This is how it ends for Forrest MacNeil: His show within a show—in which the straight-arrow critic played by Andy Daly analyzes life experiences and rates them on a five-star scale—is canceled, and he’s standing around on a darkened set, thinking the cancellation is part of a prank he’s reviewing. It is not. Review is over in its world, and Review is over in our world, having concluded its third and final season with a third and final episode. Deliverance was within Forrest’s grasp, in the form of a request from his estranged wife, Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair), to do a review about never reviewing anything again. But Forrest, driven as ever by the twin demons of his conviction and his manipulative producer Grant (James Urbaniak), declined what would’ve been his final review. The decision is the culmination of Review’s unique style of cringe comedy, a blend of “Don’t go in there!” tension and a willingness to take Forrest’s stupidity to the furthest possible extreme.
“We really wanted to calibrate it so that the audience could feel torn and would not be sitting there like, ‘Well, obviously he would go with Suzanne after what she just said,’” Daly told The A.V. Club earlier this month. “So it was very difficult to make sure that we got James’ part of it just right, my reaction to that just right. We worked that again and again—and we worked it again and again and again in editing—to really help it feel like a true dilemma. For an idiot—but a true dilemma nonetheless.”
Daly and his team aimed to keep viewers on their toes with the final season, playing with expectations about the trajectory of ongoing plotlines and keeping the length of the season under wraps. (The title of the finale, “Cryogenics, Lightning, Final Review,” made its way into TV listings nonetheless.) Daly said the intention was “to make you feel like ‘Oh, my god, I know where this is going: He’s going to jail.’ Or, ‘Oh, my god, I know where this is going: He’s going to die.’ Or, ‘Oh, my god, I know where this is going: He’s going to take off with Suzanne.’” Forrest’s abrupt (and satirically potent) acquittal on murder charges in “Co-host, Ass-slap, Helen Keller, Forgiveness” is “the first moment of ‘Oh, my expectations about where this is going are not helping me,’” Daly said.
Forrest MacNeil is just one character in a large stable of Daly creations, many of whom—like lecherous stage director Don DiMello and vampire-obsessed “poet laureate of the West” Dalton Wilcox—have traversed between live shows, podcasts, and television. Could the same be true of Forrest? “I was just thinking about this the other day: One of the coolest things that’s ever happened in television comedy was when the character of Alan Partridge made the jump from Knowing Me Knowing You to the behind-the-scenes I’m Alan Partridge,” Daly said. “So there is a part of me that wonders if there’s a reverse-Alan Partridge to be done with Forrest MacNeil, that we see him in his next job as the host of a show or something like that. Or, is there the opportunity to do more of the dead-on Alan Partridge, to leave the construct of Forrest doing a television show and follow this man and the rest of his life?”
For the time being, however, we’ve seen the last of Forrest MacNeil. “But I wouldn’t rule out meeting him again in some other context,” Daly said. “Because I like him, even though he’s an idiot.”