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The Ending Of Mom Explained

CBS' "Mom" is a laugh-a-minute sitcom about recovery. While addiction and belly laughs may not seem to go together, "Mom" make this pairing feel utterly natural. The series uses dark humor and a light touch to tell the story of Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney), a mother-daughter duo living in Napa, California. The Plunkett women, who have both struggled with addiction, are joined in their misadventures by  Christy's children, a misfit gang of rotating Alcoholics Anonymous ladies, and a rogues gallery of guest stars.

"Mom" was an instant hit: According to Variety, its 2013 debut captured almost 8 million viewers. The series managed to maintain these high ratings throughout the rest of its run — an especially impressive feat, considering the final season is missing one of its leading ladies. Though Christy and Bonnie are the beating heart of "Mom" for seven of its eight seasons, Christy is given a satisfying send-off to law school on the other side of the country in Season 7. Does the final season skip a beat without her? In short, no. "Mom" manages to pull this off by weaving many different story threads into the complex and vibrant tapestry that is the series finale — and we're here to unravel it for you. This is the ending of "Mom," explained.

Humor and the heart of darkness

As a heart-warming sitcom that never gets cheesy, "Mom" is a rare beast. This isn't an easy trick for a show that often features multiple AA meetings per episode to pull off. A big part of what keeps the humor of "Mom" from being hackneyed is the way it honors the recovery process. "Mom" understands the careful balance of hope, grit, and focus necessary to staying sober. 

As it turns out, substance abuse is a matter close to the heart of the show's creative team. Cast member Kristen Johnston has reflected on her own history with addiction (via Today), and producer Chuck Lorre has made it clear how important he believes the show's message is in our modern world. "Women helping women recover from the seemingly hopeless disease of alcohol and drug addiction provided this extraordinary ensemble of great actresses that were funny in different ways," Lorre told Variety. "In loving each other and supporting each other, they survive not as individuals — the me is overridden by the we."

That "we" encompasses the stacked ensemble cast of "Mom," which includes Johnston, Mimi Kennedy, Jaime Pressly, Beth Hall, and William Fichtner. Every episode uses hope and humor to navigate the lives of women in recovery, and the final season is no different. The show draws to a close by admitting the struggle is very real — but so are the friends made along the way.

Mom drama and maple syrup

While she isn't physically present in Season 8 of "Mom," Christy still has a relationship with Bonnie throughout it. Bonnie even fondly jokes about Christy in the moving finale. Viewers get a sense that Christy and Bonnie are on good terms, even though Christy is busy at Georgetown Law. While this casual camaraderie might seem typical for a sitcom, it's downright miraculous for the Plunketts. 

Most of this show's humor comes from Christy and Bonnie butting heads. The mother-daughter duo are an odd couple: Christy constantly searches for approval and a steady path, while Bonnie blazes a self-serving trail through any and all situations. But Christy's meekness can easily shift to rage against Bonnie, just like Bonnie's air of confidence can be rattled by the slightest judgment from her daughter.

These leading ladies are a comedy dream team, as well as a vivid portrait of living and forgiving in recovery. No matter how much progress either mom makes, they can always remind each other of the consequences of their chaotic pasts. This keeps them on their toes and in check — when they aren't screaming at each other or smuggling maple syrup across the Canadian border, anyway. But when Christy takes the next step in her healing journey all the way to law school, she leaves Bonnie to assume her own new role: den mother.

Den mother and the unusual suspects

Though "Mom" initially focuses on Christy, it ends as an ensemble show led by Bonnie. While Bonnie loves the attention that comes with being the AA gang's de facto leader, she doesn't always love the responsibility it requires. This is evidenced when she lies her way into booking business for her and Tammy (Kristen Johnston), bullies Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) into attending a slumber party and unintentionally makes everyone confront something traumatic from their past, and mocks new sponsee Rod (Steve Valentine) for not remembering a passionate weekend they spent together during his rock star days.

But the ending of "Mom" shows Bonnie is the glue holding her band of ladies together — and a dauntless crusader. Season 8 sees her get a sleazy strip club owner (Bob Odenkirk) to take down a 20-year-old billboard of Christy, spur her ADHD therapist (Rainn Wilson) into asking out an old crush, and throw out her roast of Marjorie in favor of a heartfelt speech. When Bonnie isn't terrifying Adam (William Fichtner) and the gals with her wrath, she's helping them stay on track and grow. And growth is the name of the game when it comes to "Mom." Without it, Bonnie could never be able to handle her ultimate "Mom" challenge: Facing a pre-recovery version of herself in the series finale.

