Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Means To An Ending

It’s been interesting the past couple days reading the chatter about the final episode of The Sopranos, especially from the people who felt short-changed. Judging from the comments about what some individuals wanted to see, it made me wonder if they had watched any of the previous eighty-five episodes or understood any of them.

All the suggestions of what happened after the screen abruptly cut to black, mid-song, reminded me of the first assignment the English Literature tutor set the class I was in, studying for my A-levels. Asking for a 3000-word essay on a WH Auden poem so short it barely existed on the page, it became evident in hindsight that his aim was to see whether we would write solely about the content or add unnecessary suppositions to pad out the essays and reach the expected word count.

Written and directed by David Chase, Made in America was astonishing and audacious and glorious. People may have wanted blood but that’s not what the show was every about. To sate their appetite the episode had included a killing that was so sickening that one of the shocked bystanders was physically sick. But it’s the marvellous, abrupt ending that The Sopranos will be remembered for.

Aside from the viewing public, various industry figures waded in to express their own opinions, including

David Milch:

It was a question of loyalty to viewer expectations, as against loyalty to the internal coherence of the materials. Mr. Chase’s position was loyalty to the internal dynamics of the materials and the characters.

Harlan Ellison:

It is Art in its purest form. David Chase did the impossible, he gifted the loyal viewer of the series a payoff at once deep, thoughtful, chilling, fraught with summation and insight.

Ron Moore:

I'm glad he thumbed his nose at the tyranny of the narrative drive to bring things to a tidy conclusion so we can all clap and walk away without another thought about that mob family in Jersey, satisfied that all's well that ends well.

Moore concludes by saying, “It's poetic. It's exciting. It's perfect. And most of all, I wish I'd thought of it first.” With Battlestar Galactica about to enter its final year, Moore has to come up with a satisfying resolution to his own show. It also has to top the mind-bending final sequence of the third season finale, which would have been an absolutely perfect ending if the drama had finished then and there.

Few ongoing television shows have managed to pull off the perfect ending. Too many times they got too maudlin or tangled up in tying up loose ends to produce a fulfilling final episode. The only one I can think of right now that really stands out, and also polarized audience opinion, was the final scene of St Elsewhere, which intimated the drama had only existed in the mind of an autistic child.

What show ending worked for you?


At 12:00 am, Blogger Lee said...

It worked for me because it didn't tie everything up in a nice bow. "What could it mean?" is always a better question than "What does it mean?" and Chase gave us an ending that invites multiple interpretations. How often does TV get the chance to do that?

At 12:43 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

Absolutely. And as Freud's vet once said, "Sometimes a cat is just a cat."

At 11:56 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

I’m sorely disappointed at the lack of Space Monkeys...


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