|Although I don't care for the Phillip Stroh|
|storyline, The Closer ends on the right note.|
The problem, of course, is all the pressure to make the end BIG and AMAZING and--even more problematic--to pay off all the stuff that came before.
Truth is, the best endings occur when the writers ignore the pressures and simply produce good story.
Here are a few examples of the good and the awful (of course, there are spoilers!):
The final episode of Monk is surprisingly good, considering that the six-fingered man fell perilously close to big, bad, conspiracy theory territory. But the story was neat, fast-paced, and psychologically accurate (I won't disagree with those who think Monk should have opened the present years earlier, but I also think Monk couldn't have handled the truth about Trudy--whom he always idealized--until that moment in the show).Awful: Castle
Let's face it: the entire Season 8 was a huge mistake. Nathan Fillion did his darndest to carry the show with help from the supporting cast but the absence of Stana Katic from many of the episodes makes the season practically non-canon.
On top of which, while Season 7--which was likely supposed to be the last season--ended on a lovely, lets-go-forward-into-the-future note, Season 8 ended with one of those stupid endings that ABC seems just a tad too obsessed with (see below): "they could be dead/they could be alive/it could be a dream!" endings.
|Possibly one of the best finales of all time.|
"All Good Things..." is one of the best series' finales on record (in fact, I think I'll rewatch it this afternoon!). It not only gives the viewer a nice recap of previous seasons/episodes, it also handsomely pays off the pilot and Q (John De Lancie) specifically. It includes an actual plot. It utilizes time travel intelligently. And it leaves the reader with hope for the characters.Awful: Dexter and Lost
Unfortunately, by the time the writers reached the finales of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, they had kind of gone off the deep end in terms of trying to be "unique." Voyager's seasons contain some very, very clever time travel episodes. But I don't care for how it is used in the finale.
I'm not placing Voyager's finale in the Awful category, however, because--kudos to Star Trek writers--despite the tiresomeness of time travel, the finale is still a strong story with decent payoffs. It is not . . .
I have never seen either of these finales, so I am going off the complaints I have heard. Which are many! Plus they are useful comparisons to the above examples because both utilize the "is it a dream/is it reality?" approach.Of course, I haven't included all those seasons where the writers meant to keep going but couldn't because the show was cancelled. Sometimes, that is the worse. Sometimes . . . it is nice to know that the characters are still out there somewhere treading their way through the wide, wide universe.
I consider this approach the second epitome of writing cop-out-ness (the first is using death to solve a problem). When I talk to my students about argument/persuasion, I always say the same thing:
"When you are writing your essay," I say, "and reach the end, do not abandon your thesis! You've just spent the entire essay arguing that people should support a particular cause or theory. Do not get to the end and say, 'Well, you have to make up your own mind. This is just my opinion. Whatever.' Waffle. Waffle. Waffle. I've read wonderful essays that totally convinced me of an argument until I reached the end, and the writer gave up. I get so upset, I throw the essay across the room!!"
This is exactly how I feel about series that give up on its characters because the writers are trying too hard to be "clever."
Decent open-ended finale: Frasier.