By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 18: “Discos and Dragons”
Original airdate: Jul. 8, 2000
Emma: Oh boy, that ending destroyed me.
So this is the first time that I have seen the Freaks and Geeks finale – as I mentioned before when I first watched the show I decided to not watch the last episode so I still had one left at a future date which is pretty fuzzy logic. It’s a frustrating final episode, not because it isn’t good (it is) but because it feels like there is so much left to say with this group of characters. This finale is all about how each of these characters feels about themselves and how they can change the aspects they dislike. There are moments of important character evolution and as their school year comes to a close some big decisions are made.
I’ll start with Lindsay because her journey has been at the heart of the show. When we met Lindsay she was feeling disaffected and lost; being an academic superstar wasn’t fulfilling and hanging out with the so-called freaks of school was her response to these feelings. Since then Lindsay has carved out a really great friendship with Kim, while also maintaining her past one with Millie (who is sadly missing from this finale). When Lindsay finds out that she is in the top 1% of students in Michigan she experiences another funk that is similar to where we found this character and even though she probably hasn’t been applying herself she is academically gifted and can succeed in this field no matter who she hangs out with.
Lindsay doesn’t see the point of going to this two week academic summit and her apathy to all things school related circles back to her experience with her grandmother that she tells Sam about in the pilot – that in death there is nothing. Lindsay’s parents and especially her dad are super pissed that she doesn’t want to go. This is the key to her academic future and could help her get into an Ivy League school. From what I gather Lindsay will be applying for colleges the following year (in season 2 *sob*) and their probably right, but if Lindsay’s heat isn’t in it should she have to go?
Well Lindsay makes a huge choice and the series ends with Lindsay’s family waving her off and it looks like she is going to the summit. Instead she takes a detour and hooks up with the Deadheads (including The O.C’s Samaire Armstrong) and Kim to go watch The Grateful Dead play across the country. This is kind of Mr Rosso’s fault who in his attempt to help Lindsay clear her head lends her a Grateful Dead album. At first when Lindsay listens to the album she doesn’t seem to get it, but as she listens to it again and again she loosens up and there is an awkward solo dancing in the bedroom scene that is a staple of the teen genre – Angela Chase did it and so have countless others. This leads to a conversation with the Deadheads who totally sell the freedom of the Grateful Dead experience – another My So-Called Life connection is the episode where Rayanne and Angela are meant to go to the Dead concert and Angela blows off Rayanne. It’s all about freedom and connecting and this is exactly what Lindsay wants in this moment.
Lindsay has an argument with Kim and Kim effectively first world problems Lindsay as Lindsay has a way out of this town whereas Kim is stuck. This isn’t the case as Lindsay makes sure that Kim comes along for the summer of fun and in the second season in my head Lindsay helps Kim apply for colleges and find a way out of the future she thinks exists for herself.
What did you think of Lindsay’s big decision to not attend the academic summit?
Julie: I totally didn’t notice Millie wasn’t in this finale. In fact, she hasn’t been around for a while. That’s too bad. Who else was missing? We never saw Biff again after he hooked up with Bill’s mom. Most of the parents were no-shows, in fact. Maureen. Cindy Sanders (though she got her big sendoff last episode).
Lindsay’s decision not to go to the summit gives me the shakes. On the one hand, it’s kind of awesome that she takes the initiative and does what she wants to do. You’re only young once. On the other hand, looking at it from Harold and Jean’s perspective, that shit cray. It’s 1980 and she’s a 17-year-old girl secretly driving across the country in a VW van with a bunch of 17-year-old Deadheads. They didn’t even have cell phones back then. I hope for Lindsay’s sake, for everyone’s sake, that no one finds out about where Lindsay really has gone all summer, because her father will murder her.
It is kind of poetic, though, after years of Harold wailing about how everyone he ever saw take a chance in life wound up dead, this could be the turning point in Linday’s life that shows her it’s OK to take risks. Or she could end up dead, thus proving her father was right all this time.
