“Schitt’s Creek,” the beloved Canadian sitcom, which wrapped up, on Tuesday, after six seasons of blissful distraction, was always a show about utopia. Its titular setting is a rundown town where the Roses, a rich, eccentric family of four, decamp after financial calamity. They’ve lost all their assets except the deed to Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny Rose, their patriarch, bought for pocket change years before, as a joke. Though it takes the family three years to see it, their new home is nothing short of a haven. Bigotry doesn’t seem to exist there. When, in the most recent season, protesters throng the town hall to express their disappointment with Johnny’s wife, Moira—a washed-up soap-opera actress who has unwittingly belittled the locals in an interview with People—they carry signs that read “That wasn’t very nice.”

In the five years since “Schitt’s Creek” premièred, the series has spoiled fans with a surfeit of exquisite character work. Eugene Levy portrayed Johnny with an owlish deadpan, and Catherine O’Hara, his frequent collaborator on the Canadian sketch circuit, granted Moira a loopy flair, an unplaceable accent, and a gonzo lexicon. Playing Alexis, their socialite daughter, and David, their flamboyant son, Annie Murphy and Dan Levy, who co-created the show with his father, perfected a sibling bond built on caustic histrionics. But beneath the bickering was always a sense of tenderness that, over the seasons, first sustained “Schitt’s Creek” and then stifled it. As the clueless, narcissistic Roses found new purpose in their drab environs, the show lost an essential tension and began to feel somewhat like fan fiction, curing its protagonists of the petty miseries that animated them at the start.

One character who never seemed to get a break was Twyla Sands, the plucky, unfussy waitress at the town’s seemingly lone restaurant, Café Tropical. Twyla, who is played by Dan Levy’s sister, Sarah, occupied a maligned side role, pouring black coffee, scraping freezer burn from mozzarella sticks, and catering to the whims of the Roses and other locals. Unlike Stevie, the acerbic clerk of the town’s motel, where the Roses relocate, Twyla is an unparalleled listener, offering sage if strange advice over the buzz of her blender. She infers the Roses’ orders and withstands their tantrums, hardly flinching when Alexis summons her by throwing a muffin or Moira tries to order miso black cod.

Twyla’s role didn’t demand the hammy virtuosity that powered the series past cutesiness; sometimes the character felt like a throwaway. And yet, beneath her chipper exterior, Twyla was the darkest resident of Schitt’s Creek. Her best lines were odd non sequiturs that revealed disturbing flashes of family history. Her father, we learn, is a convict. Her mother, who cycled through more than a few abusive lovers, confuses Twyla with her cousin. A deaf relative, who relies on sign language to communicate, traded several of his fingers to pay off a mysterious debt. Most of these disclosures were zany enough to elicit a laugh, or else disclosed, in passing, in the midst of other action. But together they made Twyla a kind of Kimmy Schmidt character, someone who relished the everyday because of what she had survived to reach it. “My uncle had a parrot that kept asking me to take my bra off,” she blurts out, in the most recent season, when Moira shows their a-capella troupe the trailer to her upcoming film, an apocalyptic thriller about killer crows.

Twyla was never quite a pariah—she’s too happy and unflappable—but the Roses and the rest of the locals often bonded, obliquely, at her expense, and more than a few episodes revolved around their efforts to improve her. In one episode, Alexis takes Twyla out for a night on the town, and her mother does the makeovers. Twyla lights up at Moira’s compliments—“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me”—not realizing that they are addressed to Alexis. In another episode, Moira deigns to promote Twyla’s annual murder-mystery party, which even Jocelyn, the mayor’s obliging wife, tries to skip. If the central struggle of “Schitt’s Creek” was, for the Roses, the indignity of being made mundane, Twyla was the model of finding pride in mundanity and all of the problems it entailed.

One of the show’s more satisfying surprises was the friendship that developed, over the seasons, between Alexis and Twyla. The two were always perfect foils, the spoiled socialite and her patient confidante. But they were united, in a subtler sense, by a shared history of maternal neglect. Twyla’s stories of her own mother evoked a working-class version of Moira, an addled woman preoccupied by personal drama. Twyla was a kind of counterfactual to Alexis, offering a vision of how the latter might have turned out with a little more grit and a lot less money. Sarah Levy was, in this way, a clever casting choice; though she lacks the bushy eyebrows of the men in her family, she always looked enough like a Rose to suggest a kinship with them. In a documentary that aired after the finale, Levy recalls that an early version of the pilot presented a more benighted Twyla—nerdy and downtrodden, in a constraining cardigan and chunky glasses. “There was a sadness to her,” she says. But one of the reasons Twyla doesn’t recede is that she retains a sense of confidence despite everything. Sarcasm pings off her earnest surface.

“Schitt’s Creek,” in its later seasons, always verged on schmaltz, and it ended up settling the fate of each of the Roses a little too neatly. Johnny, who plans to expand the local motel into a franchise, and Moira, who has been cast in a reboot of her fame-making soap opera, take off for California. Alexis parts ways with Ted, her veterinarian boyfriend, and prepares to head to New York. And David, whose wedding to Patrick, his business partner turned soulmate, is the perfect culmination, decides that he will stay put to run his business and settle into the newlywed life. For Twyla, the indignities don’t quite subside. She stumbles into an invitation to David’s wedding only by accident. Later, in the penultimate episode, Alexis shows up to the Café Tropical with a black trash bag filled with old clothes, hoping to pass off some hand-me-downs before moving to New York. Twyla insists on paying for the clothes, over Alexis’s objections, and in the process makes a casual disclosure: right around the time the Roses arrived, she lucked into a lottery jackpot of forty-six million dollars.

It turns out that the Roses were not the only residents of Schitt’s Creek to weather a sudden reversal in fortune at the start of the series. Reflecting on the show’s run in a recent interview, Dan Levy attributed Twyla’s spirit to the secret lottery win; the show’s writers, he said, had to find a reason for her “hopefulness and optimism.” The beauty of Twyla’s windfall, though, is that it hardly altered her life. “If I’ve learned anything from how my mom spent the money I gave her,” Twyla says when Alexis asks why she hasn’t left her job or the town, “it’s that money can buy a lot of snowmobiles, but it can’t buy happiness.” When, in the end, Twyla comes to wish Alexis farewell, she reveals that she has taken her friend’s advice to buy herself something nice—not a spa day or a cute little anklet, as Alexis suggests, but the Café Tropical.

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