Five years from now, when you’re asked the trivia question, "What was the final line spoken on Boston Legal?," smile when you answer that it was Denny Crane (William Shatner) saying "It’s our wedding night" to Alan Shore (James Spader) as they slowdanced on the balcony of the Chinese-acquired Chang Poole & Schmidt. I know I will. That was the most satisfying series finale I’ve seen in years. Here’s why:
1. Denny’s proposal When Alan finally accepted Denny’s hand, he said, "Why not? I suppose it had to come to this." Denny responded, "It’ll be great….Like jumping the shark." Bravo to Spader and Shatner for simultaneously declaring the unapologetic ridiculousness of their union and making it 100 percent believable. At first, Denny argued that he wanted Alan to take his hand for practical reasons: In Massachusetts, where same sex marriages are legal, it would give Alan the right to make the difficult medical decisions ahead, to not testify against Denny the next time he’s arrested for breaking and entering and sexual assault (those charges were dropped when Alzheimer’s-stricken Denny admitted that he had no idea how he ended up naked in his neighbor’s bed), and to share Denny’s wealth without the gift tax. But when that didn’t work, he spoke from that enormous, foolish heart of his: "I’ve always wanted to remarry before I die….I just have. And like it or not, you’re the man I love." How could Alan look into that face that expressed childlike wonder, innocence, and sheer joy better than anyone and deny his dying best friend his last wish? Especially when it could lead to a court appearance. (The local chapter of the Gay and Lesbian League, fearing the union would fuel the rightwing belief that hetero couples would exploit same-sex marriage for tax breaks, tried to put an injunction on their marriage license, but the judge ruled that the government doesn’t — and shouldn’t — ask couples why they’re marrying.) In the end, Alan and Denny and Carl (John Larroquette) and Shirley (Candice Bergen) had a double wedding in Nimmo Bay (after the latter couple’s priest and rabbi started a Holy War), officiated by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia (played by Jack Shearer), who happened to be there on a fishing trip right after hearing Alan’s case asking for Denny to be allowed access to a non-FDA approved drug that could slow his Alzheimer’s…
2. Mr. Shore went to Washington and actually had a worthy opponent And no one was more surprised than me that the opposing stern-yet-passionate counsel was played by According to Jim‘s Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Scalia would ultimately leak the news that a one-sentence ruling would be issued allowing Denny the drug, but for a change, there was a slight chance that Alan would lose. The argument was whether one dying man’s right to save himself was worth risking the pharmaceutical industry rushing unapproved and insufficiently-tested drugs to a market of 5 million desperate terminal patients, and those patients declining to participate in future clinical studies that could yield better alternatives because they wouldn’t want to risk getting a placebo. The one-sentence ruling, which only addressed Denny’s access, was a compromise, secured by another classic Alan closing that brought tears to Shatner’s, Williams-Paisley’s, and my eyes: "Denny is my best friend. I love him with all my heart. If I could yank that horrible disease out of his body, I would fight it and I would win. I would use every ounce of my strength and I would win, if I could — but I can’t."
3. Alan’s attempt to fire the people that fired him Truth be told, I didn’t quite buy Shirley’s tears when she pleaded with the judge to grant her an injunction to stop a Chinese company from buying an American law firm committed to defending human rights — and I’m glad the judge wasn’t swayed by the tears. We wouldn’t have gotten what happened next: After asking for Shirley’s resignation, the new owner decided he would replace the entire Crane Poole & Schmidt litigation team. Alan decided that they should be the ones doing the firing, and marched them, in slo-mo!, into a meeting with the new brass and proceeded to school the suits on how things work in America (it always come down to who the jury likes better) and on Boston Legal: "Did you check out our win-loss record? Good for us, bad for you. More importantly, did you know the kinds of cases that we argue week-to-week? Typically preposterous, mostly unwinnable on their face and yet we win them whether we have grounds or not. Must be the smile. Smile group." Here, Alan noted, they do actually have grounds for wrongful discharge, and though the Chinese suits burst into applause mocking him at the end of the monologue, they did eventually agree to keep the team on and assigned Paul (Rene Auberjonois) to oversee them. (They later asked Paul to get rid of Denny, and weren’t upset when Paul told them they’d certainly lose irreplaceable Alan then, too. So Shirley’s fears were warranted, we’re to assume. And Denny doesn’t need to apologize for pulling double paintball guns on them during their first meeting. Got it.)
4. Jerry (Christian Clemenson) and Katie (Tara Summers) kissed Only slightly more delightful than watching Jerry jump on Alan’s couch before reporting a break in Denny’s case, and Alan quipping, "Don’t tell me. You love Katie."
So there you have it, folks. Were you as happy with the finale as I was? In your mind, is Denny cured? Does his marriage to Alan last? (They survived their first fight: Denny chose to have his first wedding dance with Shirley, and then led when he finally got around to Alan.) Does he get to know poor people and help Alan start his own legal aid firm? Do the other lawyers work there? And would you watch that show Denny and Alan pitched?
Denny: "This could be a television series."
Alan: "On a new network."
Denny: "One that cares."
Alan: "Alan Shore and Denny Crane: Husband and Mad Cow."