I loved Lindsay’s conversation with Kim. It’s sad that a girl as young as Kim already thinks she’s stuck, but I am so glad that Lindsay is giving her the opportunity to see what’s out there in the world beyond Michigan. So, basically, I’m happy for Kim and I’m terrified for Lindsay.
Another person I’m totally and completely happy for is Daniel. Throughout the run of the show he’s been this cool, slacking, ne’er-do-well. And it’s his slacking ne’er-do-wellness that finally gets him to where he really needs to go in life — geekdom. In order to get out of an exam he isn’t prepared for, Daniel tries to pull a fire alarm. But Mr. Rosso catches him; and determined no longer to be seen as “Mr. Nice Guy,” Rosso sentences Daniel to life in the AV club. It is there that Daniel gets up close and personal with the geeks. It is there that Daniel finally starts to take something seriously. And it is there that he is introduced to Dungeons and Dragons.
Now, I never played Dungeons and Dragons. D&D was something back in the ’80s that parents felt they were supposed to be scared of, like sexting or twerking. But since being exposed to it via Community and this show, D&D seems like a pretty rad time. And Daniel…I’m sorry, “Carlos the Dwarf” finds success and a bunch of new, good guy friends to spend time with on the weekend.
I just got a pang of sadness. Everyone in this episode is moving on to something bigger and better, except Ken. Ken’s the only one who’s happy to stay where he’s always been. Everyone’s abandoning him. At least he has his tuba girlfriend, though. What do you think? Are you happy for Daniel, and sad for Ken?
Emma: It’s a shame that a lot of the supporting characters didn’t feature and I would love to have seen more of Biff in the house of Haverchuck.
I can see why your terrified for Lindsay and it’s indicative of the whole fearless/nothing can touch me attitude that you have when you were a teenager. I never did anything that extreme, but definitely some dumb questionable things. I hope the worst thing that happens is that she gets an awful Grateful Dead tattoo or that she starts wearing tie dye.
I’m with you on whole Ken aspect as the freaks feel incredibly disjointed as a group in this finale. Yeah Kim and Lindsay have their Thelma and Louise moment – swapping a convertible for a camper van and hippies instead of Brad Pitt but the boys are completely disconnected. Like you I loved seeing Daniel embrace a side that we’ve never seen before as Carlos the Dwarf and I’ve never played D&D before (I did love the cartoon) and it looks like a lot of fun. Daniel has wavered before with this notion of applying himself and when they revealed him teaching himself how to work the projector it was a sweet moment that showed that he doesn’t want to be a burnout for his entire life. I also think that Sam has a major guy crush on him and I always appreciated referencing earlier episode as Daniel helped with his sex ed questions (more or less). This is a complete change in opinion from how Sam saw Lindsay’s new friends at the start.
Sam is having his own crisis and this echoes previous stories with the geeks; they’re questioning who they are and examining whether they things they do are cool or not. Sam has been the most concerned with this throughout as Neal is confident regardless and Bill doesn’t care because he’s a stud. In a way Sam has the most in common with Ken, not Daniel in this finale as Sam thinks what he is doing might be lame and Ken is making a big judgment over Nick’s new music taste.
What did you think about the reignited Nick/Lindsay tension?
Julie: The Nick and Lindsay thing was a bit of a surprise for me. In my head, when remembering the first time watching the finale (which I’d only seen once before this week), I recalled Nick being pretty confident and happy where he is with Lizzy Caplan; but this time around, I noticed the underlying tension between him and Lindsay. Though Lindsay never really wanted to be with Nick as much as he wanted to be with her, I think she definitely had a pang of wistfulness — like, “Why is this guy so over me? I’m supposed to be the one over him.” And Nick definitely saw that Lindsay was a little hurt by the fact that he’s moving on, and he got a little excited by it. If the show had come back for a second season, I think we would’ve seen more of Nick trying to make Lindsay jealous, and his using Lizzy Caplan to do so. And eventually he’d realize that he’s really in love with Lizzy (what’s her name on the show?), but it would be too late. She’d know that he’s just dating her to get back at Lindsay and she’d move on to Neal or Harris or somebody.
