“…it’s an interesting take on a familiar story…” – Billy Walsh
The normally light-hearted Entourage took a rather dark detour with its seventh season, as leading man Vince Chase went well and truly off the rails, screwing porn stars, drinking on the job and hoovering up more blow than an 80s hair metal band.
With the season ending on the cliff-hanger of Vince being busted by the cops with a bag of coke big enough to make Tony Montana look small time, one would have thought that the season eight premiere of Entourage would have been a pretty dark episode as we witnessed the aftermath of what surely had to be Vince’s breaking point.
Instead, somewhat wisely given that this is the shows final season, a three month or so time jump sees the show glossing over the darkness that befell the previous season in favour of the light-hearted banter that has made the show such a hit.
Sure, seeing Vince struggling with his addictions in rehab would have certainly been interesting, and Entourage could have no doubt had some fun sending up other actors who’ve been to rehab, but fans of the show surely want their last season with these characters to be a familiar experience; and with a reduced season order there probably wasn’t enough time to do justice to a rehab-based storyline and still get Vince out in time to have some old school banter and shenanigans with the rest of the gang.
Thus, instead we have Vince getting out of rehab after ninety days sober, and although time has moved on since we were last with the guys; the developments of the seventh season are still very much being felt by the majority of the characters.
Our opening shot of the premiere indicates straight away that Eric and Scott’s hostile takeover of Murray’s agency has indeed occurred as we are greeted with a Murphy-Lavin group logo at the offices. Seconds later, the first lines of dialogue of the new season inform the audience that Eric and Sloan are no longer together – the nasty result of Sloan’s family insisting Eric sign a pre-nup – we later see Sloan has returned Eric’s $35,000 engagement ring, signifying things are definitely over between the two.
This is very much an expositional episode, tying up season seven’s still dangling threads and establishing how season eight will move forward.
With Vince getting out of rehab we get to see Drama in full neurotic mode, removing any trace of anything even remotely resembling a narcotic from the house (including Advil) and then trying to prevent his little brother baring witness to anything that could offer a gateway back to his addictions.
Obviously this allowed plenty of laughs as Drama went to extremes – spraying Turtle with cleaning spray to get rid of the smell of weed, stopping Scott from eating Tic-Tacs – but it also played in to the bro-mance that is the heartbeat of the show, with Drama determined to protect his baby brother, going so far as to even invent a surprise party to keep Vince away from nightclubs and booze.
The treating of Vince with kid gloves was a little unbelievable at times, surely a relatively intelligent man like Vince would have seen through the blatant lies the rest of the gang were telling him in relation to his Romanian miners film that Ari claimed should be starring “the Marley & Me dog” rather than Vince.
Given the events of the weekend, ‘Home Sweet Home’ was actually more apt than it ever could have imagined, as we saw a celebrity surrounded by sycophantic yes-men too scared to be honest with them. I won’t even attempt to dissect the whole Winehouse-saga, as far better writers than me have already done a far better job, but all this kind of behaviour does is enable, and eventually Vince, at least, sees through it.
The main thread running through the episode is the continuation of season seven’s storyline of Vince and E not getting along. Here E is more than a little miffed that Vince has effectively called everyone but him for a lift home from rehab, including Scott and Billy.
Against Drama’s wishes, when the two finally do air their dirty laundry it is the catalyst for Vince to see through all the falseness he’s been greeted with since leaving rehab.
Which of course leads to the climactic moments as Turtle inadvertently burns down the house. The episode ending with the quite symbolic sight of all the show’s major players stood staring at the burning house, Vince calls it a fresh start but the literal fire parallels the metaphorical home-burnings that E and Ari have been going through lately.
Seeing Ari in tears as the credits roll, the result of Mrs. Ari announcing she is seeing someone else, was a rare moment of weakness from the normally bullet-proof Mr. Gold.
The fire is a means of putting all the main characters under the same roof, after we learned through the course of the episode that almost everyone had moved back in to the house in Vince’s absence, and going forward that can only be a good thing, as the show has always been at its best when the guys are interacting with each other rather than their external relationships beyond the group.
Going forward, season eight should, it seems, be a return to the classic Entourage formula as the show signs off after eight years of Hollywood hi-jinx.
A Hail of Bullets:
- Ari’s best one-liner of the episode: “we don’t want him to mistake your pale round face for a crack rock” – to E about Vince’s release from rehab.
- In one of the cameos that Entourage excels with, it was nice to see The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki breaking the stereotype most people no doubt now view him as. Rather than geeky, here Galecki seemed more interested in fucking anything that moves.
One of Entourage’s strongest hands to play is the cartoonish portrayal of celebrities willing to send themselves up.
- The recurring Scott Caan was great as always as Eric’s business partner Scott Lavin. Often reduced to the straight man on the Hawaii Five-0 remake, as Lavin you get the feeling Caan is releasing a lot of that pent-up sleaze he has to keep in check as the straight man on Five-0.
- One of my favourite things about Entourage is the use of music and the credits-accompanying song is normally a humdinger. ‘Home Sweet Home’ was no exception as we got Eminem’s ‘Till I Collapse’ featuring the late, great Nate Dogg. ‘Till I Collapse’ was not only quite an aptly named song to use considering the subject matter of the episode but was also a nice call back to Vince’s scuffle with Eminem last season.
- I think the best moment of the episode, for me at least, was Billy (Rhys Coiro) naming the girls as they stepped off the bus and in to the house for the party. His accent as he said some of the names was priceless, I could listen to him say “Madonna” all day.
- The scene surrounding Vince’s rehab release with fans lined up to cheer him and dozens of news reporters there complete with overhead choppers was very realistic in this day and age of 24-hour networks and magazine shows dedicated purely to spurious celebrity gossip.
But it also came off as a very sad commentary on the nature of celebrity these days and again, in the aftermath of the weekend’s events, felt oddly appropriate.
Entourage continues Sunday @ 10.30pm on HBO in the US and Monday @ 10.50pm on Sky Atlantic in the UK.