Tuesday, June 12, 2007

endings and spoilers

i admit... for a moment there, i too swore at my cable provider, thinking my reception had died right in the middle of the closing moments of the sopranos finale. but no, that was really how it ended.

i'm still not entirely sold on the sheer abruptness of the ending. (then again, if meadow had gotten inside and the show faded to black from a dinner-table shot, i'm not sure it would've been any better.) but beyond that, i was relatively pleased with the sopranos finale... and am amused that so many people are still so upset about it.

i understand that a lot of people were expecting some sort of closure. dramatic, cataclysmic closure, even. and they're upset that they didn't get it. but the sopranos has never been about tidy little endings or easy-to-illustrate three-act narrative arcs. real life isn't like that: events that you'd expect to have major consequences end up boiling over, and the most seemingly minor details can change everything.

take a show like 24. now that's a show that is completely dominated by its format and genre conventions. you might not always be able to predict the plot turns exactly, but it gets pretty easy to predict when they will happen. hell, the show even telegraphs when its plot points will happen: "how long until they arrive?" "about 30 minutes, jack."

when something happens on 24, it happens because the plotting demands something happen at that moment. and as that show progresses from season to season it becomes increasingly formulaic and absurd, bearing less and less resemblance to reality.

(and even then, 24 producers smartly switched to two-hour finales a couple years back, because the final hour of a 24 season inevitably has 20 minutes or more of the surviving characters hugging each other in relief. don't make the mistake of confusing the finale with the climax. just like on 24, the real climax of the final season of the sopranos was really the penultimate episode, not the finale.)

the sopranos, like real life, doesn't work like that. bad stuff happens, and you just have to adjust and move on. in the real world, you rarely get closure. you just buck up and keep on living because you have no choice. and that's how the sopranos ended, too. sure, it would've been exciting if the show had ended with a rain of bullets, but it wouldn't have felt true to the series, let alone true to life. as i've seen at least one critic write, any ending would've been a copout. instead, we just don't get an ending. life goes on for the soprano family and crew; we just won't be around to see it. (and don't believe the hype about this being a cliffhanger for a sopranos movie: it wasn't. there will be no movie.)

i remember when the final issue of the comic preacher came out, a small but very vocal portion of the audience hated it. they wanted a bloodbath and grotesque humor, but instead they got a relatively heartwarming comic about reconciliation. that issue did provide closure—closure regarding the human relationships that had formed throughout the series—it just wasn't the kind of closure that some fans wanted. what struck me about that uproar is that those people just didn't get what the series was truly about. and i have to wonder how many of those people who are so upset about the sopranos finale really understood the show in the first place. sure, i understand the desire for closure, but after everything that's come before, did you really expect it?

anyway, since i'm talking about finales already, here are my thoughts on other finales from this season:

24: pretty lame, really. the whole season was little more than a mishmash of things we've seen in previous seasons: threats on the president, the inevitable mole, an assault on CTU headquarters... give me a break, already.

heroes: fun, but not perfect. i wasn't expecting the resolution to the bomb threat, which is good. my favorite stuff from the season was around episodes 19-20, though.

the office: awesome. this is easily one of the best comedies in the country right now.

my name is earl: really? seriously? i like a good cliffhanger as much as the next guy, but... this cliffhanger? on this show? and how contrived will it be next season when they press the undo button?

battlestar galactica: the trial was handled imperfectly (i liked the ruling, but not with how the trial itself was staged), but i totally loved the cylon stuff. wasn't surprised by the return of starbuck. next season is the final season, and i for one am glad, because as much as i love the show, i want the producers/writers to end it on their terms, and not get cancelled before they can resolve their storyline. next season should be amazing; it will be difficult to wait until january.


djempirical said...

i just caught up on the office -- and i'm excited to see next season. it was a nice twist, the love triangle remains intact... sweet.

arratik said...

i was a bit upset at the ending of the sopranos - at first. so much so that i immediately posted "david chase can gargle my balls" on my own blog after the ending. but the more i thought about it, the more it made sense, at least in the context of that show. it wouldn't have worked with any other show. imagine if larry gelbart did the same thing with mash... but in the context of the sopranos' last season as a whole, it seemed like the story development was painfully slow, and for chase to keep it going at that same pace until the last five minutes, when the tension was suddenly racheted up to a level that they hadn't seen in years only to fade to black... ehh.

i guess ultimately i wouldn't have been so upset if i was grabbing the episodes off the pirate bay instead of shelling out the extra $15/mo for the hbo package. and if tony actually went with "i gotta be me" on the tabletop jukebox instead of "don't stop believing", it probably would have made it an easier pill to swallow.

i would be interested, though, to see if any of the rumored "alternate endings" were actually filmed and if they make it onto the next batch of dvds.

Anonymous said...

Remember the end of "Dallas"? You hear a gunshot and then someone comes along and looks into the room J.R. was in from the doorway and says "Good God" or words to that effect, without showing you what he's looking at? Same shit, different series.