I always felt that some of the best episodes in this series were the ones that were funny, but also had a twinge of emotion mixed in. It would be a stretch to say that Ray and Debra exhibited a lot of sensitive and dramatic moments together. Then again, it would also be incorrect to say that these things were nonexistent in the show--in fact, there was arguably a fairly generous spoonful of them placed over the show's 9-year run. In any case, the final episode showcases some interactions between the two that were never shown quite as sweetly at any other time in the show, and the creators made a smart move by bowing out with this special tone while still maintaining the classic humor we've come to love.
The final season of "Raymond," as a whole, was surprisingly hilarious and memorable for a series that has been on the air for nine years. They really did an impeccable job at keeping it real with genuine and funny episodes. In the finale, Ray's visit to the hospital for some minor surgery suddenly turns into a dramatic near-death experience. The scare lasts only about 30 seconds, but it is enough to upset the family. The episode goes down the emotional road with the noticeably more affectionate behavior Debra exhibits toward Ray the night after his surgery, along with the rare affection that Ray returns to her and, representing an even larger rarity, the fear in Frank's eyes when he realized he almost lost his younger son. Sounds very emotional, but they balance it out with the hilarity by showing Ray and Marie's reactions when they find out that Ray almost died.
The success of this final episode is very controversial among fans; some absolutely loved it, while others felt it was not as good as it could have been and were disappointed. I am one of those people who feel that they could not have possibly done a better job with the finale episode of a 9-season series. I'm not going to lie and say that there are some people or ideas I would have liked to see (having Amy announce a pregnancy would have been great, but maybe they are saving that kind of extra-special material for a potential reunion speial). I imagine the writers put a great deal of thought and planning into this very highly-anticipated episode. It is VERY difficult to come up with a final hurrah that will please the vast majority, and with a show like this you had to expect that they would go in this direction that they did for the last episode. Even though we all know these characters must obviously love each other, it was important for the finale to have a touching and more heartfelt plot, and with the laugh-out-loud moments they weaved in here, I think it came out perfectly. As Ray Romano and Phil Rosenthal always said, "When we do the sensitive stuff, it's short, it's sweet, and it's earned." Every last second of sweetness in this episode was well-deserved, perfectly scripted, and brilliantly acted.
The way I see it, there was a real possibility that the writers could have tried way too hard and ended up with something too over-the-top for the finale. However, typical of the show's classy and low-key ways, they kept it simple, maintaining their usual formula and not acting like they had to make it something it wasn't. They obviously realized that no matter what they did, some people would like it and others would not, so it was best to develop the finale almost as a normal old episode, with a few special surprises and sensitive moments to acknowledge that closure in the show itself. I am just really impressed that they did it this way.
All in all, it was a terrific episode and a very classy way to conclude the successful series. Fans who are partial to those tender moments are treated to just that when Ray and Debra openly express their underlying love for each other at the end of the episode, but it is fleshed out with the funny stuff that, miraculously, has not grown a bit stale even after 9 years. Everybody Loves Raymond was such a great show because it didn't throw any major curveballs or screwy developments just to get ratings, as many shows today tend to do. They kept the plot simple and consistent all 9 seasons--general marriage and family life--and just kept up the amazing writing to keep it fresh and enjoyable all the way through.
So there you have it: This show ended on top of its game, just as funny as ever, bowing out with grace and humility, before the public had a chance to grow tired of them. That's the perfect way to do it--with more left to be desired (and hopefully, with some luck, we will get at least one reunion special in the future). The finale tied up those couple of loose knots with the emotionally sweet Ray/Debra scenes that redefined what the show was really about. Sure, they got at each other's throats constantly throughout the series, but there was always that unspoken yet completely evident acceptance and love for each other tucked beneath. This finale episode got it down just right--it was sweet and incredibly touching, and yet it was all balanced out so evenly that nobody can ever accuse it of being too cheesy or over-the-top.
The writing for the finale was terrific and the cast was excellent as always--especially Patricia Heaton. She truly get better with each passing season--more so than any of the other cast members, in my opinion--and she has fantastic on-screen chemistry with Romano. It's amazing to me how this woman managed to play off such a wide range of emotions--anger, frustration, crying, hollaring, everything. She is indeed, as another reviewer has said here, "the heart and soul of this episode," and her performance adds even more likability to the well fleshed out character she has developed over the past 9 years.
This is, beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the very few long-lasting sitcoms out there that could have easily stood to continue with a 10th season, and it is sad that they did not, but on the other hand, the fact that they bowed out with such humility just makes me feel even more respect for all those who devoted their years and efforts to such a contemporary masterpiece. I will miss this show tremendously but will always love watching the reruns on TV and DVD (which is already planning the release of Season 6 and is shaping up to possibly have the whole series out within the next year) and remembering how well it did for itself for nine VERY successful years. Of course, all fans will want to have at least one reunion special to look forward to in the future (personally, as I said before, I would love to see Robert and Amy return with a child), and with a show this great and actors with this rare type of likability, I have no doubt it will happen.