The Seven Best Episodes of the WILL & GRACE Revival Season Two (or Ten)

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re continuing our coverage on the Will & Grace revival (2017-2020, NBC), which is currently available on DVD and streaming.

Will & Grace stars ERIC McCORMACK as Will Truman, DEBRA MESSING as Grace Adler, SEAN HAYES as Jack McFarland, and MEGAN MULLALLY as Karen Walker.

After a return season that coasted on the nostalgic joy of bringing these memorable characters back together for episodic stories that reminded of the original by boasting gimmicky but affable cameo appearances from a whole slew of former favorites — with only occasional nods to the social relevance that had served as its new “raison d’être” — Will & Grace settles into the second year of its revival by resuming the storytelling that had sustained it for most of its initial run. That is, funny episodic ideas are now more often observed as subplots to the kind of long-form arc-based storytelling common on all “singles in the city” rom-coms, especially Will & Grace. Unfortunately, this is less ideal, for it resurrects more of the original’s shortcomings — specifically, an inability to genuinely explore these characters through story, which instead tends to be saddled with idea-led clichés (some self-serious) that are neither motivated nor logical. Once again, all four leads are also paired in romances that don’t move them meaningfully to a happy ending. Okay, I suppose Jack’s wedding to flight attendant Estefan (Brian Jordan Alvarez) is something of a happy ending, but there’s a one-dimensionality to Estefan that limits Jack’s ability to derive much merit from their dynamic via narrative. Better drawn are the love interests afforded to Will and Grace. The former dates McCoy, a vain and shallow news anchor (Matt Bomer), while Grace falls for Noah (David Schwimmer), best known as the Twitter commentator “The West Side Curmudgeon.” They actually have specific ways to be funny and exist in story, and I appreciate them. What I don’t appreciate is that the turns in their relationships — the breakups, etc. — don’t seem earned, and don’t involve any clear growth from Will and Grace, per the thesis. In fact, this season has stopped acknowledging the central premise of their unhealthy codependency. Now, we’re merely supposed to regard it as fine — an unearned change that I’ll talk more about next week… As for Karen, she continues to be underutilized, thrown a late-season lesbian arc that feels particularly gimmicky and beneath this show, which is no longer justifying its existence through its comedy. It’s fallen below the original’s baseline. Oh, but if you think this is Will & Grace at its lowest, just wait…


01) Episode 211/17: “The West Side Curmudgeon” (Aired: 10/04/18)

Grace meets the West Side Curmudgeon, while Jack prepares to FaceTime Estefan’s family.

Written by John Quaintance | Directed by James Burrows

Season Two/Ten opens with an episode that sets up a major arc for Grace, who’s running for president of an interior design board and meets Twitter’s notorious West Side Curmudgeon, a crotchety jerk. David Schwimmer fares well playing against his usual type (Ross Gellar), and has decent chemistry with Debra Messing. Best of all: there’s an actual characterization here. Meanwhile, we’ve also got fun in the subplot, where Jack paralyzes his face before a FaceTime call with Estefan’s family. It’s a promising start to an ultimately lackluster season.

02) Episode 214/20: “Who’s Sorry Now?” (Aired: 10/25/18)

Will and Grace read old college love letters, while Jack channels the spirit of Rosario.

Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally | Directed by James Burrows

This relationship entry feels the most like a throwback to the original series, with simple stories that pair the regulars in their quintessential combos. While Jack and Karen bring big comedy in a subplot that also pays tribute to the late Rosario, Will and Grace revisit their college romance when they find old love letters — an opportunity to remind of their history and milk more drama from his coming out, only this time by pivoting the conflict away from her dashed dreams and onto his struggle. It’s a more contemporary framing of their relationship and probably intends to make their bond healthier. An MVE contender.

03) Episode 218/24: “Anchor Away” (Aired: 12/06/18)

Will pretends to be like Jack in order to date a hot news anchor; Karen visits Lorraine.

Written by Alex Herschlag | Directed by James Burrows

Matt Bomer debuts as McCoy in this amusing offering that emphasizes the contrasting Will and Jack characterizations by having them switch personas during McCoy’s pursuit of Will, whom McCoy assumes is the dumb, shallow one. It’s always fun to see regular characters subvert personality traits, especially when they’re mocking/impersonating other members of the cast, and it naturally delivers big laughs. Meanwhile, the subplot makes room for the now-annual return of Minnie Driver as Karen’s nemesis Lorraine, and while this isn’t the best of her appearances, it’s funny enough. (Note: Adam Rippon also guests.)

