Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Well, I Do Anyway

Everybody Loves Raymond signed off last night, with considerably less hoopla than some of its recently departed brethren. No hour-long episode, no life-changing events, just a fairly typical episode that still managed to acknowledge that it was, in fact, the series finale.

The plot revolved around Ray's having to have his adenoids removed, and the family's (save Marie's) initially underwhelmed reaction to the operation. When Marie steps out of the waiting room at the hospital, though, a nurse informs the family that they are having trouble rousing Ray from anesthesia, and for 30 long seconds panic rules as the other family members start assuming the worst. Quickly, though, and before Marie returns, the doctor informs them that Ray has been roused, and the family agrees not to tell Ray or his mother.

From that simple plot comes a very satisfying episode that, logically enough, revolves around the notion that everyone in the family truly does love Ray. Of course, both Ray and Marie do find out about his "near-death" experience, and their reactions to the news drive the end of the episode. With neat economy, they managed to address pretty much all of the key conflicts and tropes of the series--the conflict between Marie and Debra; between Robert and Ray; the very limited use of the kids; the hyperbolic Freudian relationship between Ray and his mother--without it feeling forced. And they also managed to elicit some of the series' most emotional moments, again, without any real heavy-handedness.

The first is when Debra is told of Ray's problem in coming out of anesthesia by the nurse; Patricia Heaton's very emotional reaction was superbly done, real without being histrionic. And later, when Ray, in a characteristic moment of self-pity, imagines that very reaction as being less than what it was, Frank steps in with a forceful defense of Debra, in what was, for me, one of the series' best-ever moments of true emotion.

For this series, which has endured criticism of the harshness of Ray and Debra's relationship over the years, to end with such a pointed, sentimental reminder of how much they really do love each other, was for me pretty much just perfect. An admirable finale, and maybe the best of the past year's bunch.

Until Whenever

No comments: