Seems like the Theme of the Week is Endings, easy enough to do since all things end (actually, the expression is all GOOD things must end, the bad stuff keeps going and going and going, like the Simpsons). I'm actually a fan of things ending when they should end. Nothing worse than a series being run into the ground because it's still marketable, or characters surviving from fear of customer backlash. When a character or series ends, and ends WELL, you might be upset, but that just shows you care. It's the good kind of upset. It's catharsis. It gives meaning to the story preceding it. Keeping things going just to keep them going usually turns them into pale shadows of their former selves, as they lose the good will of those who heralded them as classics. And that's as true for tv as it is for comics or franchise movies and books or anything, really.
Here then are my five favorite upsetting finales. Endings that either attracted WTF?!? reactions or consumer rage, and yet, seem completely appropriate to me. Feel free to throw in your own.
5. 24 Season 6 finaleOk, so right away I'm breaking my own rules by featuring a series that HASN'T ended, but it sorta proves my point. 24 never quite fulfilled its promise for me. The show could essentially have been called CTU (had that been the case, I'm sure we would now have a CTU - New York and a CTU - Miami), and as such, ignored its high concept in favor of yet another "cop/workplace" drama with glass walls and soap opera subplots. This culminated in its 6th season, an exercise in shark-jumping in which practically everybody came back (even from the dead), and Jack's family was revealed to be terrorism brokers. It felt like one big, desperate, last hurrah for the show and could/should have ended there. The somber, ambiguous ending in which a burnt-out, guilt-ridden Jack Bauer teeters over a precipice was, in my view, the only perfect thing all season. If I was content to think Jack committed suicide after the closing second, then that worked for me. If you wanted him to survive and do something ludicrous like, I dunno, become a missionary in a fictional African country, then you could do that too. A bummer, you say? The whole damn season was a bummer.
4. Sledge Hammer!
I wouldn't be surprised that few remember this cop show parody from the 80s. After all, the ultraviolent Sledge (no more violent than, say, Hunter, but relishing it a lot more) didn't make it past a second season. In fact, they didn't think he'd get past his FIRST! The ending to the first season is pretty finale, let's say. How DO you end a series that makes fun of violence on tv and makes the networks' other shows look bad? Sledge fails to disarm a nuclear bomb and well, there goes the neighborhood! Better to think of that as the final end of Sledge, as the network gutted the "too violent" show in its second season. Duh! That was the point!
Perhaps the example that most readily comes to mind is Seinfeld. When the hit sitcom came to an end, fans gathered in living rooms and bars, held Elaine dancing contests and recited their favorite lines. Then they watched was must have seemed like a slap in the face: A huge clip show demonstrating how these characters you liked? They were real assholes. And maybe you're an asshole too for liking them. Severe DOWNER!!! And yet, it seems perfect to end on such a note, having the "show about nothing" give a wake up call to those who made it into "something". Clever loop back to the show's first meaningless conversation too.
An odd WTF?!? moment that was better received is Newhart's. Having 8 seasons of the Vermont-based sitcom be a dream by Newhart's character from The Bob Newhart Show was a damn perfect final twist (with special guest star Suzanne Pleshette!). And more than a small dig at Dallas' silly dream season from a few years earlier. Perfect for a show helmed by a comedian with a single character. Dick, Bob, they're the same guy, really.
1. Tintin et l'Alph-Art
My last choice is the last Tintin story which was to deal with a piece of modern art, a Plexiglas "A", and in line with all of Hergé's last efforts, would have been more postmodernism than adventure story. L'Alph-Art in fact promised to be Hergé's ultimate thesis on the relationship of form and content in art, but he died in the middle of the work. Casterman later decided to publish the book anyway, and there's something incredibly eerie as the penciled pages give way to sketches, scripts and then notes. Like the only way Hergé could ever have published a truly deconstructionist comic is to do so posthumously. Worth tracking down to get insight into a great master's work.
I'm sure you have your own WTF?!? endings. You. Comments. Tell us.