On May 18, 2006, NBC said goodbye to the groundbreaking and bawdy comedy, Will & Grace. The show centered around four friends — gay attorney Will Truman (Eric McCormack), his best friend Interior Designer Grace Adler (Debra Messing), Grace’s wealthy alcoholic assistant Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), and Will’s effeminate gay actor friend Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes).
Will & Grace had once been a powerhouse in the ratings but had weakened over time so, when NBC renewed the show, it was decided that this would be the show’s final season. This allowed the creative team the opportunity to plan a proper farewell. After eight seasons and 12 Emmy Awards, it was time to say goodbye. Over 18 million viewers tuned in to watch.
The evening started off with a well crafted one-hour retrospective entitled “Say Goodnight Gracie.” This title referenced a scene in the pilot episode that itself was in reference to the George Burns and Gracie Allen famous radio & TV shows. The retrospective showed backstage clips from the production of the final half hour episode (“Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?”), clips from older shows as well as insights from the show’s cast and creators.
The final episode, simply named “The Finale,” was a one-hour show and was written by series creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. It was directed by well-known TV director James Burrows, who incidentally directed all 194 episodes of Will & Grace, a directing record.
The show opened with a short recap where we see that the very pregnant Grace is considering returning to Rome to try to reconcile with Leo so that they might raise their child together. This is in contrast to her earlier agreement with Will that he would act as the child’s father. He wants to know where the new Rome plan leaves him. Grace doesn’t know and Will strongly suggests that she needs to figure it out.
The first scene of the episode starts off about 16 years into the future. Neither Will nor Grace have aged gracefully and are still living in the same apartment that is now much more cluttered. Both are heavy and bitter. Their rebellious son Warren (Jesse Fremont Allis) is causing them no end of headaches either. Each parent comments that they gave up the loves of their lives so that they could raise him together. After Grace knocks Will’s toupee off his head, Warren storms out saying “I’m going over to Sandoval’s.” (Steve Sandoval is a producer for the show.)
Will and Grace continue to snipe at each other as their game night guests arrive. Karen (who hasn’t aged a day) enters with her former maid and now lesbian husband Rosario Salazar (Shelley Morrison) who is decked out in tight pants and a leather jacket. Newly married Jack arrives next and is sporting wedding veil and a tan that would put George Hamilton to shame. Jack’s new husband, Kevin Bacon comes in next but quickly excuses himself because his recent removal of his “Kyra forever” tattoo is bleeding. Will & Grace lead their traditional $25,000 Pyramid game and it continues to be obvious that their staying together had been a mistake. They’re miserable and blame each other. Then Grace wakes up. It was just a dream but Grace isn’t so sure, as the opening credits roll…
Will is preparing to do some laundry and Grace awkwardly sits down to eat after she reassures Will that she feels like she made the right decision — to stay in NYC and to raise her baby with him. You can tell she’s still unsure and bothered by her recurring dreams. After Will leaves, there’s a knock at the door and it’s her ex-husband, Leo Markus (Harry Connick Jr.). He returned because he can’t avoid the fact that Grace is the one that he truly loves. He wants to grow old with her and have a family with her. Grace is shocked but overjoyed as she rises to show Leo that their family will be coming soon. They’re passionately kissing as we see Will get off the elevator and open the apartment door.
Flash forward two years later. Will is feeding baby Ben (possibly named after Will’s former boss Ben Doucette, played by the late Gregory Hines). His mate Vince D’Angelo (Bobby Cannavale) comes home with a birthday gift for Will. We soon find out that Ben is Will’s baby (through artificial means) and that Will and Grace haven’t spoken in a long time. Vince asks Will to call her but he refuses because of her betrayal. We then see Leo and Grace with little Lila in their NYC apartment. He tells Grace that she should call Will on his birthday and she refuses after having called and pleaded with Will so many times two years ago.
We next see Jack & Karen each taking a bath and talking on cell phones about how terrible it is that Will and Grace are still not speaking. They lament that sometimes they just feel like supporting players on “The Will and Grace Show. ” The camera pulls back to show that the friends are actually in the same tub as they hang-up the phones and Karen tells her plan to get their friends back together.
