I watch a shitload of television. And since watching last night’s series finale of LOST, I’ve been thinking about series finales of the shows I loved. Unless I’m missing one, every single show that ended on its own terms presented me with a finale that I appreciated and, in most situations, loved.
By specifying shows that ended on their own terms, I am eliminating shows that were canceled or changed without a chance to properly finish the story they told, like Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Firefly, and The 4400.
Let’s examine a few of these series finales:
Seinfeld: What better way to end a show about four narcissistic, selfish assholes than to have them spend a year in prison for violating a Good Samaritan law? It brought back nine years worth of characters, revisited favorite episodes and moments, and demonstrated the foursome’s complete inability to learn a lesson from anything, remaining focused on the minutiae even to the end.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Defeat the First Evil, close the Sunnydale Hellmouth, lose a few friends, make some new ones, and empower thousands of women worldwide with slayer abilities, all while infusing humor with tear-inducing drama.
The Sopranos: The fade to black in an episode filled with deaths of many of the major characters, right as the Soprano family enjoyed what may be the last meal they ever ate, was not the most popular finale, although I found it pretty satisfying. Who cares if they were about to be gunned down. This show was not a glorification of the mob – in my opinion, it showed that even monsters have worries and dreams and concerns, but it doesn’t stop them from still being monsters.
LOST: Last night, after the finale aired, I saw someone tweet “What, so I just spent six years watching dead people?” No, you didn’t. They did not die when the plane crashed. You apparently missed the entire point of the show and the finale. These were people who were lost in their own lives, and they were brought together by this mystical island to grow, heal, and mature. It was the most important time in their lives. Granted, some of their lives ended on the island, but many of them found their purpose first. The “sideways world”, which should now be considered more of a “purgatory world”, was not taking place simultaneously with the real world. It was a post-mortem utopia that drew all of them back together one last time before they moved on, because they needed each other in order to continue into the light. I loved it.
When you watch characters for several years, I think it’s natural to have this sense of personal investment, which leads to a feeling that the creators owe you something. They don’t. They have their own story to tell, and it’s important to trust them to tell you the story the way that they want to. LOST is a good example of this – this last season answered all of the major questions, but lingering questions don’t matter to the story that the creators want to tell. It’s likely that if crafted well enough, the story itself gave you enough context to answer any question you want if you think about it enough. In the end, though, be entertained and enjoy what they’ve created for you.