The opening act of Entourage‘s last season promised more in the way of clarity than fireworks.
When we last saw mega movie star Vincent Chase and his boys (manager/best friend E, bodyguard/brother Johnny Drama and driver/buddy Turtle) in last season’s finale, Vince had reached the apex of a cocaine addiction by taking on Eminem’s posse (unsuccessfully) and getting himself arrested for drug possession. Previews of Sunday night’s episode promised answers to the myriad questions: would Vince be able to cope with sobriety? How would that curveball fit into the boys’ hard-partying lifestyle? And what would happen to the show’s two serious relationships?
The folks at HBO didn’t waste any time in letting us know that Vince’s sobriety would do little to calm the characters’ various compulsions. Drama, who has always been Vince’s protector, spent much of the episode going overboard in trying to rid Vince’s life of all drugs, disposing of alcohol, Advil and even Tic Tacs, lest they tempt Vince’s fragile psyche. When they try to get Vince back on track by focusing on his career, Vince comes up with a terrible idea for a movie about a mining disaster (not the one in Chile, but one in Romania) where the main character is a dog. Oh, and he wants to direct. No one has the heart to tell him the idea sucks.
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One of the largest criticisms of Entourage, especially the recent seasons, is that Vince’s crew always seemed to vacillate between friends and parasites, keeping Vince happy enough to continue leeching off of his success. It was never clear if they truly cared about him in a meaningful way. But if the entourage seemed parasitic at times, it was always a symbiotic relationship: Vince needed their adoration and support to combat his vulnerabilities as much as they needed his money and contacts to further their own ambitions. It seems like the show will try to address this criticism in the final season.
The other enormous critique is that Entourage is essentially a fantasy show, presenting a fantastic version of Los Angeles and Hollywood that may have parts based in reality, but glosses over many important issues related to the pursuit of fame and riches. But Entourage has never aspired to be a serious drama, and even with the newly lean and sober Vince, there is no sign that the shenanigans will abate. Even the depiction of sobriety is pure Hollywood fantasy. To keep an eye on Vince, the crew decides to throw him a sober welcome home party rather than risk letting him out of the house. The boys’ old friend, director Billy Walsh, buses in about two-dozen model-gorgeous girls he picked up at AA, NA and sex-addict meetings by telling them Vincent Chase was out of rehab.
The one truly dramatic moment from Sunday’s episode came from Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who’s usually a progenitor of laughs as Vince’s brash agent who cusses like a soldier, sailor and merchant seaman rolled into one. When we last saw Ari and Mrs. Ari, their marriage was on the rocks, and the show picked up 10 weeks into their trial separation. When Mrs. Ari revealed she’s been seing someone, Ari was genuinely crushed. Piven, who’s won three Emmy awards for his portrayal of the combative agent, seems to be trying to make a more complete character during the last season.
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The beginning of the end for Entourage makes complete sense, as the show has more than run its course. The past couple of seasons have been more cliched and less fun than the first few. I became an Entourage addict thanks to a DVD box set of the first season I got in care package during the middle of a year-long combat tour in Baghdad. I got my commander hooked on the show, too, and we played an episode every night in our command post. The show was was great escapism from that situation, but we kept watching long after we came home because we loved the way that the boys interacted. In Entourage‘s early seasons, it was touted as a guy’s alternative to Sex and the City, and there is a lot of truth in the depiction of lifelong friends. But as much as we may have loved each of the boys, Vince always seemed like a spoiled brat who never convinced us that the pressures of fame should make us feel sorry for someone who has virtually everything he wants.
This last season, Vince may get the one thing he’s been missing: honesty. At the end of Sunday’s episode, the guys finally come clean that they think his movie idea is a disaster. Billy suggests it might work as a T.V. movie with Drama (a character that’s always been portrayed as a C-list actor, much like Kevin Dillon, who plays Drama) in the lead. Vince loves the idea, and the season’s motivation is born. For Entourage to finish with as much promise as it had at its beginning, we’ll need to actually care about Vince as much as we love his friends. The final season is off to a solid start, but it remains to be seen how well they can close.
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