04) Episode 219/25: “Family, Trip” (Aired: 01/31/19)

Will, Jack, and Karen enjoy spiked chocolate milk, while Grace deals with her sister.

Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally | Directed by James Burrows

Truthfully, this isn’t a great season, so I’m having to accept some “memorable but middling” entries on this list even to reach a consistent seven selections. This is one of those entries, for it merely banks easy laughs in an A-story where Will, Jack, and Karen drink some chocolate milk laced with drugs, leading to a centerpiece where Karen sings (in mourning of her divorce from Stan). The subplot is similarly memorable but middling, as Grace’s sister (Mary McCormack) temporarily dates Grace’s female client (Chelsea Handler). It’s not tops, but both stories try to find some character value in the hijinks, and that’s at least appreciated.

05) Episode 220/26: “Dead Man Texting” (Aired: 02/07/19)

Will hosts a dinner with his boss, hoping for a full-time position; Karen and Estefan feud.

Written by Jordan Reddout & Gus Hickey | Directed by James Burrows

As with the above, this isn’t one of this abbreviated list’s true best, but it’s an enjoyable half hour that has fun putting Karen in another feud — this time with Jack’s fiancé Estefan (Brian Jordan Alvarez). There’s a Dynasty-esque fountain fight centerpiece and a tacky attempt at a sincere Jack/Karen friendship beat at the end that nevertheless feels very much in the spirit of old Will & Grace — it’s agreeable for that reason. The A-story, meanwhile, is inherently amusing, and though it doesn’t really do much by way of character for Will or Grace, I’ll remember it as a funny one-off notion that helps cement Will’s new career as a law professor.

06) Episode 223/29: “The Real McCoy” (Aired: 02/28/19)

Val tries to stop Grace’s campaign on election night; McCoy returns to pursue Will.

Written by Alex Herschlag | Directed by James Burrows

McCoy is back in this especially broad installment that courts big, bold yuks in every narrative direction and mostly succeeds. Yes, the return of McCoy for an official season-ending relationship arc with Will comes out of nowhere and requires a pivot in his characterization, but he still has a distinct personality that at least enables him to be comedically congruous with the show’s episodic intentions, if not Will’s actual evolution. Additionally, Molly Shannon’s crazy Val is also back for her annual appearance — capping Grace’s election arc in a crazy story that involves an angry mother hawk. Frankly, it’s a little more ridiculous than the show’s baseline (and it’s certainly not all character-rooted), but it’s amusing and I won’t forget it…

07) Episode 226/32: “Conscious Coupling” (Aired: 03/21/19)

Will and Grace use each other when concocting lies to avoid committing to their partners.

Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally | Directed by James Burrows

My choice for this year’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), “Conscious Coupling” provides probably the best look at this particular season, as the script (by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally — who often pen winners) seeks to explore each of the four regulars via their chosen relationship arcs. Karen’s is the least successful, as we’re forced to endure her insultingly brief and therefore seemingly trivial lesbian fling (with Samira Wiley), but it’s a sample of what this season is offering, and it’s tempered by the stories for everyone else, including Jack, who is tempted to cheat on Estefan with an old flame (the cop from last season) yet smartly resists — a sign of his growth (which I can accept at face value). And then the A-story, with Will and Grace both deflecting commitment in their separate romances by making up excuses that involve the other (i.e., Grace is mentally ill; Will is a crook and a gambler), is not only comical, it comes the closest this year to addressing the central thesis of their relationship being an impediment to their own personal improvement and happiness. Accordingly, this is the best use of their characters from the entire season, and, again, it’s an accurate reflection of Two/Ten’s arc-based style.


Other notable episodes that merit mention include: “Tex And The City,” which has a great Jack story but features Leslie Jordan’s Beverly Leslie in a subplot that turns into a political sermon, “Grace’s Secret,” which unevenly pairs a heavy and gratuitously topical A-story with a silly and big-laugh subplot featuring Coco Peru, “The Scales Of Justice,” which I only cite for the amusing physical comedy performed in the subplot by Hayes and Messing, “The Pursuit Of Happiness,” which guests Andrea Martin, and “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding,” which wraps the season with some big hahas (like a parody of Ellen‘s “The Puppy Episode”) but too many forced narrative maneuverings that represent Will & Grace at its worst.


*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two/Ten of Will & Grace goes to…

“Conscious Coupling”



Come back next week for Season Three (Eleven)! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard!