A Million Little Things aired its Season 5 (and series) finale on ABC Wednesday night and finally answered the question on everyone’s minds: Does Gary die?
Our dearly beloved Gary Mendez (James Roday Rodriguez) was arguably the greatest guy on TV. He’d been through hell and back repeatedly since the pilot, but he never let it harden him. Instead, he continually showed up for people, proving himself a phenomenal friend, a literal lifesaver, a dreamy romantic, and a comedian who missed his calling along the way.
In the pilot of A Million Little Things, we learned Gary was a breast cancer survivor and he was later diagnosed with lung cancer in the Season 4 finale. Since the Season 5 premiere kicked off with an unexpected funeral, fans feared they’d be saying goodbye to Gary in the premiere, but Gary’s father, Javier Mendez (Paul Rodriguez), was one who passed away. In a surprising Season 5 twist, Gary’s cancer responded to treatment and his outlook seemed positive. His doctor explained that his type of cancer wasn’t curable, but it was treatable and they would do everything they could to ensure he lived as long as possible.
After the bittersweet news, Gary and Maggie (Allison Miller) set out to make the most of life and welcomed their son, Javier. Everything seemed back on track for our favorite guy, until he coughed up blood at Katherine (Grace Park) and Greta’s (Cameron Esposito) wedding in Season 5, Episode 11 and learned his cancer spread to the other lung and was no longer responding to treatment. The penultimate episode of A Million Little Things jumped forward a year and showed Gary and his pals coming to terms with the severity of his new diagnosis. He shaved his head, started treatment again, and tried to remain positive, but the oncologist told him and Maggie that he reached a point where treatment would impact his quality of life, so they should shift focus to making him as comfortable as possible for his time left.
Despite the finality of the doctor’s words, Maggie shifted into problem solving mode and got Gary into a treatment program in Mexico City. She vowed to do everything in her power to help save Gary, just like he helped save her, but after realizing he would rather spend his final days with friends, she called off the trip. Instead, she tracked down the engagement ring Gary proposed to her with earlier in the series, and the two finally got married.
As for Gary’s fate in the series, Season 5, Episode 13 answered all of our questions.
Did Gary die in the series finale of A Million Little Things?
Sadly, yes. In the series finale, “One Big Thing,”co-written by D.J. Nash and James Roday Rodriguez, Gary dies before the episode’s end. As we noted in our detailed recap, the episode opens with Eddie recording a video of Javi walking next to Gary’s hospital bed. Unable to talk, Gary writes on a whiteboard to crack jokes and let Maggie know he’s not hungry, but when she steps out of the room to make him one of his beloved PB and ice cream “smoothies,” he writes a message on the board that made Eddie’s face drop. “Are you sure?” Eddie asks before calling Rome and asking him to meet him at his place ASAP. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying? I’ll be right there,” Rome says.
The episode flashes back to a scene between Gary, Eddie, and Rome, and Gary asks them for a massive favor. “Obviously I’m gonna beat this thing, but if I don’t, I need you two to help me end it,” he says, instructing his friends to go see Kevin at the hospital if that time comes, so he can give them the drugs they need. “I can’t let Maggie watch me suffer and die from the same disease she’s battle twice. It’s called death with dignity and it’s all I want.” Referencing the famous elevator scene and saying when they met Jon, he adds, “This is it. This is Rutledge.” (The shorthand they had for taking care of Jon’s family.) When Eddie asks “How will we know it’s time?” the show cuts back to present day and reveals the message Gary wrote on the board: Rutledge.
Eddie and Rome retrieve the pills from Kevin, and after a poignant episode full of touching farewells and emotional interactions between Gary and his best friends, they play a video he pre-recorded for Maggie. “Hey Bloom. If you’re seeing this video it means none of our valiant efforts worked out,” Gary says onscreen. “I know how hard you fought and I hope you know, too. But it’s time.” After Regina, Eddie, and Rome say their goodbyes to Gary, Maggie sits with him alone in their bed and they share a heartbreaking farewell scene that will make you sob.
Back at Katherine and Greta’s house, the friend group gathers to honor Gary’s wishes and laugh, cry, reminisce, and honor his memory. But it’s not the last we see of Gary in the episode! He lives on in the videos he made Javi, specifically the one he recorded to celebrate his 16th birthday, which we see thanks to a major time jump. Gary lets a 16-year-old Javi know that even though he’s gone physically, he’s still with him. He tells Javi to surround himself with incredible friends that will become his family, and in the final scene of the series he says, “Oh, and mijo? Have a beautiful life.”
To read more about Gary’s farewell and the series finale of A Million Little Things, be sure to read our full episode recap.
A Million Little Things Season 5, Episode 13 will be available to stream on demand and on Hulu Thursday, May 4.
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