‘Will & Grace’ Revival Closes Season 9 With Room to Grow
The rejuvenation of “Will & Grace” shed its chemical peel scars by the end of season 9, and is ready to move into a glittering future. Life is precious, and much too short to end up like Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing). The roommates-best friends-business partner couple are a nation of two and their legacy will be each other. This isn’t only because their sexual chemistry set is missing a few beakers, but even their best friends and closest family have moved on at their example.
After an 11-year break from its initial run as the primetime’s best gay friend, “Will & Grace” bounced back onto TV with a sense of forced exuberance. “Modern Family” took up the torch, took home the awards, and gentrified diversity, while “Will and Grace” came back wrapped in a cellophane time capsule. But both shows come down to mommy and daddy issues, and veteran TV actors Robert Klein and Blythe Danner, as Grace’s father and Will’s mother, bring enough parental comic gravitas for a lifetime of modern family counseling.
The closing episode opens at the first birthday Grace’s mom would be celebrating if she were still alive. The family wants to sell the house and move on, but Grace still sees a memory on every kitchen floor tile. This is subtle foreshadowing to the existential crisis she and Will will resolve to resolve at the end of the show, passive aggressively prodded by the rolling eyes of each of their parents. The audience knows early that there will be a family affair, but are surprised at how transformative it turns out to be.
Karen (Megan Mullally) is in the midst of her own major life choice, whether to stay with Stan, the wealthy, older husband who just won’t die, or the man’s she’s been sleeping with every year on the same night, played by Alec Baldwin. Everyone has sex in the titular characters’ apartment but Will and Grace, at least satisfying sex. But the hottest scene of the entire season mimes the act. Alec Baldwin has said repeatedly in interviews that he’s got an artistic crush on Megan Mullally, and the closing episode of the season fills every fantasia the actor’s ever had on the subject. Mullally even gets to mimic Madeline KIahn’s legendary orgasmic crescendo from the Mel Brooks classic “Young Frankenstein” as a happy ending. The two actors clearly enjoy the work, but not quite as much as the vessel for their less than carnal union. This is the most fun Smitty has had since he lost his legs to a streetcar and his ass to tetanus.
Jack (Sean Hayes) has grown the most over the season. The evergreen performance junkie, always on and ready for more, has had enough, and wants to settle down. Hollow hookups are hilarious filler, but the least threatening Batman villain is looking for something solid. With the true subversive flare of the show, Jack decides to settle down with a rebound fling he met a mere hours before.
“Will and Grace” flirted with light political humor throughout the season, usually with a wink at Mike Pence. The first season of the revival tries to recapture what gave the series its sharpest edges. The series was never predictable or static. They were constantly doing things to make the audience gasp, and not just pill-popping, right-leaning Karen. This is the show where every character got to fondle Grace’s breasts, without any sexual tension at all. Of course, Jack’s new boyfriend in the last episode of the reboot season doesn’t even believe Grace is a woman, so this is hardly shocking. The putdown can even be interpreted as a backhanded compliment. A woman has no appeal to a gay man, but a man does. Hence, he is saying she’s fairly attractive for a completely unattractive person who doesn’t even appeal to his sense of ironic fashion.
“Will and Grace” grew as the season progressed. They even put on a period piece for Christmas. And it was never as hard to watch as Grace eating a lobster. The season is redeemed, mainly, by the set scenes. It saw Grace fall into the lap of her ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) in the most casual way. Debra Messing is a master of physical comedy, but watching Alec Baldwin blend in with the curtains worked even before Karen so convincingly sold the scene. The show is nothing if not generous with their guests’ gags.
Winding to the season finale, Will and Grace come to the conclusion that they haven’t changed, haven’t grown, and everyone they know, individually and as a group, steers against them as an example of a path to be avoided. With all the crazy promises of new love around filling their therapeutic needs, “Will and Grace” opens the door to the title characters moving forward.
The season 9 finale of “Will & Grace” aired April 5 on NBC.