‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Finale: Larry David Just Zig-Zagged the Ending

Well, he really did it.

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A couple of weeks into the new and final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the signs were almost blatantly clear that Larry David was not going to pass up the opportunity to do the funniest thing ever and use the series finale of Curb as a meta-commentary on the last time he was tasked with ending a long-running beloved comedy series, when it didn’t go so well.

The last episode of Curb leans right into the Seinfeld callbacks from the rip, starting with its title, “No Lessons Learned”—a reference to the “no hugging, no learning” mantra David and co-creator Jerry Seinfeld ran their sitcom under, a rebuke to the pat writing style of network television, where characters would end an episode learning from their mistakes. Instead, by the end of Seinfeld’s nine-season run, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer had arguably hardened into full-on sociopaths with behavior fit to put them on trial for—and TV Larry isn’t much better.

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But clearly real-Larry—despite standing ten toes down on his decisions for the Seinfeld finale in general—has been thinking about why it didn’t connect, and how some critics back in 1998 could have found it “bloated and off-key.” Rewatching “The Finale,” it really is a glorified clip show, with past one-off characters performing encores that essentially just yell “remember when?” at the audience. But in ‘98 at least clip shows were the norm, before home video was really a thing. In 2024, we’ve all rewatched Curb dozens of times, so the bar is a little bit higher for cameos that will really get a rise out of the audience. David tries his best, reaching way back for characters you wouldn’t rank high on the appearance list from classic episodes like “The Ski Lift,” or surprises like the little girl from “The Doll” (arguably the show’s best episode) all grown up.

Ultimately though, those feel about as shrug-worthy as they did on Seinfeld—I’d rather just run “The Doll” back than see a clip from the episode’s punchline. But Larry’s new finale-redux succeeds where the last one faltered by mixing up the pomp and circumstance of the episode’s plot with just really good, classic Curb energy, injecting in some of the best bits he’s written all season. We get one last Eye-to-Eye, this time with the legend Allison Janney, over whether her character really tried to commit suicide. There’s one last Larry and Susie caper, one of those rare moments when they put aside their mortal disdain for each other for the benefit of the team, where in an echo of “The Ski Lift” (when Susie masquerades as Larry’s wife during a weekend with an Orthodox Jewish family that they need a favor from), Susie pretends to be Larry’s paraplegic new girlfriend to garner some sympathy points for the jury. One last absurd Leon-ism, this time about detachable dicks. And man, Jerry Seinfeld himself walking into Larry’s hotel lobby as a show of emotional support could have reeked of stunt-casting…until they start riffing on something completely unrelated and totally absurd and you remember how much of a joy it is to just watch these two banter.

Jerry gets to save the day and stop Larry from repeating history. Just as Larry sits in a cell, facing one year in prison upon being found guilty—and bemoaning the Pants Tent, in a callback to the show’s pilot, much like Jerry and George’s final dialogue echoed the Seinfeld pilot—Jerry rushes in with the news that since he caught a juror not observing the sequester the night before the verdict. The judge has declared a mistrial, and Larry gets to walk free. On their way out, Larry has a lightbulb moment: “This is how we should’ve ended [Seinfeld],” with Jerry noting that “no one wants to see” their comedy protagonist in jail.

But it wouldn’t be true to the spirit of Curb if things ended there. The actual last scene is the gang—Larry, Leon, Jeff, Susie, Cheryl, Ted Danson, and Jerry—having one last argument over etiquette, this time across the first class cabin of their plane as Susie raises her window blinding everything else. How fitting that the last, clear line of dialog of Curb Your Enthusiasm is Susie Greene getting one last dig in: “Go back to jail, Larry.” No hugging, no learning.

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