Friends, Season 10, Episodes 17 & 18, "The Last One, Parts 1 & 2"
It made me laugh, it made me cry. And in the words of Rachel Green,
way back in Season Two, that's what I call closure.
It was hard enough saying goodbye to "Angel" this year or "Buffy" last
year. This seems like a similarly significant loss to me. As "Buffy"
created some of the great moments of dramatic television, I think
"Friends" has given television some of its great comic half hours. It
was a traditional three-camera, live-audience sitcom, which television
is moving away from. But it was also a true ensemble, which sitcoms
rarely achieve. Which television series rarely achieve, really. It's
much easier to sell a show with a lead.
Marta Kaufman and David Crane have created many event episodes
throughout the series' run - many weddings, occasionally births but
mostly just significant moments throughout a group of friends' 20s and
30s. "The Last One" demands a significant event, but often plays out
just like another episode in the canon. I think the balance works.
The whole year has been building to this episode, of course. This is
one reason why a tenth and final season was necessary - allowing the
creators and writers and actors the time to say goodbye properly. So
while the first half of the season was very patchy (and that's putting
it nicely), the second half of the season was a lot stronger. And
while none of the final episodes stand out as classics on their own,
the weight of the collection has the show going out in style.
We have three major stories in this final hour - the arrival of Monica
and Chandler's child by way of surrogate mother Erica, Joey and
Chandler saying goodbye to their old lives and the resolution of the
Ross and Rachel saga. Interweaved through the whole hour, the stories
complement and support each other - even though we know where we are
going to end up.
Kaufman and Crane know exactly when to play to and against our
expectations. The fact that this is "The Last One" ups the tension a
lot more. The race against time for Ross to stop Rachel from leaving
for Paris is a fun chase - and certainly harkens back to other wacky
adventures for the gang. Part of me would have wished we weren't
bogged down with such a broad story, but in this case, it's the
resolution that counts. When you can't think of anyway it can get
better or worse, it inevitably does.
Joey and Chandler, surprisingly, are allowed the quieter story. Joey
has bought Monica and Chandler a new chick and a duck as a
housewarming gift (the others were taken off to a farm where people
can't visit, Joey explains) - but they get stuck inside the foosball
table and the only way to get the birds out is to destory the table.
It's a nice metaphor for the change in their lives. It's a sacrifice
of their immediate friendship, but for long term goals. A very
I suppose Monica and Chandler finally having a child - and, surprise,
children - is the biggest event in this final hour. It's an emotional
climax for these two characters - who got together on a whim six
seasons ago, fulfilling Monica's life-long dreams to be married and
have kids. Ironically, actress Courtney Cox Arquette was pregnant
while this final episode was filmed, so while carrying a bit of her
pregnancy weight here, it becomes a coincidental reference to the Fat
Monica of her youth. Control freak and perpetually skinny Monica is so
content with her life now that she's happy to have a few extra pounds.
The final scene, with all six friends in Monica's empty apartment, is
moving and hilarious. There's a few great lines about the apartment
and one last symbol of their friendship as the six walk out of their
old lives and out of ours. Off to get a cup of coffee - which is where
the show began ten years ago.
"M*A*S*H" had a huge, eventful finale. "Seinfeld" gave the characters
a reality check. "Mad About You" went off the rails. "Cheers" stayed
open. "Frasier," well, I still haven't seen the last two seasons of
"Friends" had just another episode, combined with enough closure to
satisfy this long-time viewer. I cried and I laughed, a lot.
-- Keith Gow --