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'Ugly Betty': Pass the tissues

May 20, 2007 |  7:55 pm


I guess I should have known that I'd need a box of them for an episode called "East Side Story."

Happiness is always short-lived on primetime soaps, but Thursday's finale of "Ugly Betty" kept the wallops coming one after another.

Henry has been trapped in the clutches of his evil ex after Betty confessed her love. Alexis and Daniel get into a car wreck after finally mending their relationship. And, most tragically, Santos was killed before he and Hilda could say "I do."

The show's final moments, ending with Betty telling Hilda the news to the sound of Hilda's Justin singing "Somewhere" from "West Side Story," was especially poignant.

Unlike deaths on other series that are meant to shock -- Sorry, Milo, "24" can chug along without you -- when tragedy hits the characters on "Betty," it hurts. Underneath colorful, larger-than-life trappings, each struggles to be better than they are, making their despair all the more heartbreaking.

On this series, even a villain like Wilhelmina dons a softer side. After she sacrifices her assistant Marc to secure a wedding venue, her riotous trip down memory lane -- a highlight reel of their plotting and misdeeds -- forces her to get him back as quickly as she had given him up because their bond, cartoonishly twisted though it is, is grounded in real friendship.

Alexis and Daniel are power-hungry rivals on the outside but also starved for connection. Of course, when Alexis calls a ceasefire to help her drug-addled brother, they get into an accident. Hilda is a loud, big-haired Queens girl, but also a single mom who'd finally reconciled with the father of her son -- making Santos' death all the more tragic.

And still, the episode never dropped the ball when it comes to delivering the laughs. "Inhale Ricky Martin. Exhale Colin Farrell," chirped Marc.

Is there nothing that "Ugly Betty" can't do?

To nit pick, there might have been one too many intrigues packed into the cliffhanger. Amanda is Fay's kid, but is she also Bradford's? Is Charlie really carrying Henry's child, or the dentist's? Will Claire get her chance to pummel Wilhelmina for real this time?

Nah, the more the merrier. Now if they could just get the premiere moved up from fall to June, that would be perfection.

(Photo courtesy ABC)