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Here’s How the ‘Will and Grace’ Revival Explains the Series Finale’s Time-Jump

Will & Grace - Season 1
NBC

It’s been 11 years since Will & Grace concluded its eight season run on NBC with a controversial, flash-forward ending. We’ve known that the revival would rewrite the Season 8 finale, and Thursday night’s Season 9 premiere reveals exactly how the show handled it.

(Minor spoilers for the Season 9 premiere “11 Years Later.”)

First, a quick refresher. The NBC sitcom said its goodbyes in 2006 with a two-parter that reeked of end-of-series-desperation to wrap things up in a tidy bow. Near the conclusion of the eighth season, Debra Messing’s Grace learns she’s pregnant after her one-time plane hookup with ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick Jr.), and Eric McCormack’s Will decides he wants to help Grace raise her child. In the hour-long finale, which opens with Grace having a bad dream about growing old in the future, Leo returns and wants to give their marriage another shot. Grace moves to Rome with Leo where they raise their daughter Laila, and Will stays in New York, gets back with Vince (Bobby Cannavale) and the two raise their son Ben. The finale then jumps 20 years into the future when grown-up Ben and Laila meet at college and eventually marry.

“That finale really caused us a lot of grief,” co-creator Max Mutchnick told Entertainment Weekly. “You write a finale because a show is over. You never think that it’s coming back again.” Mutchnick and co-creator David Kohan both agreed that a revival about the titular best friends living separately with grown children wouldn’t make for the most compelling TV, so they decided to rewrite their finale. In Thursday night’s Season 9 premiere, the episode quickly catches us up on what’s happened over the past 11 years and finds a clever way to explain the events of the finale: It was all a bad dream Karen (Megan Mullally) had in the present day.

Will & Grace - Season 1
NBC

“What’s going on? What’s happening? Who won the election?” Karen shouts as she wakes from an intoxicated stupor in the premiere’s opening. Karen starts recounting events of the Season 8 finale as the crazy dream she just had. Will clears things up for her (and us), explaining that he and Grace did indeed get married to Vince and (remarried) to Leo, respectively, but now they’re single. And the kids thing? Never happened. “What a relief! Nobody wants to see you two raise kids,” Karen says.

Will explains that Grace is just living with him temporarily as she figures things out after her divorce, that Stan is still alive – remember how he “died” then was revealed to be alive and in witness protection in Season 8 (it’s okay, I forgot too) – and yes, Karen is still rich. And both Will and Grace reassure her, much to their chagrin, that “her guy” won the election – Karen later reveals she’s besties with Melanie Trump because, ya know, money. After the quick recap, Jack (Sean Hayes) coquettishly turns to the camera to check in with us, “Got it?” he asks.

It’s a cute and funny way to bring us up to speed, while also not flat-out ignoring the events of the finale. It’s still a little odd that Grace’s whole pregnancy plot, which spanned nine episodes, was poofed out of existence, but probably for the better. Series finales, especially for sitcoms, are an attempt to leave fans with a sense of and ending, and back in 2006 the prospect of a revival was nowhere in sight. So we can hardly blame Kohan and Mutchnick for trying to give us that, and for undoing it when given the opportunity to bring these characters back. Plus, I’ve gotta agree with Karen; Will and Grace as parents sounds like a snooze.

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE ‘WILL & GRACE’ REVIVAL

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