Fans deserve satisfying season finales

by Ryan Hardison, Senior Staff Writer

There are few things on this earth I despise more than disappointing television show finales. 

To me, a satisfying television show finale is one that ends plausibly, succinctly, and clearly. If it achieves at least one of these, then it’s just decent, but achieving none of these deems it bad by my standards. Not everything has to be tied up into a neat, little box, but leaving things completely and intentionally unresolved irks me on another level. 

In all fairness, some shows are canceled before they are able to harness their full potential and are left with annoying cliffhangers like “Hannibal” and “Pitch.” This should definitely be accounted for when judging the quality of a show’s resolution. 

For some reason, there is a lot of information concerning television show finales on my mind, and since the pandemic began, I have had an abundance of time to watch shows and reflect on ones I haven’t seen in a while.  

When deciding what to watch, I immediately noticed bad finales really hurt not only a show’s binge-worthiness but the ability to rewatch it in general. 

Even shows I have never watched before felt really unappealing because I already knew too much about how things go south. 

Some are so notoriously bad that it leaves a stench and the lingering knowledge that one day I’ll be face-to-face with the thing I hate so much. I’ll be forced to reflect on all the time spent getting to that final, crucial moment, just for it to explode in my face. 

Personally, I’d rather not have that. 

For example, this is how I view the show “Lost.” I’ve never seen the show, but the fact that I know the ending is regarded as super unsatisfying makes me steer away from it, leaning toward shows that are still starting out. My disdain for “Lost” is also combined with the fact that drama shows with 20+ episode seasons and hour-long episodes are extremely time-consuming to get through. 

If I just ruined “Lost” for you as a future possibility, then I’m sorry. 

But look on the bright side, not all finales are bad.

A few recent comedies like “New Girl,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Schitt’s Creek” had sweet conclusions that not only tied up loose ends but rewarded long-time fans. 

However, there are a few that steadily tread off so that when the end comes, it’s almost impossible for it to be even worse than what they previously aired in the show’s final and weakest moments. I call this move “The Office.”

When reflecting on the worst of the worst, there are a few that stand out in my mind. 

To start, let’s look at “How I Met Your Mother,” which took a bow after its 9th season in 2014. This CBS comedy followed Ted Mosby and his four closest friends as they navigated New York City in their late 20s and early 30s. The episodes are viewed as stories that an older version of Ted tells his two children in the year 2030. This is basically his attempt to sum up how he met his future wife and the mother of his children. 

Though the “How I Met Your Mother” finale has grown on me since it first aired, there are still many things about it that greatly upset me.  

First, I have a problem with the way they resolved the storyline of Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris. Barney began the show as an egotistical womanizer who grew tremendously as a person and became incredibly open, heartfelt, and loyal. In the span of a half-hour, the finale took all of that away from him.

WARNING: Here’s where we get into the more explicit spoilers.

The long-winded love story of Ted and Robin, his on-and-off-again girlfriend, ended with the two getting together. The finale revealed that Ted’s finally revealed wife had died years before he began telling his kids the story of how he met her, leaving him widowed and only telling this elaborate story as a way to ask for his kids’ permission to date their (now) Aunt Robin. 

Though the entire show served as reasoning for why Ted and Robin weren’t meant to end up with each other, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas wrecked years of character growth just for the sake of throwing in one inexplicable twist. Not only did this move completely disregard the shows’ purpose, which is to build up to Ted’s marriage with the mother of his children, but this all happens at the expense of Barney. His brief marriage with Robin crumbled, and he descended back into womanizing, leaving him more down in the dumps than ever. He then ends up having a baby with one of his random flings and decides to raise the kid. Congratulations to him, I guess.

I don’t know if it makes it better or worse but, the creators had this exact ending planned since the very beginning. It’s a bold choice to hold onto this for eight years and not change a thing, but who am I to judge. I just hope for their sake, the writers of the show are better at making serious life decisions than storyline decisions. 

See, I’m starting to get worked up all over again. Let’s just move on. 

I was able to mostly overcome the feeling of disappointment with “How I Met Your Mother,” but there’s another show that I’m entirely too afraid to revisit: “Game of Thrones.”

The infamous co-creators and head writers of the show, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, managed to screw over everyone and create something so frustrating that it can’t be explained properly.   

It still pains me to think about this, so I’m just going to keep this as brief as I can.

This HBO phenomenon was seriously one of a kind. The show was so massive in its final seasons that hackers began to hold new episodes hostage and leak them weeks ahead of time, making it hard to avoid spoilers. The stakes were really high for the show to have a proper send-off, and they failed spectacularly, leaving countless storylines unresolved for major and minor characters. 

HBO offered the creators a full ten-episode final season so everything could be wrapped up fully, but being the wise decision-makers they are, Benioff and Weiss opted to fit an incredibly packed plot into only six episodes. The six-episode eighth season began decently and then took a massive nosedive with a couple of good moments sprinkled in every now and then. 

There were countless decisions made that left fans wondering how anyone could make something so convoluted and stupid. This includes the creators explaining a major plot hole by saying one of the main characters, Daenerys,  just “forgot” enemy ships were coming to attack, even though the entirety of the previous episodes showed her and her allies planning their next moves extensively. Little things like this added up during the last few episodes, making fans wonder how they were ever entrusted to tell the story of which mythical character of the Seven Kingdoms would ascend to Winterfell’s Iron Throne.

(Wow, that last sentence was so nerdy, let me get back to the point.) 

I’m sure this type of extensive future planning goes through the head of various showrunners since a good ending is desired just as much as a good idea. Many show creators want to be remembered for their art, but here’s the sad truth: they don’t owe us anything. It’s not super fair or reasonable to fully bank on a satisfactory finish, and it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on showrunners. It’s their creation. We are just the ones interpreting it. 

Personally, I think from now on, every network should take the “Grey’s Anatomy”/“NCIS” route, meaning just keep shoveling out seasons and rolling through so many characters that people just get sick of it all and stop watching. 

If you really want to test people’s loyalty and determination, make the show last until there’s literally no one left standing. It’s foolproof. 

Ryan Hardison is a junior studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @ryn_hrdsn.

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