There was a moment recently in this final, eighth-season lap of HBO’s “Entourage” that in the subtlest way signaled the true end of the show: Under the harsh fluorescent lights of a clinic to which he’d been summoned by his parole officer for a drug test, the movie star Vincent Chase (played by 35-year-old Adrian Grenier) started to look a little too old for the part.
But too old for which part? The part of Vince Chase or the part of Adrian Grenier? Vince/Adrian is the sun ’round which all “Entourage’s” planets and characters and ultimately timid story lines orbit. As always with “Entourage,” which will air its final episode Sunday night, it’s hard to separate its perpetually adolescent characters from the personalities of its actors. This was the show’s hallmark as well as one of its stubborn flaws.
A short list of its other flaws would for some include its constant fallback on misogyny and homophobia as cute and acceptable forms of interplay between grown men. Others didn’t mind that so much, as they were turned off by the show’s glorification of an expensive, empty lifestyle that very few young men can sustain and yet an entire generation of millennials still reach for — a sense of entitlement to luxe living atop hotels and behind velvet ropes. As such, you can now walk into the bar of a boutique hotel in the middle of Ohio or Croatia and catch a whiff of an “Entourage” vibe.
All of that would have been fine with me if “Entourage” dabbled more in suffering, if its characters experienced karmic justice or inner reckoning — neither of which appear to be in store in Sunday’s conclusion. That kind of thing came only in dribs and drabs and really never truly came, because the creators of “Entourage” simply loved these men too much to harm them. That feeling resonated with the show’s fans, too.
For its entire life span as a series, “Entourage” clung to the bromantic ideal. Nothing disastrous ever happened to Vince and his guys, not really, so long as they kept to their core values as one another’s bros. Every small defeat (a lost movie deal; a broken heart; a stint in rehab) was mended by a surplus of luck and charm (and especially money). Immortality was theirs — even this end is not truly The End: At a news conference with TV critics this summer in Los Angeles, the cast assembled with series creator Doug Ellin and series producer and muse, Mark Wahlberg, and they all seemed jazzed to reunite soon for an “Entourage” movie, like their “Sex and the City” sister/analogues before them.
As such, “Entourage,” which still considers itself partially a comedy, is duty-bound never to be too much of a downer, which is why the guys’ emotional valleys were never too terribly shadowed. Instead of being an escape or even a cautionary tale, “Entourage” too often came across as a field guide, a how-to for vainglorious 21st-century men.
So I keep looking at their faces. Not only Grenier’s, but also that of Kevin Connolly as Eric “E” Murphy, Vince’s lifelong friend and business manager; Kevin Dillon as “Drama,” Vince’s half-brother; Jerry Ferrara as the gang’s sidekick, “Turtle,” who has slimmed down and appears to be experiencing the show’s only physical and narrative metamorphosis; and Jeremy Piven as Vince’s always-apoplectic agent, Ari Gold. In all of these men, I sense the passage of too much time, too much dreaming of the same dream. Combined average age here? Thirty-nine.
At the start of the seventh season, I wrote in a review that I wished Vince would be killed off — with all the estate confusion and media frenzy that a Hollywood star’s untimely demise could offer in terms of plot. I wanted to see a final season in which Vince’s boys cope without him.
“Entourage” hates such plot twists. Its surest point-of-view was one of permanence and faith. What suits other HBO dramas — Ned Stark beheaded in “Game of Thrones”; Bill Henrickson shot and killed in the finale of “Big Love” — would never fly on “Entourage,” which year after year after year served up the same stuff: Ari screaming at his long-suffering assistant, Lloyd (Rex Lee), or begging the forgiveness of his fed-up wife, Melissa (Perrey Reeves). E pining away for Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who now carries his child. Drama’s pathetic bids at stardom; Turtle’s attempts to find his life’s callings. One season blurred into another. Many stopped watching because nothing ever happened.
And many kept watching because nothing ever happened. Most gloriously, “Entourage” was pure Los Angeles verisimilitude. No series had ever so accurately made use of the feel of doing business in Hollywood and West L.A. — the glass offices, the valet parking, the meetings, the surprise encounters with fame, the restaurants, the deals.
So what will happen in the last episode? HBO wouldn’t let me see it ahead of time without a promise that I’d zip my mouth until it aired. So I passed, relatively safe in the expectation that everyone will find what they want — for Ari, his wife’s love; for E, Sloan’s forgiveness; for Drama, success; for Turtle, independence; and for Vince? I’ll take anything, including death, but probably just another new girlfriend.
(31 minutes) series finale airs Sunday
at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.