I’ve been thinking a lot about endings of late. Not in a morbid way, mind you; although, the reality of existence is that it’s temporary and…
Okay. I’ll just stop right there and get to the type of endings I was really referring to: the endings of television series. I already discussed the recent endings of Psych and How I Met Your Mother in previous posts. But those series finales put the entire notion of how to properly end a television series into my head.
As I covered in last week’s POST, our beloved site-mistress and I recently attended the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. Paul Reiser was one of this year’s guests, and during his panel I took the opportunity to ask him about the thought process they went through as they prepared to end Mad About You. He said that they wanted to give Paul and Jamie a happy ending, but they didn’t want it to be too easy. Like any real marriage, there would be struggles and difficulties, but in the end they wanted to leave the audience happy and satisfied.
My recollection of the finale (and I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it since it aired in 1999) is that both of those goals were accomplished. The episode is set in the future where Paul and Jamie’s now grown daughter, Mabel, is making a documentary about her parents. In a series of flashbacks, the audience sees that even though Paul and Jamie do separate for a while, they eventually get back together and get their happy ending. As I recall, I enjoyed the episode and felt it was a fitting conclusion to the series. I do think I would appreciate it a lot more now that I’ve gone through the highs, lows, and end of my own marriage, though. In any case, I believe the Mad About You finale accomplished what the creators wanted.
But as a viewer and armchair TV pundit (even though I don’t actually own an armchair), it’s easy for me to sit here and critique final episodes. It’s far more difficult to actually write an ending to a popular series that will make the audience happy. So that’s the challenge I’ve set for myself. Instead of critiquing, I am creating. Here’s how I would wrap up three shows. My one rule was that the shows had to have been on the air for more than two seasons. Obviously, this could be full of spoilers. And now, the end is nigh!
The Walking Dead
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I am not the biggest fan of The Walking Dead. It’s too grim and bleak for my tastes. Also, I haven’t found most of the characters all that engaging. The biggest issue I find as a weekly viewer is that the show doesn’t have a lot of narrative drive. While there have been some arcs (The Governor, the Prison, the Farm), there’s no real sense of an overall goal beyond survival. I don’t expect Rick and this incredibly ragtag bunch to solve the zombie apocalypse.
Viewers have had a very limited view of the world on The Walking Dead. There’s talk of a spin-off that will take place elsewhere, but for the purposes of this exercise, I’m ignoring that and focusing on the main series. To end the series, we need some sense of finality for these characters. That means either killing them off or getting them to some sort of long-term sanctuary.
So in the final season, I would have Rick and company get word about the rest of the country. Somewhere else is doing better. Maybe the infection started in the southeast, and the rest of the country has basically cordoned itself off. The important thing is that the survivors now have a destination. After many hardships and the loss of several beloved characters, they make it to safety. My first temptation here was to have Rick sacrifice himself for the good of the group, but I hate to leave Carl without his dad (It’s also a little too Deep Space Nine). After reaching sanctuary, though, Rick realizes that, after all he’s been through, he’s just not meant to be in civilization anymore. He volunteers to go back into the infested areas to search for other survivors. The series ends with Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Darryl (If I left them alive) heading back into the infested zone.
The Big Bang Theory
While How I Met Your Mother had an arc driving the whole series (Ted had to meet the Mother. Otherwise, what were we watching?), The Big Bang Theory really doesn’t. That isn’t to say that the characters haven’t grown as the series has progressed. Howard has gone from wanna-be womanizer to a married man. Raj has gotten over his inability to talk to women. Leonard and Penny have built a relationship. And even Sheldon is dating.
CBS has renewed the show for three more seasons. My guess is that somewhere in that time, Howard and Bernadette will have a baby. Beyond that, I can’t see too much more happening with the other characters. Leonard and Penny’s engagement is bound to hit the usual turbulence that happens to the main couple in a sitcom, so any wedding will probably be held off until the end.
But if it was my show, there’s wouldn’t be a wedding. Leonard and Penny have never worked as a couple as far as I’m concerned. I get Leonard’s infatuation with her, and I can see why she’d date him for a little while. None of their interactions make me believe that their relationship would last long term. The show’s writers seem to agree with me based on some things that were said during a recent episode where Raj had them playing their future selves for a murder mystery night.
Before the finale, Leonard and Penny need to come to this realization, break it off, and find some way to stay close. In the last episode, Penny gets a TV series role, but it’s in New York. She says her goodbyes and moves away, leaving Leonard saddened at the departure of the one-time love of his life. A few weeks later, a new neighbor moves in. She’s much more Leonard’s type, and she introduces herself to him saying something to the effect of, “You must be Leonard. Your roommate was telling me all about you.” Obviously, her impression of him is positive, and they begin chatting. Yes, Sheldon did something nice for Leonard, showing that maybe he cares about his friend. Meanwhile, in the apartment, Amy informs Sheldon that the amount of time stipulated in the relationship agreement has passed, and it is now time for sex. Clearly displeased, Sheldon follows Amy back to the bedroom.
I’m going to end with a quick one. As far as I’m concerned, this show demands a “The Adventures Continue” type ending. Also, despite the third season finale, I refuse to accept that Moriarty is actually still alive. Instead I believe this is a ruse set up by Sherlock, Mycroft, or possibly both to get Sherlock’s exile revoked. The timing is just too convenient. The show isn’t produced on anything resembling a regular schedule, and realistically any season could be its last. I’m assuming that we will actually get a fourth season (the BBC has commissioned a fourth season, but no one knows when it will be filmed), and maybe even a fifth, since creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss claim they have plans. If we get a fifth, I have to believe that will be the end of it.
So how to end it? My first impulse here was to get Sherlock and John rooming together again and heading out to solve cases, but that would mean that somehow Mary would have to be out of the picture. Considering that Mary is pregnant at the end of season 3, removing her and a child seems a bit brutal. John has already been through a lot. I want to leave him as the happy family man with Mary and the baby. It’s been established that Mary not only appreciates but actually likes that John solves cases with Sherlock. The show’s ending needs to continue this. John gets a text. Before he can even say a word to Mary, she tells him to go. And the show ends with Sherlock and John racing off to another mystery.
I won’t pretend that my endings will satisfy everyone. Actually, my Big Bang finale would probably be hugely unpopular (and I need to work in one last Wil Wheaton appearance). I don’t envy the creative teams as they try to bring these shows to a close. Especially since no matter what they do, there will be people like me out here waiting to throw in my two cents.
- Alan Decker
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