Monday, March 28, 2011

The End Of the Affair

I just recently saw the final episode of Saving Grace. I know, I’m late—it was broadcast last year. But I was watching it on DVD and this is when I finally got around to the last one. I have to say, although I sort of liked Saving Grace, I hated the ending.

I wasn’t alone on this—a lot of other people were either mystified or annoyed by the way the series came to a close. SPOILER ALERT—DON’T READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THE SERIES ENDED.

So they killed Grace. She blew herself up in order to destroy a demon who might actually have been the devil himself. Now I know Buffy did something similar in the Dawn season, but when she did it, you understood why it would work and why she went through with it. With Grace, the reaction was more along the lines of “Huh?” The problem can be described as “The dude was supposed to be Satan—you think an explosion is gonna take care of him?”

The whole last season of Grace seemed somewhat chaotic to me, with some good episodes and some totally confusing ones. As a viewer, I got the feeling the writers were floundering, trying to figure out what to do (the series wasn’t cancelled until late in the season, but its fate was in question for quite a while). Ultimately, they came up with an ending nobody liked much.

But after my initial annoyance with the way the series ended, I started wondering—has any final episode actually worked? We all know the disasters: the Seinfeld ending, for example. But which ones have gone right?

In a lot of cases, the ending becomes a frantic tying up of loose ends, like the last episode of Friends. Or it’s a chance for lots of forgotten characters to reappear for a brief encore. Neither one of these is a great idea, IMHO.

I can think of a few final episodes that worked for me: MASH is a classic. The final episode of Life didn’t do anything extraordinary, but it did wrap up the villain who’d been a problem for two years. The final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was okay, but the final season itself was sort of lame. (Okay, I know somebody is going to think about the last episode of Lost, but I never could get into the series so I didn’t see the final episode).

In fact, a lot of series have lousy final seasons. The Wire is probably my favorite series of all time, but its final season wasn’t nearly as good as the four that went before (and I’ll never forgive them for killing off Omar). The Sopranos limped out of sight. I have to admit that by the time ER was finished, I was no longer watching. Again, I’m not sure why things should be this way. Maybe the problem is that some series go on much longer than they should and by the time they’re finally finished, the series itself has long since run out of steam.

Anyway, I wonder if maybe the best way for a series to end is to just go on doing what they’ve done all along, sort of like the ending of Cheers. I don’t think I’d have been nearly as annoyed if Saving Grace had ended with Grace solving yet another case while screwing up her private life. That’s pretty much the way she behaved for most of the series, and I’d have preferred to see her go on doing it. Maybe what I want is the illusion that the series is still continuing somewhere in an alternate universe where Grace is still stumbling, Ross and Rachel are still making up and breaking up, Angel and his gang are still fighting demons, and Omar is still slouching down the street whistling “Farmer In the Dell”. Yeah, that probably says a lot about my own psychology, but I think it’s preferable to trying to blow up the devil with a load of fertilizer.

So what do you think? Which series went out with a bang (pun not intended), and which with a whimper? And which do you think really got it right?


Maria said...

Well, I have to agree with you on the series finale episodes that I've seen. The one's that really bugged me were "The Sopranos"- I thought that I had lost cable feed when the screen went black or that my TV had died ...another was definitely "Seinfeld", which was seriously not funny and such a downer...recently "Big Love" ended on HBO and it was really a lame ending...I think the only show that I've watched recently that had a good finale was "Six Feet Under"....I'm scared of what's going to happen at the end of the current batch of TV shows that I watch...especially "The Closer" since there seem to be some issues as to whether or not the series will end or if there will be a spinoff

PG Forte said...

Usually, by the time most series ends, I couldn't care less what they do with the ending. Sopranos being a perfect example. The first season: awesome. The rest: not so much.

I do agree with you, Meg, about the Buffy finale. And the same with Angel. Gratuitous character deaths aside, they were not bad and certainly much better than the preceding seasons.

I thought the Gilmore Girls ending was well done. MASH wasn't bad. But, of course, everything pales next to the Quantum Leap finale. Worst. Ending. EVER.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Okay this is going back a while but I think the best series finale was the Bob Newhart Show. The second Bob Newhart show. Where he wakes up in bed and he's with his wife...from the FIRST Bob Newhart show. Like it was all a dream (a play on the Dallas things). I LOVED it!