Five little words will cause any die-hard Friends fan to tear up: “I got off the plane.” When Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) appeared in Ross’ (David Schwimmer) doorway after boarding a plane to Paris, even though he had confessed his love to her at the gate and begged her to stay, Friends fans exhaled. A love story 10 years in the making (really more, if we count the prom video) finally had its happy ending.
And the culmination was truly fitting for the two characters. Rachel could have walked out of Newark Airport hand-in-hand with Ross, headed into a blissful metaphorical sunset. But that wouldn’t have been appropriate for the Ross-and-Rachel Friends fans had come to know and love. It would have been too simple. And nothing about Ross and Rachel was ever simple. From initially confessing their feelings, to their first kiss (and their first night together), to break-ups and breaks, there was always something standing in the way of their relationship.
But, of course, she did get off the plane. (Thanks to a phalange, or lack thereof. We will never know since the voicemail machine ran out of tape!)
Sure, it’s probably impossible that she’d ever be able to talk her way off that plane. And sure, it’s probably impossible that she got to Ross’ apartment so quickly. But when the end of a message meets the opening of a door, it doesn’t get much better.
There were subtle nods to many other important staples throughout the series’ 10-season run. Chandler and Joey’s foosball table (which might’ve been just a game, but was an integral part of the long-time roommates’ friendship) had to be destroyed when a baby chick and baby duck (a housewarming gift for the Bings and an ode to Season 3) ended up inside it. But the friends struggled to destroy it, because destroying the foosball table meant that the part of their lives when they sat around and played foosball was over. They were moving on and even if they wanted to look back, they couldn’t, because the thing that symbolized their past lives was gone.
And the fact that the final scene was filmed in the apartment was perfect. It could have been set in Central Perk, the backdrop for many important moments throughout the show’s run, but the apartment felt more intimate.
As Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) realized in the finale, it’s the place all six characters lived and the truest home any of them ever had. It’s where Rachel cut up her credit cards and cut herself free from her parents. It’s where Phoebe found out she was pregnant with her brother’s children. It’s where Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) got engaged. It’s where Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) found out that Ross was the father of Rachel’s baby. It’s where Phoebe got ready for her wedding. It’s where the gang grew up, transitioning from twentysomethings trying to navigate life in New York to real adults, who had learned a lot and also knew when it was time to move on, physically and emotionally, to the next chapter.
The last image Friends fans ever saw was of the empty apartment. The camera panned the room at the large, slanted window where the six friends looked at ugly naked guy; the window seat where Rachel stared at the rain, listening to “With Or Without You” and thinking about Ross; the bathroom that Joey retiled himself and where an anonymous pregnancy test was found in the trash; the kitchen where poker games and Thanksgiving meals were had; and then the peephole, the iconic part of the door with its golden picture frame. The camera stopped centered on it, as if to say that’s all there was. All that was left were just six keys belonging to six friends that unlocked a decade of laughs and tears.