Judging HBO's Entourage finale: Sentimentality, a movie setup and lots of spoilers ahead
Does it make sense to end eight seasons of male fantasies about wealthy, famously single lifelong guy pals in Hollywood with a quickie wedding and two dudes flying off into the sunset to be with their soulmates?
How you answer that question likely determines how you might feel about Sunday's series finale of HBO's Entourage, an episode which felt like equal parts quickie wrap up and overly deliberate setup for a planned theatrical movie. (FAIR WARNING: lots of spoilers ahead)
In Sunday's episode, viewers saw star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) decide on a whim to marry a woman he'd met 24-hours earlier, saying she was his soul mate (insanely wealthy movie star weds a woman he barely knows; this can't end badly). Chase's entourage, the protective, New York-bred crew from whom the series gets its name, reacts in a most uncharacteristic fashion -- accepting this nonsense like their pal had said he was going spend a summer in St. Barts with her, instead.
Meanwhile, killer agent extraordinaire Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) quits the agency he owns -- leaving it in the hands of his former personal assistant? -- to repair his marriage with the admittedly awesomely attractive Mrs. Ari (at left). And Vince's best buddy Eric finally re-hooks up with his baby mama Sloan, courtesy of a private jet, fueled and ready to go anywhere in the world, supplied by move star pal Vince.
For regular fans of the high-living, hard partying dudes based on Mark Wahlberg's real-life entourage, last night's finale must have left them feeling like the diehard viewers who gathered for the end of Sex and the City on TV, only to see single girl extraordinaire Carrie Bradshaw melt when Mr. Big finally asks her to marry him. In one move, executive producer Michael Patrick King undercut everything Carrie struggled through in the life of the series, turning her into just another single girl finding ultimate validation in marriage to a wealthy man.
On Entourage, that same, head-snapping turn of events found the three strongest characters walking away from their showbiz careers and manly bonds of friendship to get married, have a baby and renew their vows. Indeed, some fans could be forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled on a lost episode of Sex and the City; the one where the ending is so unexpected because it involves characters acting in a way they would never normally react.
For this casual fan, the finale didn't feel that odd. As somebody who checks in for a few episodes at the start of every season, most plot twists in Entourage feel like they come from nowhere -- look! Johnny Drama's on a cartoon with Andrew "Dice" Clay! -- so the finale felt a little less rushed and pulled from a producer's hind parts.
But I can see how longtime fans might feel cheated by a too-pat ending which left major characters acting in uncharacteristic ways. And the odd coda after the end credits -- in which Ari gets offered the job of a lifetime while romancing his wife back from the edge of divorce -- was little more than a knowing wink to savvy fans letting them know the long-rumored Entourage movie was happening (creator Doug Ellin pretty much confirmed it to me before this last season started).
Wrapping a longtime series is never easy. Setting up a movie is even tougher. But Entourage's finale seemed to sacrifice a consistent finale for getting characters into position for a movie -- which looks like it will be epic, at least.