Starring: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman
It would've been a lot easier to defend this season of Curb had it not ended on what easily stands as the weakest finale to date. "Fatwa!" has hilarious moments. It's also an exercise in weird bits that go nowhere (Lin's relatives); wasted grade-A comedic talent (ugh, Casey Wilson); story seeds that don't explode the way they would've in Larry's prime (the stand-in, the signer, hell, even the wedding); and most disturbing, bemusing punchlines that fall flat (Jeff basically storyboards the ending in an earlier scene). All symptoms that ailed much of Curb's big comeback either individually or in concert.
But GOATs aren't hailed as such because they buckle under mortal flaws. In lesser hands this season could've been a complete and cautionary waste of time. So yeah, we didn't really get any classic episodes this season. Larry still gave us "foisted" and "lampin" and "disturbance in the kitchen." Lauren Graham in a multi-episode arc. Giving Chet Haze as Sammi's vet fiance retroactive PTSD. Elizabeth Banks comparing a cat to a missing child. Fashioned Lin-Manuel from lovable dork to power-drunk dickhead. A f***ing cameo from Salman Rushdie. And even the season's only true stinker, "Accidental Texter," still had laugh-out-loud moments (tap water!)
It's hard to diagnose what went wrong here precisely. Too much time off? Writing partners too familiar to help him tighten up or tone down? Mismatched priorities angled towards satisfying the mainstream Curb fan who knows "Chat n cut," thinks Leon has been on the series in its entirety and never saw "Beloved Aunt." Maybe all of the above. The best thing I can say about this finale is although each one is written to function as a series ender as well, this one didn't have that feeling at all. Larry's charged up, the post-season interviews show it. Curb season nine wasn't the comfort food we'd hoped it would be, like when a restaurant's chef randomly alters the recipe on your favorite dish. Hopefully LD (LVid?) doesn't keep us waiting too long for seconds. —Frazier Tharpe