“Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife – chopping off what’s incomplete and saying, ‘Now it’s complete because it’s ended here.’” -From The Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan[ref]via Dune by Frank Herbert[/ref]
(This is the part where Andrew spoils the endings of Let The Right One In, From Hell, LOST, Battlestar Galactica, How I Met Your Mother, and some music by Johann Sebastian Bach.)
I love endings.
A good ending often references how a story started, so we can see how the characters have changed (or not). It’s subtle, but the last scene of Let The Right One In implies that Oskar has become Eli’s new companion, like Hakan, the old man we saw at the beginning of the movie.
This would mean that the events of the story have happened before, with Hakan as a boy. We can also infer that Oskar will grow up into an old man like Hakan, hopelessly devoted to Eli, who remains an immortal little girl.
What a touching love story.
I think of the ending to a story like the final chords in a piece of music. Consider the ending to Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, which ends on, of all things, a C major chord.[ref]Or Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which is magnificently bleak- it descends into the root of its minor key, but not before giving us a small glimmer of major-sounding hope and then snatching it away completely.[/ref]
I love endings that give the audience a strong feeling that either compliments or complicates the rest of the work. One of my other all time favorite endings is from the graphic novel From Hell, Alan Moore’s magnum opus on the Jack the Ripper murders, and the dawn of the 20th Century, which influenced the Political Thriller in many ways.
The end of the story proper is a mirror of the prologue, which shows two of the characters, Inspector Abberline of the London Metro Police, and Robert Lees, a claimed psychic medium who helped crack the case, talking on a Dorset beach. In the prologue, Lees tells Abberline his secret: he made it all up, but it came true anyway.
In the epilogue, Lees describes a dream that matches a scene we saw earlier, a depiction of the conception of Adolf Hitler.[ref]Which must have taken place in the middle of the Ripper murders.[/ref] When asked to interpret the image of torrents of blood pouring out of a synagogue, Lees says, “I think there’s going to be another war.”
He’s making it all up, but we all know what’s going to happen. [ref]I could go on about this ending- including the way the last panels sink down to a dead gull on the beach, mirroring the rise up from a dead gull in the opening of the prologue. The seagull is a nod to Sir William Withey Gull, alias Jack the Ripper, who envisions himself as a spirit haunting humanity outside of time and space. Just what is the fourth dimension?[/ref]
I mentioned in an earlier post that the Political Thriller has gotten so long that it might be better to think of it as a TV show, rather than a movie or miniseries. The problem is that it’s always been a story with a distinct ending, yet TV shows are supposed to be ongoing.
I have no idea what would happen after the ending that I have- the story’s over, there isn’t supposed to be anything else.
Given that TV shows aren’t really about building to an ending, it’s not a surprise that some long-running shows can tick off their otherwise loving fans with a single final episode. LOST and Battlestar Galactica had the problem of failing to explain the unexplainable- and a Political Thriller can have the problem of trying to explain too much as well.
BSG almost had a different ending from the finale that aired: if the 2007-08 writers’ strike had gone on too long, the show probably would’ve been canceled. If that had happened, the last episode would have been season 4’s “Sometimes a Great Notion.” Here, the crew of the Galactica and the last remnants of humanity explore Earth, the home they’ve been desperately seeking since the beginning of the show. It’s been devastated by nuclear war and completely uninhabitable.
Characters react very badly to this news, of course, before Admiral Adama pulls up his britches and everyone jumps away to continue the search for home somewhere else. It’s almost unbearably bleak, but having the characters doomed to wander the galaxy forever would have been a powerful statement, completely in line with the rest of the show.
Now it’s complete because it’s ended here.
The sitcom How I Met Your Mother was a victim of its own success- the creators taped an ending with Ted’s teenage kids before they grew up, expecting the show would last maybe three or four years. But nine seasons later, the show had grown and mutated naturally into something where the ending didn’t really make sense.
If the point of the show was Ted maturing into an adult that was ready for a relationship with the eponymous Mother, which included resolving any lingering feeling for his friend Robin, having his affections boomerang back to her at the last moment felt forced.
HIMYM also had the problem of jumping forward in time over the course of the episode (I think Will & Grace did this too.) This feels rushed when condensed into a TV episode- we barely get used to one set of circumstances before we’re whisked along to something else. An episode, even a finale is best suited for focusing on one point in time.[ref] Star Trek: The Next Generation jumps around in time during its finale, but here it works, because it ties back to the themes of the show (Q’s judgment of humanity), and the two hour episode gives more time to set up the jumps.[/ref]
I don’t know if I’ll adjust the Political Thriller into a TV series, but given the current trend in serialized shows, and treating each season as its own discrete story, perhaps there’s room for a story that isn’t ongoing and wraps everything up in a single, satisfying ending.