Why “The Puerto Rican Day” Is the Series Finale Seinfeld Deserved

That’s gotta hurt!

George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry in Jerry's car with a Seinfeld logo on the screen in "The Puerto Rican Day"

“I have got to unwind.”

So says Elaine Benes in the penultimate episode of the iconic sitcom Seinfeld.

“The Puerto Rican Day” is one of the most polarizing episodes of Seinfeld and one that caused some real-life controversy due to the character of Kramer burning a Puerto Rican flag (accidentally).

Overall viewed as one of the weaker episodes, by fans and critics alike. I have realized over my 26 years as a Seinfeld fan, that “The Puerto Rican Day” is a better series finale than what we did get, and the episode the series should have ended itself on.

Let me explain. Seinfeld started out as a mostly real-life show, which earned itself the moniker “A Show About Nothing.” Every week we peered into the lives of George, Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and their friends and family, seeing funny things like dealing with an ugly baby a friend had, peeing in the shower, dealing with breakups and friendships, and all the drama that came along with it.

However, at the end of Season 7, the show reinvented itself. It was always fanciful, but in Seasons 8 and 9, it dived into the absurd and physical comedy. While some said this jumped the shark, it gave the show new life by allowing its characters to engage in the “nothingness” of before with some added color.

Seinfeld was also famous for its characters being selfish, narcissistic, and borderline sociopathic at times. The series went out of its way to showcase these people as terrible, and fans have sometimes made cases that series villain Newman was actually right in many of his criticisms of the foursome.

This all culminated in the series finale which saw George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine put on trial for, in effect, being selfish people. We then see a parade of characters from the show’s history coming to testify as to how bad they are, with the lynchpin being Babu, a man who Jerry inadvertently had deported, saying on the stand, “He is a very bad man.”

In the end, the four are sentenced to a year in prison, and the show ends. As one could expect, the ending was not well received, and has gone down in history as one of the most disappointing finales of all time.

I remember seeing it as a kid, and not liking it. Back then I was young and could not put my finger on why, but as the years have gone by and I have rewatched the show over and over again, I have finally figured out why the ending rubs me the wrong way, Seinfeld was always a show about nothing, but in the finale, it tried to become about something.

Elaine in the backseat of a taxi in "The Puerto Rican Day"

For nine seasons, we watched these four terrible people get away with everything, ruin their own lives and the lives of everyone around them, and not be bothered by it. Then at the 11th hour, the show did an about-turn, trying to tell us this was bad, and then making the characters pay for their actions. The finale was the antithesis of everything Seinfeld was.

This is why I believe the “The Puerto Rican Day” is the finale the show deserved and one that fits so well with what came before. Seinfeld rarely had serialized stories. It was content to mostly stand-alone episodes and “The Puerto Rican Day” is no exception. In short, the episode follows our foursome as they return from a ballgame and find themselves stuck in traffic for the event the episode is named after (The Puerto Rican Day Parade), Jerry gets into a road rage incident, George seeks a laugh at a theater, Kramer goes to find a bathroom and inadvertently commits a hate crime, and Elaine just wants to go home and tries to find a way through the crowds.

Kramer stands in front of a van holding a cigar

While on the surface this episode is just another Seinfeld episode, it has many themes that tie together the series and give our characters the send-off they deserve.

Elaine tells the group that she has been trying to leave it for years and heads off on her own way, but no matter what she does—crawl under a bleacher, or get in a cab—she always ends up right back where she was. This illustrates the arrested development the four of them have been going through for nine years, never moving forward and always ending right back where they were. Even 10 years later they are unable to move forward, stuck in limbo.

Kramers’s selfish desire to appropriate the holiday leads him to burn a Puerto Rican flag by accident, which leads to an angry mob destroying Jerry’s car, and George, rather than helping his friends, goes to a theater to try out a joke, gets upstaged and then makes a scene. Meanwhile, Jerry and Kramer trick a real estate agent into allowing them to watch TV in an apartment for sale by posing as rich businessmen.

As the episode ends, we see the four of them all reunited by the remains of Jerry’s car, and they walk off into the literal sunset, with Jerry saying, “remember where we parked”—a callback to an episode early in the show.

“The Puerto Rican Day” is the perfect ending for Seinfeld for a few reasons. It showcases the arrested development of the gang. It’s been almost ten years yet none of them have learned anything or become better people. Elaine, for example, when someone mocks her college education, goes off on how she is the real victim for going to her safety school, Tufts, despite it being a very high-brow and elite university. Later she mocks a priest, calling him “Father O’Gimpy” because he can’t keep up with her. Jerry also abandons George when he is frozen by a laser light in his eye, to go get a soda. Throughout the episode, selfishness is on display.

“The Puerto Rican Day” has various nods to endings as well. It is set at the end of a week, and we have multiple references to how tired everyone is, and how they want to close the book on what has come before. We get the sense of an ending. We have watched them throughout the episode causing mayhem and in the end, no matter what direction they went in, they always ended up back with each other. They have no remorse as they walk off into the night. We the viewers, and indeed all four of them, realize that they will be together forever.

George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry walk off into the night in Seinfeld, "The Puerto Rican Day"

“The Puerto Rican Day” reinforces Seinfeld‘s original premise of being about nothing, and we get to watch as they continue to be selfish people. We get the comfort and knowledge that they will never change, and, while we may not see all the adventures anymore, George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine will continue together forever, never learning anything and never moving forward, just as Seinfeld always intended.

Written by Byron Lafayette

Journalist, film critic, and author, with a (possibly unhealthy) obsession with Pirates of the Caribbean, Zack Snyder and movies in general, Byron has written for many publications over the years, yet never shows his face. To partially quote (and mangle) Batman V Superman "If you seek his face look around you"

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