New faces and rained-on suede

Allison Janney is one of the finest actors of our time. Known for her work on "The West Wing," "I, Tonya," and "10 Things I Hate About You," she won two Emmys for her performance on "Mom." Janney can pull off heart-wrenching moments of vulnerability and slapstick silliness — and on "Mom," both are often required in lightning-quick scenes. It's only appropriate, then, that her finale co-star is another powerhouse performer: Melanie Lynskey.

The "Mom" finale features the "Yellowjackets" star as Shannon. Shannon is brand-new to recovery and mistrustful of Bonnie's shiny, happy AA gang, who are in particularly smiley form at the start of the episode. When Bonnie clocks that Shannon definitely isn't feeling it, she chases after her through the rain, ruining her new suede shoes in the process. This sacrifice isn't typical of the old Bonnie, but we get the sense that it might be what the new-and-improved version is all about. Bonnie ultimately convinces Shannon to get coffee with the gang, insisting, "It's our only drug left, so we abuse it."

These evenly matched actresses set a strong and poetic tone for the end of the series, and create a final showdown between a stand-in mother and daughter. In Episode 1, Bonnie rains chaos down on Christy's life. In Episode 170, Bonnie chases down a lost girl so that she can welcome her in from the rain. Growth, baby — it's the name of the game.

Mirror images and destination weddings

Bonnie sees a lot of herself in Shannon — especially her bad attitude and sense of being marked for failure. While we've seen Bonnie try to play the hero before, this time, she manages to put her ego aside and calmly tell Shannon she can call any time she's tempted to use. Just like the old Bonnie, Shannon is convinced she doesn't need (or deserve) real help, and brushes the offer off. But later, she comes begging for aid– just as Bonnie, stressed by news of Adam's cancer diagnosis, struggles to give it.

Bonnie is rattled, and becomes even more so when Jill reveals she and Andy are getting married right away and want Bonnie to attend. And then Shannon's mom Jolene (Rondi Reed) chases Shannon through a window. When Bonnie can't get hold of Shannon, a pit forms in her stomach. Has Shannon met the same fate as Jodi (Emily Osment)? Chaos reigns — the exact kind that would have driven the old Bonnie to drink.

We've seen old Bonnie relapse before. But this time, she doesn't. Instead, she works hard to support Shannon and Adam. Bonnie ends up pulling some strings to get the brawling Jolene and Shannon contained at Jill and Andy's courthouse wedding — and their first mother-daughter AA meeting. When Bonnie addresses the room with her moving final share, we see an echo of her and Christy in Shannon and Jolene. This makes it clear how far she's come.

Mother figures and the next right action

While the AA meetings of "Mom" see their fair share of guest stars, Marjorie Armstrong-Perugian is on the show From Episode 1. Mimi Kennedy portrays the eccentric hippie with a nuanced mix of tenderness and tenacity. Marjorie is more than her love of cats and velour tracksuits — she's struggled with addiction, feelings of failure, and motherhood. But with Bonnie and the gang by her side, she gets a second chance.

"Mom" celebrates Marjorie's long road to reconnection with her son in the Season 8 episode "A Community Hero and a Wide Turn." Marjorie is nominated for a leadership award, and soon discovers her formerly-estranged son nominated her. They share a touching, full-circle moment, which is made even more satisfying by the fact that Marjorie misses the awards ceremony to provide support to a pregnant Jill.

"Mom" also delivers another poignant moment between Marjorie and sponsee Bonnie in the series finale, "My Kinda People and the Big To-Do." While Bonnie often makes cracks about Marjorie in the same breath as asking her for help, in the finale, she's as straightforward as we've ever seen her. She reaches out in a time of need, and Marjorie delivers. When Marjorie advises Bonnie that all she can do is "the next right action," "Mom" leaves its audience with a powerful final message.

Stick-ups and come-downs

Comedy legend Kristen Johnston plays Tammy Diffendorf, Bonnie Plunkett's friend and business partner. At first blush, you'd never guess Tammy held up a restaurant on "Cops Eat Free" night, back when she was using. The opening credits even feature an article about Tammy that reads, "Local Woman Arrested: Steakhouse Stickup Was Not Well Done." Suffice it to say, she contains multitudes.

Tammy starts her journey on "Mom" searching for a family that won't fracture. Her own father murdered her mother, leaving Tammy to bounce around the foster care system. She spent some formative years with Bonnie and a few years in prison. But by Season 8 of "Mom," she's a far cry from the person she once was. She co-owns and operates PlunkenDorf Construction with Bonnie, has made amends with the steakhouse owner, and even has a sweet and handsome limo driver boyfriend. Tammy's story arc sees her learn how to find hope and joy without substances (or robbing steak joints) and finally find a family worthy of her.

