Entourage Recap: In the End, It’s All About the Family

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The cast of Entourage from the series finale

If HBO was ever really good at one thing, it was the opening sequences of its series, which have always been more important than simply opening credits. Some are better than others: Tony Soprano’s drive from the Lincoln Tunnel through North Jersey became an iconic part of the show and set the mood for every season. Last night, Vince, E, Drama and Turtle cruised through Hollywood in the black Continental with suicide doors, kicking off Entourage one last time. 

When Entourage made its debut in the summer of 2004, right as Sex and the City was moving to the land of okay movies and bad sequels, the hijinks of Vince and his crew was seen as a guys’ alternative to the ladies who lunch. As TIME’s James Poniewozik wrote before this final season, Entourage centered as much on having fun as it did on friendship. The show was about the fun side of Hollywood, and it wasn’t until the finale of the penultimate season that they explored the darker side of addiction and the pressures of celebrity.

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Much of the effort in the final season was spent on turning friendships into a family; however, over the course of the season, nearly every serious relationship seemed to implode. E and Sloan were finished; Ari and Mrs. Ari were going through a divorce. Things looked pretty bleak on the home front.

When the finale opened, Vince returned from his date with Sophia, which he finally secured after an incredible amount of effort. He told the boys that in 24 hours he knew Sophia was the one, and they were flying to Paris that day to get married. As this was a truncated season–8 episodes instead of 12–they had to move things along.

Much of the rest of the episode was spent rounding up the crew to attend Vince’s nuptials. Drama and Turtle paid a visit to Sloan and reminded her that they were the de facto uncles for her unborn child. Vince nearly torpedoed that effort by accidentally informing Sloan’s father of her pregnancy, but he smoothed things over with a personal visit and some genuine sincerity. Vince is nothing if not charming, and now that he was using those powers for good instead of picking up women, it seemed there was no stopping him.

But as much as we love Vince and his crew, the heart of the series has always been super-agent Ari Gold. Reportedly inspired by the real-life super agent Ari Emanuel (brother of current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel), Ari was pure gold for Jeremy Piven, who nabbed three Emmys for his performance. Ari was the favorite among this recapper’s Army buddies because his brash, profanity-laden managerial style reminded us of our commanders. Yet the character was interesting because of Ari’s  internal struggles between trying to be a master of the universe and maintaining some hold on his family.

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In the finale, Ari swung the opposite way. He quit as head of his agency, promoting Lloyd, who finally got his due as an agent. When the entire gang assembled at the airport to fly (on a private jet, of course) to France, E found one final surprise–Vince had chartered a separate plane, and waiting on the tarmac was Sloan, clad in a pretty, cheesy red dress. E and Ari had one final exchange and refused to hug it out. Then the planes took off in tandem for life after television.

It’s true that, as a series, Entourage peaked a while ago, but the show never stopped being fun. It was one more thing to look forward to at the end of the weekend, before you and your friends had to pack it in for another long work week. So in that effort, Doug Ellin and his fellow creators found success. And if you were willing to sit through the credits last night, you were treated to a little epilogue that poked a hole in the tidy bow that seemed to wrap the series. We saw Ari at an Italian villa with Mrs. Ari when he got a call from the head of Warner Bros., imploring him to take over the studio. Suddenly, Ari was once again confronted with the desire for his family and the opportunity to become one of the most powerful men on the planet. We don’t know what he chose. And while that ending is not nearly as powerful as the “Did he or didn’t he get whacked?” Sopranos finale, it’s nice knowing that Ari is still out there, even if he’s struggling with issues that will never be resolved.

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Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings. Continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.