Photos: Chris Haston/NBC

At this point, you almost have to wonder: Why did Will & Grace come back? A lot of the content in these initial episodes has consisted simply trying to get the show back on track post-reboot. The wiping out of the original finale’s ending. Will’s and Grace’s divorces. And since actress Shelley Morrison didn’t want to come back to portray Karen’s beloved, Members’ Only jacket-wearing maid Rosario, now we get a mid-season funeral episode, right before break. It’s an oddly down note to end on.

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Up side, the episode offers Megan Mullally the chance to take center stage as Karen, as she hides her grief behind a thin veneer of biting sarcasm. Jack gets some good moments as he flails around, trying to help, complaining, “I’m more confused than Britney onstage in Vegas” and looking for Karen’s books of magic spells (the Bible). He also nicely reminisces about his and Rosario’s brief marriage. After the weird disassociation of the characters last week, at least this week they’re all together at the memorial. But even then, the chemistry doesn’t quite work.

Will and Grace’s work fight, which took about .002 seconds to kick into gear, goes on for much too long, and all consists of the things they should have discussed before their partnership. At least Will calls her out for always making it all about herself, and we do get a welcome exploration of Grace’s grief after her own mom’s death, since Debbie Reynolds, who played Bobbi Adler, died last December.

But why is Minnie Driver there? Why is Jack singing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”? Why does Jack, who is supposedly a professional actor, not understand the sign for “stretch”? And why isn’t any of this funnier?

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If you decide to bring back your sitcom, you would hope, there is some planning involved. Some jokes you have saved up. Some things you haven’t had the chance to do over the past 11 years and now finally get to (once you move past all the Trump jokes). But at so many points during this memorial, Will & Grace just seems like a show that was quickly thrown together, with little forethought or even appreciation for bringing these characters back.

It’s why Mullally’s moments stand out so much, because she kills it. Her beloved reunion with Smitty is everything we could have asked for. And, as the only real adult in the bunch, it makes sense that only Will would really be able to comfort her: That was a nice moment. The brief bits of Karen unraveling, yelling louder than we’ve ever heard her. The heartfelt, poignant speech at Rosario’s coffin, which resulted in the second time I’ve teared up during Will & Grace season nine (Jack’s speech to his grandson is the first). They stand out even more compared to Grace’s bullshit “why don’t you rent it and then not tell me about it” remarks to Will.

These exemplary moments show that there is something there. A definite chemistry among the cast, and plots to be mined now that they’re all further along own the road of middle age. Why the show wastes time with ridiculous stray plotlines (Karen off with Leslie Jordan last week) and unfunny bits (Grace at the funeral), I just don’t understand. Maybe over this break the writers can regroup, and pull together what many of us loved about the show in the first place. And since this show has already been renewed through season 10 (before the first episode of this season even aired), I guess they’ll have lots of time to work it out.

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Stray observations

  • Grace just pulled that left side/right side hypochondriac thing a few weeks ago, show.
  • Feel like Jack was doing his best Shirley MacLaine in Terms Of Endearment while demanding Rosario’s Jello for himself.

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  • This week in “Do I hate Grace’s outfit as much as Karen would?”: Even in her grief, I’m surprised Karen didn’t say anything about Grace’s bow-tied dress, which looks like she’s been upgraded to a pancake restaurant from last week’s Ponderosa restaurant.
  • No explanation as to where Stan is?
  • Lines I really didn’t need to hear: “Do you know how humiliating it was for me to have to finish myself off in front of your father?”

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  • So Futon Critic is calling this the episode the “fall finale,” but there also will be a Christmas episode on December 5. See you all then! (Remember that time when Grace kept dumping Will in favor of Leo at the Nutcracker? Guess she’s always been the worst, huh?)