So, that brings up a good question. In our fantasy Season 2 of Freaks and Geeks, what would happen? When would Harold Weir die/nearly die of a heart attack, because you know that’s coming?
Emma: Yeah I’d agree with that, like she’s been waiting for him to get over her for all this time and while it’s irrational it hurts that he finally has (even though he hasn’t). Ir’s a bittersweet conversation as he tells Lindsay that he has quit smoking pot and he’s having a great time with Lizzy Caplan (the DVD notes tell me her name is Sara). Sara is totally into Nick and drops the L word which is a pretty big deal and she actually seems quite well matched. I can’t see this relationship lasting and I think your prediction sounds likely; I do like this change in Nick though and while his disco moves don’t include magic (The League has taught me that magic sucks) and he might be on the tall side, but he can rock a satin shirt with the best of them. There is also so much crushed velvet in the scenes with Nick and Sara.
So season 2 potential plot lines and yeah the inevitable heart attack moment and in the version in my head Harold would survive (yay!) and then be super mad about having to eat all the healthy things, no more red meat for him. He’d have to hire extra help at the store and this might be the perfect opportunity for Nick to continue to pay for those drum lessons that Harold got him thus creating tension between Nick, Lindsay and Sara.
I also think that Neal’s parents would finally give up the ghost of their dead marriage and get a divorce, this would lead to the boys questioning the end of their childhood and coming to terms with the pain of adulthood. Morty would see the light of day but a terrible accident damages Morty beyond repair (Bill accidentally knocked a candle over him and now fears he is being haunted by Morty’s spirit). Wow this is all getting a bit serious in season 2, definitely need to add some fun stories – balance between emotion and humor is one of Freaks and Geeks many strengths. That’s where Bill and Vicki come in as they’re secretly dating and things are hotting up between Sam and Maureen. Cindy Sanders is pouting in the corner wondering why no one likes her.
Do you think Daniel will finally graduate and make something of himself? I’m pretty sure his relationship with Kim is dunzo especially after her summer as a Deadhead.
Julie: I bet Morty would’ve met his maker in the same episode where Harold has the heart attack. The network would’ve teased (probably during the first commercial break of Low Winter Sun) that one of our beloved characters was going to die, and then it would end up being Morty instead of Harold. For sure.
I, too, had the idea that Bill and Vicki have been dating all this time. It just makes sense. The two of them come out as a couple during the homecoming dance (which Sam attends with Maureen). Neal finds Cindy in that corner, and they hook up. Neal has no problem being bossed around by Cindy Sanders.
Daniel and Kim are for sure done. I think the freaks are done, too. Ken might start hanging around with Daniel and the geeks. Actually, I could totally see that. And how funny would it be for Sam to now be hanging out with his sister’s old friends, who used to frighten him so much. Nick, if he stays with Sara, will continue to morph himself into whatever she wants him to be. He’s totally the kind of guy who changes depending on whom he’s dating, like Brad Pitt.
Anything else to add? I’ll just say that I’ve really loved re-watching this show and chatting about it with you. It was less of an emotional ride for me than My So-Called Life, but it was a super fun one. I can’t wait to start talking about Felicity, which will definitely make us feel all the college feels.
Emma: I think that’s everything I want to say about the episode, but I’ve also had a terrific time watching this and discussing it with you. While I’d say that MSCL resonates more with my teen experiences, there is something about Paul Feig’s work that really taps into my misty eyed place (the yearbook bit at the end of The Heat made me tear up) and something about that final scene set off the water works.
It’s a shame it only got one season, but there really isn’t a dud episode and that’s pretty incredible. It’s also a testament to this cast that they’ve all gone on to do a lot since – though I think Martin Starr deserves his own show.
And yay we’re off to college!
Julie: Donna Martin graduates!