and they want to staff her as a writer. He also mentions that Deborah is dropping the lawsuit against her, meaning there’s no real reason for Ava and Deborah to cross paths again. As she hears the news, Ava watches Deborah on QVC, plugging yet another one of her many products – a sign that things are working out just fine for Deborah.
There’s a finality to Hacks Episodes 7 and 8 that makes one wonder whether this could end up being a potential conclusion for the entire show, as it has not been picked up for a third season yet. Hopefully, this isn’t the last we’ll see of our favorite inter-generational duo, as it would be a real shame to not have this Jean Smart lead vehicle gracing our screens anymore.
Overall season rating: 8.5/10