Abbott Elementary “Franklin Institute” Review: Sleepovers and Confessions

Gregory, Janine, and Ava talking in Abbott Elementary 2x22 "Franklin Institute"
 (ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Abbott Elementary “Franklin Institute” Spoilers Ahead

Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 22, “Franklin Institute,” ensures that the show’s sophomore season ends with a soft, brilliant bang. It’s the perfect lightning-in-a-bottle finale that’ll leave fans thinking, wishing, and hoping for its fall return with the kind of heightened emotions that honor characters and the overall trajectory of the narrative.

When we first step into the school, like Janine and Gregory, we’re outsiders in the conversations. It takes time to get to know people and find a place to belong. In Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institute,” the organic growth we see is a culmination of the experiences we’ve walked through with these characters for two seasons now. It fits, in more ways than one, to showcase the progress they both consistently make in standing their ground and finding a home away from home, as well as how the other teachers continue strengthening themselves. This show is about a found family, first and foremost. While workplace sitcoms don’t always feature such strong bonds, much of it comes naturally to Abbott Elementary as a series that beautifully tackles the idea of belonging. 

Janine and Gregory in Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institute” 

Janine and Gregory confessing their feelings in Abbott Elementary's Season 2 finale
 (ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Everything we get between Gregory and Janine in Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institute” is nearly perfect. In establishing their slow-burn slash friends-to-lovers, having the two of them confess their feelings for one another but go in opposite directions of the romance is necessary to show the high stakes. When utilizing any of the romance tropes, it’s always a considerable risk, but it’s especially terrifying when it could potentially equate to losing a friend if something goes wrong. 

Gregory and Janine are both incredibly special to each other. That much has been clear since day one, as Gregory notes, he’s been drawn to her since then. There’s always been a lingering magnetism between them that’s relied heavily on trust and building a foundation where they could be their best selves without any expectations. It’s why their friendship is so compelling as a lodestone to any type of romantic relationship. In our review of “Teacher Conference,” we had said: “Gregory and Janine orbit around one another as whatever’s necessary for the other to grow while allowing themselves to be better by their own agency. They evolve, they grow, and because they’re both so multifaceted, all their colors blend intricately together to create the kind of bouquet we can marvel at from all sorts of angles.”

Gregory smiles at Janine in Abbott Elementary's "Franklin Institute"
 (ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

The desperation that Tyler James Williams plays Gregory with during these scenes before he chooses to confess it all, coupled with Quinta Brunson’s apprehension about the pull between them because of what Mo said to her earlier, are nothing short of exhilarating. The tension created throughout the episode until the moment they finally talk is something the best romance novels excel at, and for the series to do it in its Season 2 finale is just sensational. It’s through their conversation and the deep care for one another that they bring to the surface that we can tell how scary this is for both of them. It’s a risk. If something goes wrong, they could lose one of the closest people in their lives and a partner in more ways than one.

Because with or without a label, Gregory and Janine are partners. They like being next door to each other, they rely on each other, and when they’re paired together on field trips, they adore it. Their instincts consistently pull toward the other person because there’s a comfort together where they don’t have to try, even when they think they do. And when Gregory tells her that he watches everything she recommends, it’s proof of his adoration right at that moment because he wants to get to know Janine for who she is. Opposite the relationships they’ve both had, they’re as selfish together as they are selfless, allowing their best to come forward because they have the freedom to be their strongest, best selves. And funnily, Janine, not realizing that she can be selfish and selfless with Gregory, is what’s so beautifully human. We can see it from the outside, but it makes sense why they’re terrified to jump into something more despite their strong feelings.

And perhaps the best part of their romance in Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institution” is the detail that the natural progression reiterates why it’s so important to be friends with someone before going into something more. A partner should be your closest confidant — the best person you know, the home, the light, the escape, the supernova, everything all at once. Gregory and Janine are inexplicably all of the above for each other, relying heavily on how much they trust and value one another without expectations. They’ll make it to the very end when they get together in the future because the trust they continue to fortify relies on making each other laugh and holding one another through every challenge. They’re in each other’s corner through thick and thin, doing whatever they can to ensure the other person knows they have a perpetual safe space with them. And to have this conversation in a fabricated array of cosmos inside of a museum to show the avalanches of stardusts they evoke in one another is symbolically just breathtaking. 

Where Summer Will Lead

Abbott Elementary teachers learn about Barbara's sleep apnea in Season 2 finale
 (ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

There’s plenty that Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institute” does when it’s not destroying us with the Janine and Gregory feels. It astoundingly touches base on the fact that we don’t yet know Mr. Johnson’s first name, but neither does anyone else. It reiterates the importance of a found family by disclosing that even when there are secrets they’re each keeping from one another, they’ll still be met with open arms when they do reveal them eventually.

It’s hard to say where summer will lead these characters, but seeing the second season end with Gregory, Janine, and Jacob all hanging out while Barb and Melissa leave together makes for the type of ending that’s so right for a show like this. It’s wholesome and hopeful as it nudges us to remember that Abbott continues to be a safe space for growth and changes that benefit the characters. Part of the reason Season 2 succeeds so brilliantly is that all 22 episodes are full of essential matters that serve the characters. It’s easy to get lost with a filler or two when there are this many episodes, and they still work fine because of the comedic beats, but Abbott Elementary fills every space with meticulous care and attention. There is no filler or a sophomore slump; instead, we’re blessed with nuanced and thoughtfully human storytelling. 

We’re surely going to be entering some riveting grounds next year as the series returns for Season 3, and everything that we get in Abbott Elementary’s “Franklin Institute” shows that this series understands how to be a museum of knowledge without ever feeling like it’s boxing the information in or pushing it down our throats. It allows us to move through its corridors organically and discover places to linger for beats longer than others while we try to figure out what’s vital for us to take away. 

Further Thoughts

  • Ava believing that aliens are 100% here is absolutely valid and I’m with her on it.
  • Okay but why wasn’t I allowed to have a sleepover at a museum when I was a kid? Why did we never do cool things like that?
  • Gregory and Janine in this episode are actually Taylor Swift’s “Labyrinth.” I know I said that about “Teacher Conference,” but I’m reiterating it here too.
  • I love it when characters are self aware and that’s exactly why this episode wins.
  • Melissa calling people “hon” is my favorite thing. She’s the only one allowed.
  • I JUST CANNOT WITH GREGORY & JANINE. Y’all should be glad you didn’t get a novel. I almost wrote one.
  • BRO HUG. BRO HUG. BRO HUG. Look at how far my bros have come. I’m — (the crying emoji)

Now streaming on Hulu or ABCWhat are your thoughts on Abbott Elementary‘s “Franklin Institute?” Let us know in the comments below.


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