Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 18: “Discos and Dragons”
Original airdate: Jul. 8, 2000
Emma: Wow, that ending left me emotionally wrecked.
This marks my first viewing of the Freaks and Geeks finale. As I mentioned earlier, during my initial watch of the series, I deliberately saved the last episode for a future date, even though it might sound a bit illogical.
The final episode is quite frustrating, not because it lacks quality (it’s quite good), but because it feels like there’s still so much left to explore with this group of characters.
The focus of this finale revolves around how each character perceives themselves and their journey to overcome their shortcomings. Significant character development unfolds, and as the school year draws to a close, pivotal decision are made.
Let’s begin with Lindsay, as her transformation has been at the show’s core. When we were first introduced to Lindsay, she was experiencing disaffection and a sense of being lost.
Being an academic overachiever no longer satisfied her, and her association with the so-called school “freaks” was her response to these emotions. Over time, Lindsay has cultivated a deep and meaningful friendship with Kim while still cherishing her past one with Millie (though Millie is unfortunately absent from this finale).
When Lindsay discovers that she ranks among the top 1% of students in Michigan academically, she finds herself in a funk similar to where we first encountered her.
Even if she hasn’t put in her best effort, she possesses the academic talent to excel in this field, regardless of her social circle.
Lindsay finds it hard to see the value in attending a two-week academic summit, and her indifference to anything related to school harks back to her conversation with Sam in the pilot episode.
In that conversation, she expressed the belief that death leads to nothingness. Her parents, especially her father, are extremely upset about her decision not to go.
They view this summit as crucial to her academic future and her chances of gaining admission to an Ivy League school.
While it’s likely that Lindsay will be applying to colleges in the following year (in Season 2, which is quite heart-wrenching), the question arises: should Lindsay be forced to go if her heart isn’t truly in it?
In a surprising turn of events, Lindsay makes a major choice, and the series concludes with her family bidding her farewell, seemingly on her way to the summit.
However, she takes an unexpected detour, joining the Deadheads (including The O.C.’s Samaire Armstrong) and Kim to travel across the country to watch The Grateful Dead perform.
This decision is partly influenced by Mr. Rosso, who, in an effort to help Lindsay clear her mind, lends her a Grateful Dead album. Initially, when Lindsay listens to the album, she doesn’t seem to connect with it.
But with repeated listening, she gradually lets go, leading to an awkward solo dance scene in her bedroom, a quintessential moment in the teen genre reminiscent of Angela Chase and many others.
This experience prompts a conversation with the Deadheads, who passionately convey the sense of freedom and connection that comes with the Grateful Dead experience.
This also draws a connection to My So-Called Life, where there’s an episode where Angela blows off a Dead concert with Rayanne, exploring themes of freedom and connection, which is exactly what Lindsay seeks at this moment.
In the midst of an argument with Kim, Lindsay confronts Kim about her first-world problems, emphasizing that she has a way out of their small town while Kim feels trapped.
However, Lindsay ensures that Kim joins her for this summer of adventure, and in my view, during the second season, she helps Kim apply for colleges and find a way out of the future that Kim believes is inevitable.
What are your thoughts on Lindsay’s significant decision not to attend the academic summit?
Julie: I completely overlooked the absence of Millie in this finale. In fact, she hasn’t been around for quite some time, which is a shame. Who else was missing? We never saw Biff again after his liaison with Bill’s mom. In fact, most of the parents were nowhere to be found, including Maureen and Cindy Sanders (although she had her big farewell in the previous episode).
Lindsay’s decision to skip the summit gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s kind of awesome that she takes the initiative and follows her own desires; after all, you’re only young once.
On the other hand, when I put myself in Harold and Jean’s shoes, that decision seems pretty outrageous. 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.
Back then, they didn’t even have cell phones. I sincerely hope, for Lindsay’s sake and everyone else’s, that her actual whereabouts during the summer remain a secret because if her father finds out, he might go ballistic.
There’s a poetic aspect to it, though. After years of Harold lamenting how anyone who took risks in life ended up in trouble or worse, this could be the turning point in Lindsay’s life that teaches her it’s okay to take chances.
Or, on the flip side, she could end up in a dire situation, thereby confirming her father’s warnings all along.