Kristen Johnston is very familiar with the recovery process. She even wrote a memoir about her experience, entitled "Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster." "I love being sober and the recovery community," she told The New York Post, "it has given me such great gifts. And I count this job [on 'Mom'] as one of them, I really do."

Chaotic zen and a pregnant bride

No character provides as much extra (and we mean extra) comic relief on "Mom" as the unspeakably rich Jill Kendall (Jaime Pressly). Jill's vanity and materialism are matched only by her desire to prettify her own pain and her longing to escape her haunted past. Jill blames her perfectionism for her bad luck in love, but in the final season of "Mom," she gets more than she bargained for in that arena — and it turns out to be imperfectly perfect.

Jill finally allows herself genuine joy in the series finale. She's lived a lifetime masking her pain over her mother's death, her trouble conceiving a child, her bittersweet fostering experience, and her divorce. But while she often struggles with going with the flow of life, rather than trying to control every inch of it, the finale of "Mom" sees her accept herself and her life as a joyful mess. She marries Andy (Will Sasso) in a courthouse while visibly pregnant, as two grown women brawl behind her — and she couldn't be happier.

Standing tall and stale cookies

Wendy Harris (Beth Hall) is perhaps the greatest enigma on "Mom," and not all of her mysteries are unraveled by the series finale. Wendy's emotionality and randomness are stronger than any other character's on the show, earning her many puzzled looks from the gang across the AA meeting room. While it isn't always apparent what's on Wendy's mind, her final season story arc sees her get out from under the shadow of her friend group and into her own light.

"Weeping Wendy" has learned to regulate her emotions significantly by the time the series ends. Often the show's most sidelined character, the finale showcases her in full. Wendy has learned how to stand on her own two feet by this point, and help others learn to find the same footing. Instead of working herself to death at the hospital and using substances to push through, Wendy closes the series as a rock-steady leader of the program.

While we're used to seeing Wendy stuck in the corner of a diner booth or in the background of group shots, our final image of her centers a woman who stands tall behind the AA podium. She asks both the room and the audience, "Who else wants to share?" Wendy has arrived at last, and we couldn't be happier for her.

True love and other death-defying acts

Adam Janikowski lived life on the wild side, until he lost the use of his legs. As Bonnie's new husband, he lives life on a different wild side. Adam is the straight man to Bonnie's scheming clown, and a charming, challenging, stabilizing force. For all of Bonnie's lioness qualities, her relationship with Adam spotlights her tender underbelly. 

When Bonnie confronts her fear of abandonment, deep-seated insecurities, and potential for growth, it's often because of Adam's encouragement — or because Bonnie is in the midst of a panic spiral about his safety. William Fichtner's pitch-perfect comic timing and dry-as-a-bone delivery always sets Bonnie to rights. But when Adam and Bonnie learn of his cancer diagnosis in the finale, Adam is suddenly the one in need of a stabilizing force.

Bonnie, however shakily, steps up to support Adam in this climactic moment. She's a rock to her husband at the doctor's office — and a blunt force object against his doctor's poor fish tank cleaning standards. When she insists they'll get through this trial together, the otherwise numb Adam is truly comforted. The old Bonnie wasn't exactly known for being a team player, but the new Bonnie is. And she's going to make sure the team takes whatever the next right action is, over and over again.

Endings and beginnings

The ending of "Mom" mirrors its beginning, and re-ups the show's thesis statement: Recovery is possible, even if relapse is probable. "Mom" proposes that those who desire redemption and rebirth through recovery deserve it, and can earn it if they work for it. They don't have to do this alone, either — "Mom" locates recovery within supportive and loving communities. It's quite the mission statement for any show, let alone a prime-time network comedy filmed in front of a studio audience.

Bonnie delivers a powerful share in the series finale, addressing her friends and the group's dysfunctional new mother-daughter duo. She admits that despite all of the reasons she could have a drink, she doesn't. Why? "I kind of like myself," she offers as an explanation. "I kind of love myself." It's a moving distillation of growth and self-acceptance, and we see it ripple across the show's beloved ensemble. Even if she still feels shame and fear, Bonnie also feels so much more. She has her friends, her husband, her program, her life, herself. Though the final episode leaves many unanswered questions, we know Bonnie's going to be okay no matter what comes next, as long as she keeps working for it — with a little (or a lot) of help from her friends.