All of these run-ins with the sane and insane alike feel part and parcel of “Curb”’s refreshingly cynical take on the world, one where the everyday codes of American social life bump headlong into one man’s craven desire for what he wants, damn the consequences. Larry’s always torn between what he’s supposed to do and what he wants to do, and his innate lack of filter always lands him in the most delicious trouble. In this final season, it really feels like the walls are closing in on Larry, where a lifetime of chickens are coming home to roost. “I have bad energy,” he admits to Copley during a corporate-office truth and reconciliation commission about Larry’s appearance fee at his party; it’s an admission of truth, and an acknowledgement that it’s too late for him to change.
The show’s brief nods to serialization thankfully don’t dull the series’ pitch-perfect comic edges, though admittedly the more “cinematic” approach the show has taken over the last few years—HD cameras, more slickly-edited and shot sequences—has softened the show’s improv-heavy spontaneity a bit. You don’t feel as much of a fly on the wall while Larry et al. riff their way through hastily sketched scenes; it’s still there, just a bit less immediate.
There are moments where David’s subversive humor shows its age, too, from hacky jokes about kids these days identifying as cats to pitting Larry against a series of Asian characters with thick accents speaking pidgin English (that he’s all too eager to emulate).
But these complaints, like many of Larry’s, are minor. Even up to the end, David, Schaffer, and the colorful characters who’ve spent decades in Larry’s orbit (let’s not forget Susie Essman, Richard Lewis, and Ted Danson, who all kill this season too) find new ways to drive each other crazy.
“You’re a walking f*cking virus,” one character tells Larry late in the season. But unlike COVID-19 (which Larry spends the whole of the series trying to dodge), we’ll miss Larry David’s infectious brand of humor once Luciano Michelini’s “Frolic” plays for the very last time.
Nine episodes screened for review. The final season premieres on HBO February 4.