The next scene shows Will arriving at a hospital room inhabited by someone in a full body cast. He thinks it’s Jack after receiving a call from Karen. It’s not. Grace arrives after having gotten a similar call from Jack about Karen. The two former friends awkwardly reconcile and agree to have some cafeteria cake together. (In the background we hear “Paging Dr. Kohan,” which refers to one of the show’s creators, David Kohan.)
Meanwhile, Karen and Jack are having dinner at an expensive restaurant. Karen is talking about her recent divorce from Stan when her old nemesis Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan) enters. Soonafter, Karen’s told that her credit card has been declined and steps away to resolve the matter. Beverley tells Jack that he just split with his partner. He propositions Jack to become his new boyfriend that would have many financial benefits. Jack scoffs and Beverley leaves after telling him to think it over. Karen returns to tell Jack that, since all of what Stan had was borrowed, her settlement is worthless and she has no money. Both are stunned.
Soonafter, the four friends are back together and joking and laughing at Will’s apartment. In some ways, it’s just like old times. Karen forbids Jack from mentioning her money problems and Jack jokingly mentions that Beverley had propositioned him. It’s the first that Karen’s heard of it and she quickly ushers him out into the elevator. She tells him that he has to do it so he can be rich and also help her as she did for him. Jack clearly doesn’t want to do it.
Back in the apartment, Will and Grace quarrel about their past breakup but both realize that it was for the best. They try to set up a time to see a movie together but, with their mutually busy schedules, they can’t come up with a date. They resolve to call one another later and work out a date. As they say goodbye, it’s obvious that things have changed.
We next see Jack with Beverley Leslie. Beverley demands that they consummate their relationship and runs off to get ready. Karen and Rosario enter and Karen tells Jack that Rosario thinks, for some reason, Jack is unhappy. After Rosario leaves, they talk and Jack tells her that he doesn’t love Beverley and that he won’t even let Jack go out on the balcony (to scream in frustration) because Beverley’s afraid he’ll be blown away by a gust of wind. After a bit, Karen tells Jack that she can’t let him do this anymore, even for her. Jack wonders how he’ll break the news to Beverley, especially now that Beverley made him his sole-beneficiary of his will. The two go off so Jack can leave a note on Beverley’s booster seat. Beverley returns and thinks Jack’s playfully hiding from him. He goes out on the balcony and is blown off by a gust of wind and falls to the street far below.
Both Will and Grace are having conversations with their respective spouses. The former best friends each remark how they thought they’d be together forever, ever since they first met living across the hall from one another at college. They both concede that times have changed.
The next scene we see is a college dorm hallway. An attractive dark-haired young man is moving in across from a beautiful red-haired young woman. It’s 20 years later and Ben (Ben Newmark) and Lila (Maria Thayer) are all grown up and hitting it off. They decide to sneak off to the cafeteria to get a bite together before their parents arrive. Once they’re gone, older Will and Grace arrive but are hidden by boxes. They recognize each other’s voices and slowly lower their boxes. They both look great. They warmly reminisce and then leave for the cafeteria before their kids arrive.
Transition to a scene in Jack and Karen’s expensive home. They’re sitting and reading comfortably. Jack looks a little grayer but mostly the same. Karen looks exactly the same, especially after having “work done” on a regular basis. Rosario is in a wheelchair and living with them and Karen cares for her in her typical callous yet loving way. Nothing has changed very much. Karen and Jack comment they’ve been living together for nearly 20 years and that they’ve been together much longer than with any of their other relationships. The two then sing a lovely and impromptu version “Unforgettable” to one other.
We next see Will & Grace talking on the phone as they both watch ER, just as they did in the pilot episode. Will remarks that he’s so glad that George Clooney has finally returned to the show. Neither can believe that their children are getting married. Since both their spouses are out, they agree to call Jack and Karen and to meet for a drink.
The four older and wiser friends meet. It’s the same bar from the series pilot episode where Will and Grace kissed for the patrons who believed they were newlyweds. Will makes a toast “to family and friends that accept you as you are” and that they’ve really not changed a bit. In typical fashion, Karen & Jack think it’s all too mushy and they all drink their shots.
When the glasses come down and hit the bar, the four friends are wearing the same clothes but have returned to their younger selves. The song “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen plays in the background, the friends kiss and joke as the scene fades to black. End of series.