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‘Mom’ says goodbye with a finale that’s as much about beginnings

Michael Yarish

The “Mom” finale was as much about beginnings as endings, as the CBS sitcom about sobriety settled for a low-key finish, which included a wedding but not the return of one of its original stars.

Anna Faris left the show before the season began, citing a desire to “pursue new opportunities.” That left Allison Janney — the “Mom” of the title in connection with her — to carry on with the able supporting cast.

Those expecting Faris’ Christy to drop in to say goodbye, however, settled for a reference to the character, while Janney’s Bonnie offered a final sendoff at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, saying that while she was once a mess, “Now, I kinda like me.”

Thanks to her, “Mom” has remained kinda likable too, and the episode did include a pair of significant developments: The marriage of Jill (Jaime Pressly), one of Bonnie’s partners in sobriety; and a cancer diagnosis for Bonnie’s husband, Adam (William Fichtner), with the promise it was treatable, but clearly a long road ahead.

Still, the main thrust was “Life goes on” as opposed to a grand conclusion, with Bonnie helping a newcomer (Melanie Lynskey, a veteran of “Mom” producer Chuck Lorre’s “Two and a Half Men”) listening as the women shared their can-you-top-this stories about how bad things had once been for them.

Asked how they recovered, Bonnie said, “We all got better.” In his final vanity card after the closing credits, Lorre wrote, “For 170 episodes we wrapped jokes around hope. … Thank you for your support. And, most importantly, thank you to all the men and women who have, for generations, carried the message: There is a solution.”

“Mom” has never shied away from the idea that the battle rages on, filtering financial struggles and serious issues of substance abuse through the spectrum of a broad network comedy. There was even a big group hug — with Janney, Pressly, Mimi Kennedy, Beth Hall and Kristen Johnson — in what felt like a nod to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Eight seasons is a long time for any TV show, but perhaps especially one such as this, with the added burden of the lead departing. Although the cancellation announcement came later, the show was clearly living on borrowed time.

In that sense, it was wise not to overreach for an ending, instead allowing Janney — the winner of two supporting actress Emmys for the show, and then nominated twice as its lead — to quietly reflect on how far the character had come. (The show notably donated its 2017 Emmy marketing budget to Planned Parenthood.)

The final season didn’t much resemble the first one, but it did illustrate a resiliency, appropriately, that has been one of the show’s trademarks. And even for those who stuck around — either liking the show a lot, or just kind of — having this last meeting now certainly doesn’t feel premature.

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