I truly appreciated Lindsay’s conversation with Kim. It’s disheartening that someone as young as Kim already feels trapped, but I’m thrilled that Lindsay is offering her the opportunity to explore what the world has to offer beyond Michigan.
So, in essence, I’m happy for Kim and extremely concerned for Lindsay.
Another person I’m genuinely delighted for is Daniel. Throughout the series, he’s portrayed as this laid-back, nonchalant slacker. Surprisingly, it’s his slacker attitude that eventually leads him to where he truly belongs – in the world of geekdom.
In an attempt to evade an exam he hasn’t prepared for, Daniel tries to pull a fire alarm, but Mr. Rosso catches him. No longer wanting to be seen as “Mr. Nice Guy,” Rosso banishes Daniel to the AV club, where he comes into close contact with the geeks.
It’s there that Daniel finally starts to take something seriously, and he’s introduced to Dungeons and Dragons.
I never had the opportunity to play Dungeons and Dragons. In the ’80s, D&D was something that parents often felt they should be wary of, akin to concerns about sexting or twerking.
However, after getting introduced to it through shows like Community and this one, D&D appears to be a genuinely enjoyable pastime.
And Daniel, or should I say “Carlos the Dwarf,” finds both success and a new circle of friends who share his interests to spend weekends with.
A sense of melancholy washes over me. In this episode, everyone is moving on to something bigger and better, except for Ken. Ken is the sole character who’s content to remain in the same place he’s always been.
It feels like everyone is leaving him behind. Well, at least he has his tuba-playing girlfriend. What’s your take on this? Are you happy for Daniel and simultaneously saddened for Ken?
Emma: It’s a disappointment that many of the supporting characters didn’t make appearances, and I would have loved to see more of Biff in the Haverchuck household.
I can certainly understand your concern for Lindsay, and it reflects that fearless, “nothing can touch me” attitude we often had as teenagers.
While I might not have done anything as extreme as her, I certainly made my fair share of questionable and foolish choices. Hopefully, the worst that happens to Lindsay is getting an unfortunate Grateful Dead tattoo or adopting a tie-dye wardrobe.
I agree with your thoughts on the situation involving Ken and the sense of disconnection within the group of freaks in this finale.
While Kim and Lindsay embark on their Thelma and Louise-esque adventure, with a convertible swapped for a camper van and hippies instead of Brad Pitt, the boys seem entirely detached.
Like you, I appreciated seeing Daniel embrace a side of himself that we’ve never seen before, taking on the role of Carlos the Dwarf. I’ve never played D&D myself (though I loved the cartoon), but it appears to be a lot of fun.
Daniel has toyed with the idea of applying himself in the past, and when they revealed him teaching himself how to work the projector, it was a touching moment that showed he doesn’t want to be burned for the rest of his life.
I also believe Sam has a significant admiration for him, and I always appreciated the callbacks to an earlier episode when Daniel helped Sam with his sex education questions. It’s a complete change in perspective from how Sam initially viewed Lindsay’s new friends.
Sam is going through his own crisis, echoing past stories involving the geeks. They’re all questioning their identities and whether the things they do are considered cool or not.
Sam, in particular, has struggled with this throughout, while Neal remains confident, and Bill doesn’t seem to care, given his studly status.
In a way, Sam has more in common with Ken than with Daniel in this finale, as Sam is grappling with the idea that what he’s doing might be considered uncool, just as Ken is passing judgment on Nick’s new music taste.
What are your thoughts on the renewed tension between Nick and Lindsay?
Julie: The whole Nick and Lindsay situation took me by surprise. In my recollection, when I first watched the finale (which was only once before this week), I remembered Nick as being quite confident and content with Lizzy Caplan’s character.
However, this time around, I picked up on the underlying tension between him and Lindsay. Even though Lindsay never truly wanted to be with Nick as much as he wanted to be with her, I believe she felt a tinge of nostalgia, thinking, “Why is this guy so over me? I’m supposed to be the one who’s moved on.”
Nick, on the other hand, noticed that Lindsay was somewhat hurt by the fact that he was moving forward, and it seemed to excite him.
If the show had returned for a second season, I think we would’ve seen more of Nick attempting to make Lindsay jealous and using Lizzy Caplan’s character to do so.
