*The following discusses endings of several drama series, including spoilers.
The ending of Game of Thrones is near. The ending remains as unpredictable as it was when we first laid eyes on The Others, this time being called the White Walkers. Yet the reception of whatever ending they have planned, which is supposedly close to how the novels will end, is much more predictable. Meaning it will not be well-received. This prediction is backed by a long history of legendary dramas series ending with major backlash.
This was a topic Matthew Berry and I discussed earlier this week in a nearly hour-long discussion. Berry brought up the point that none of these endings are well received or deemed as satisfying. After thinking about this for a few days, my conclusion is it nearly impossible to conclude a story that is subjectively satisfying to even 50 percent of the audience. Because this is all subjective, after all.
Let’s think, when is the last ending that left most of, or even half the viewers happy the next morning? Breaking Bad, which is arguably a top five show ever, was probably the closest. Even that ending, though, based on mass reactions, had has many mad as satisfied. I, for one, found the ending very clunky, off-brand, and very hard to believe. After so many seasons of nothing working out, each second just worked out perfectly in the last episode?
Other great shows, some even greater than Breaking Bad, were much more displeasing. The Sopranos had the most controversial ending of them all. And as time has passed, it isn’t all that controversial because most have found it a terrible way to conclude. I found it incredibly puzzling and a waste of all of our time.
We all know by now the opinions of Lost‘s ending. The thriller is still being crushed and its supporters have given up defending it. Not to say it wasn’t controversial. Like with The Sopranos, there is the case that the lack of answers was brilliant. Most just don’t agree.
True Detective‘s first season is also worth adding in here. The anthology season wraps things up each season, but only the first season is put on the pedestal with the greats. Nic Pizzolatto’s genius was on display throughout the season but didn’t end things on an equal level. The most unpredictable season of television ever, ended with a pretty predictable ending. Another great drama that didn’t quite get the ending right.
The Wire, on the other hand, is criticized. It is almost illegal to do so online. Its fans will never change and yet most probably can’t even remember the ending because it was so lackluster. The Wire basically elected to not give us an ending by making it so unforgettable. This is no way to end a great show by any means. If all experts got in a room and broke down endings, The Wire isn’t making any best endings list that doesn’t include far too many shows. Go watch it again, tell me you liked it or remembered it.
Mad Men ended on a slightly higher note but still didn’t give anything more than a C-level conclusion. Hard to imagine that ending being considered a success. Especially given the track the show was on after four seasons.
I am on record saying The Leftovers is the greatest television show of all-time and has an ending that is unmatched. But as I say that, there are likely three-quarters of those who watched still mad they didn’t get too see more of the series-long mystery. It is fair to say it required a viewer to be much more dedicated than most are to understand it. That can’t be what Damon Lindelof wanted.
What else is there? What great drama can we gather together and happily agree it ended right?
What is so telling in all of this, the greatest of shows all ended differently, in parallel ways, and still disappointed most. The only real takeaway here is that no ending is going to be accepted by you, me, or the masses, no matter how it ends. When viewers are invested long enough, they begin to envision their own endings. In most cases, unless they have a similar mind as the writers, are thinking of something much different.
Game of Thrones is bigger than all these shows. It so closely dissected a coffee cup doesn’t even go unnoticed. It will be the most discussed ending regardless of how it actually wraps up. I’ve been much more impressed with this season than most. In all likelihood, I will sign off on it while others will remain furious. Or perhaps it will be the opposite. But like with all the other shows mentioned, a show can be great despite not ending the way most want as there is clearly no way to do so.