Every Sunday since the season eight premiere I vowed that I would never hate watch Entourage again. And yet every Sunday I found myself needing something mindless and soothing after sitting through another harrowing episode of Breaking Bad, and I would be inexplicably attracted to the shiny vapidity of Vinnie Chase and his merry band of dum dums. I wondered how they would handle the series finale, which ran with little fanfare last night (Why did HBO decide to air it on 9/11? Could there be a more empty television show ending on a more contemplative day? Discuss.) Would they try to insert some higher stakes into a show that is famous for having no stakes at all? Would they leave the series on a cliff hanger? Would they try to wrap everything in a neat bow, preferably purchased at Fred Segal? [Caution: Spoilers ahead, for those who think Entourage could be spoiled].
Though last night's episode was terrible, it was the most satisfying finale to a long-running series that I've ever seen. It was satisfying because it continued and fully indulged the bro fantasy that has always been the mushy center of the show. As Slate's Forrest Wickman pointed out to me, the last episode of Seinfeld was infuriating because so much action happened after several years of nothing happening. That felt like a betrayal of the sitcom's belief system. Entourage had all of its characters continue to live the dream of babes, perpetual brotherhood, and, as Liz Phair would say, shitloads of money.
Vinnie, who has just made $15 million off a tequila deal, proposes to a Vanity Fair reporter he's been dating for less than 72 hours with a $1.4 million ring purchased nonchalantly. They're planning to jet off to a Paris wedding and a happy marriage that will last at least 12-16 months. Sloane decides to forgive E for his transgressions with her stepmother (which he and his friends lie to her about, bros before hos, after all) and they too, fly off into the thrilling future. Turtle and Drama tag along like the happy little doggies they are. Ari quits his job and reconciles with his wife. After the final credits roll, there's one last scene where Ari, who is vacationing on the pristine coast of Italy, is offered a job running a major conglomerate, which leaves the door open for an Entourage movie (perish the thought).
Everyone's life is happy and carefree--same as it ever was. I never actually liked this show, though I will concede that I'm not the target audience. However it struck me that the show seems even more like escapist candy than it did just a few years ago. When the show premiered in 2004, the country was riding high, and for some people the Entourage lifestyle was aspirational. It was probably outside the realm of possibility for the average bro, but maybe, just maybe, you too could live in an enormous tacky mansion and have sex with models and porn stars. By 2011 those dreams are dashed, and Entourage stopped trying to even toy with realism or emotional depth. The finale recognized this--to its own benefit.