‘The Rehearsal’ Finale: Nathan Fielder Faces the Consequences of His Fantasies

·4 min read

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the series finale of “The Rehearsal,” titled “Pretend Daddy.”

“I started to feel like I was solving a puzzle of my own design,” Nathan Fielder says in the Season 1 finale of “The Rehearsal.” He’s dropping off his fake son at a Jewish school. Driving right behind him is the kid’s real mom, who immediately picks him up to take him to his real school.

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Nathan wants to feel like he’s dropping his kid off at Jewish school so that he feels like a “good Jew,” an insecurity stemming from an issue with his former co-parent, Angela, for whom the entire simulation was originally built. But Nathan is now the subject of his own rehearsal, raising Adam — played by dozens of child actors of varying ages — all alone. At the beginning of the series, he was Willy Wonka. Now, he’s Charlie Bucket.

The school drop-off is the type of gag we’ve seen throughout the HBO series, i.e. Nathan covering his fake home with fake snow to simulate winter, or hiring a fake mailman to pick up Angela’s fake mail. Nathan repeatedly combats convoluted, seemingly minor problems with inconvenient and absurd solutions for the sake of comedy. But in this episode, he discovers the heartbreaking consequences of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy when one of the child actors, 6-year-old Remy, is unable to detach Nathan from Daddy.

On his last day on set, Remy refuses to change out of his “Adam wardrobe,” crying about not wanting to leave the rehearsal. After trying to console the young kid, Nathan has a conversation with his mom, who tells him, “He sees other kids with dads… and he’s definitely wondering, ‘Where’s mine?'”

Later on, Nathan visits Remy at his real home to hang out, and to try to delicately explain that they’re just friends, and he’s just a “pretend Daddy.”

“I don’t want you to be Nathan,” Remy says, and it dawns on Nathan that the young boy might not understand the subtleties of acting.

When Nathan returns to his fake home with his fake son (now played by a 9-year-old Liam), he finds it difficult to emotionally commit to the simulation. For the first time in the entire series, he breaks character.

“You know I’m not your real dad, right? We’re just acting, you know that, right?” Nathan asks Liam. “Do you have a dad?”

“Yes,” Liam says, to which Nathan responds: “Do you feel like I’m believable as a dad?”

Then Liam, in what is somehow the most heart-wrenching line in the series, says: “I mean, you’re a great scene partner.”

In this brief moment of poignance, it seems like Nathan might finally come up for air, realizing the harm his experiment has caused on its subjects — and, perhaps, himself. But instead, he plunges deeper into the illusion, turning Liam into Remy into Adam in order to rehearse his own rehearsal.

“Maybe the best use of my resources at this point would be to figure out what I could have done differently,” Nathan says in voiceover as he analyzes footage of his scenes with Remy like a quarterback might study film. He revisits his hard conversation with Remy, but with actors. This time, he’s rehearsing.

Then, Nathan goes full Fielder Method, transforming himself into Remy’s mom in an effort to fully understand the other side of “The Rehearsal.” Instead of participating in the simulation directly, Nathan’s in the control room, with Fake Nathan from Episode 4 (Alexander Leiss) filling in for him inside the house. It’s a never-ending Russian doll of theater, as Nathan once again simulates his talk with Remy — this time, as his mother.

In an unsettling final scene, Nathan (playing Remy’s mom) explains to Liam (playing Remy) that Leiss (playing Nathan) is not his father, but rather a “pretend Daddy.” It’s an exact replica of an earlier scene.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have done that show. That’s a weird thing for a little kid to be a part of. But you know what? Mommy’s not perfect. She makes mistakes too,” Nathan says to Liam, who is dialing back fake tears.

“It’s okay if you get confused. It’s okay if you get sad. Because no matter what you experience, we have each other,” Nathan continues. “And I’m always gonna be here for you, because I’m your dad.”

“Wait, I thought you were my mom,” Liam says in a whisper, breaking character to remind Nathan of his role.

“No,” Nathan responds, almost villainously. “I’m your dad.”

And after a moment, Liam, playing Remy, smiles and goes to hug Nathan, lost in the puzzle of his own design.

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