Eventually, he’d come to the realization that he genuinely loves Lizzy (whose character’s name I can’t recall right now), but by then, it might be too late. She’d recognize that he’s only dating her to get back at Lindsay, and she’d move on to someone else, like Neal or Harris.
So, this raises an interesting question. In our hypothetical Season 2 of Freaks and Geeks, what do you think would happen? And when do you suppose Harold Weir would have a near-death experience due to a heart attack? Because you just know that’s bound to happen.
Emma: I absolutely agree, and it’s like she’s been waiting for him to move on from her for all this time. While it might be irrational, it stings that he finally has (even though he technically hasn’t).
Their conversation is bittersweet, with Nick revealing that he’s quit smoking pot and is having a great time with Lizzy Caplan (Sara, as per the DVD notes). Sara is clearly smitten with Nick and drops the L-word, which is a significant development.
They seem well-matched, but I share your belief that this relationship may not go the distance. Your prediction does sound quite plausible.
I appreciate this transformation in Nick, and while his disco moves might not include any magic (thanks to The League, I know that magic sucks), and he might be on the taller side, he can definitely rock a satin shirt with the best of them.
There’s an abundance of crushed velvet in the scenes with Nick and Sara.
As for potential plotlines in Season 2, the inevitable heart attack moment, and Harold’s survival in my imaginary version, he’d be quite upset about adopting a healthier diet. No more red meat for him.
He’d need to hire extra help at the store, and this might be the ideal opportunity for Nick to continue paying for those drum lessons that Harold got him, thereby creating tension between Nick, Lindsay, and Sara.
I also think Neal’s parents would finally accept the end of their broken marriage and decide to get a divorce. This would lead to the boys grappling with the reality of their childhood ending and facing the pain of adulthood.
Morty would finally see the light of day, but a terrible accident would damage Morty beyond repair (Bill accidentally knocked a candle over, and now he fears being haunted by Morty’s spirit).
This is all getting rather serious for Season 2, so we definitely need to introduce some lighter, more fun storylines. Balancing 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 heating up between Sam and Maureen. Meanwhile, Cindy Sanders is sulking in the corner, wondering why nobody likes her.
Do you believe that Daniel will eventually graduate and find success? I have a strong suspicion that his relationship with Kim is over, especially after her time as a Deadhead during the summer.
Julie: I feel Morty would’ve met his end in the same episode where Harold has the heart attack.
The network would’ve likely teased (probably during the first commercial break of Low Winter Sun) that one of our beloved characters would die, only to have it turn out to be Morty instead of Harold.
I also thought Bill and Vicki had been dating all this time; it just makes sense. They’d come out as a couple during the homecoming dance (while Sam attended with Maureen).
Neal would find Cindy in her corner, and they’d hook up. Neal doesn’t seem to mind being bossed around by Cindy Sanders.
As for Daniel and Kim, they’re definitely done. I think the freaks are done as a group, too. It’s possible that Ken might start hanging around with Daniel and the geeks, and I can totally envision that.
It would be quite humorous for Sam to hang out with his sister’s old friends, who used to terrify him so much. Nick, if he stays with Sara, will likely continue to mold himself into whatever she wants him to be.
He’s the kind of guy who changes depending on whom he’s dating, much like Brad Pitt.
Anything else to add? I’ll just say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-watching this show and discussing it with you.
It may have been less emotionally intense for me than My So-Called Life, but it was an incredibly enjoyable ride. I can’t wait to start discussing Felicity, which will undoubtedly bring back all those college memories.
Emma: I believe that covers everything I wanted to discuss about the episode. It’s been a fantastic experience watching this show and conversing with you.
While I’d say that My So-Called Life resonates more with my own teenage experiences, there’s something about Paul Feig’s work that really touches my nostalgic side (the yearbook scene at the end of The Heat brought tears to my eyes).
And there’s something about that final scene that gets me emotional.
It’s a shame the show only had one season, but the fact that there isn’t a single weak episode is truly remarkable. It’s also a testament to the cast’s talent, as they’ve all achieved much in their careers. I believe Martin Starr deserves his own show.
And now, we’re off to college!
Julie: Donna Martin graduates!