The Unpopular Ending

I started watching TV with lunch about three years ago after reading an article about time management and how so many of us are bad at it. I thought I was pretty good at it until I realized I spent six days out of seven at my desk. I ate lunch there, and more often than not, spent a good portion of Saturday or Sunday (or both there). And I wondered why I was always tired.

So, I started taking lunch away from the computer and my hour on the couch with a sandwich and a remote is sacred. I do not take kindly to interruptions—because I’m usually in the middle of an episode that occurs in the middle season of a completed TV series, and sh*t is happening.

I don’t always tackle completed series, but I prefer to. I don’t want to wait a year to find out what happens next. I want to know now. With lunch. Today.

Because I watch completed series, spoilers can be an issue—but not really. Spoilers are so often out of context until I’m watching something, and then I usually forget what I’ve heard until I see it, and then I’m all, like, Oh! Take the “Red Wedding” on A Game of Thrones. All I knew was that people died at a wedding. Bloodily. I didn’t know who. So, in the episodes leading up to it, I started guessing. I was mostly right. (I mean, honestly, how stupid was— I’ll stop right there in case you haven’t seen it.)

What can be an issue is popular opinion regarding series endings. I put off watching A Game of Thrones for about a year after it finished because so many people complained about the last season. Why stream my way through eight years of television only to deal with a crappy ending?

Here’s a non-spoiler: I liked the ending. I loved the whole last season. I also loved (and appreciated) the end of The Sopranos. I sobbed so much during the last episode of Lost I had to go and take a nap. I am the only person I know who liked the final episode of Dexter.

I have theories as to why this is, and number one on the list is that I get to watch these shows in a bubble of isolation (which Mr. Jensen is invited to visit on occasion). My opinion is not influenced by water cooler talk. Additionally, I don’t have to wait a year between seasons. My momentum is not broken by time and speculation.

Here’s my take on the endings I mentioned above. Spoilers will be unavoidable from here onward.

A Game of Thrones

Brienne of Tarth.
My ultimate ship? Brienne and The Hound. (yep)

I loved it. Like, I thought the writers did an amazing job of pulling together all of the threads laid down throughout the series and tying them off. Mr. Jensen and I talked through every plot point and turn and could not fault a single decision, regardless of whether we liked that decision or not. I thought the final episode was amazing. I wouldn’t mind watching the entire season again and probably will at some point.

To the complaint it was rushed (internet rumor suggests even GRRM thought it was rushed)—I dunno. I mean, yeah, they didn’t spend a lot of time on subplots, but as a veteran gamer, I kind of feel like that’s what should happen. When you get to the last chapter of an epic story, the focus narrows. Especially when the stakes are this high. I thought the amount of time spent preparing for the battle with the Night King was generous. More than I could have asked for. The time spent reprising the cost of that battle was again generous. The final conflict at King’s Landing left me breathless.

I watched these episodes almost back-to-back, though. One a day, with lunch, after watching the entire eight-season series the same way. I was very much in the moment—an aspect of streaming completed series that I adore. I didn’t have to wait a week in between each slice of the story. I almost could have waited a day or so, though. These last episodes were long. I felt like I’d watched a movie with lunch every day. By the end, I was almost exhausted and happy to process for a few days.

As an aside, I only read the first two books before putting the books aside to concentrate on the TV series. I didn’t agree with all of the changes the writers made for the series. I thought the books were better in many ways. But most of the faults I had with the series (way too much sex and graphic violence, questionable character changes, plots lost, plots added) faded to insignificance when I considered the scope of all I’d loved: the acting, the sets, the costumes, the arcs of the characters I cared about the most, the emotional payoff, and the final reveal of who would sit on the iron throne (or where it had been). Even the soundtrack. Epic television, all around, and I’m glad I decided to watch it.

The Sopranos

The Soprano "family"
The fashion. The hair! The expressions.

All I knew about the final episode was the scream heard around the world as the screen faded to black. I was not deterred. Plus, I’d wanted to watch the series forever. So, I did. One episode at a time.

No one will be surprised to hear I loved The Sopranos. Not all seasons were created equal. I had quibbles. But, overall, I became way more invested in the life of Tony Soprano than I ever expected to. At times, I hated that I found him so sympathetic. He was an awful person. But…

But.

I loved Carmella. I wanted to be Carmella. (Mostly because I had kitchen envy. And wardrobe envy).

The violence shocked me. 

Tony’s mom. WOW. I mean, WOW.

I’m not sure I can say I loved the ending, but I got it. I liked it, and I understood it. Honestly, I don’t know how else it could have gone? I mean, it was a story that could have lasted forever. The lives and loves. The wheeling and dealing.

I thought fading the screen to black when it did worked. We left them in a place where we could pick them back up at any point and were able to walk away, knowing they would continue doing what they were doing. It felt very true to the series to me.

Dexter

A blood spattered Dexter holding a coffee mug.
Cool mug.

Dexter is a series I avoided for years because of the subject matter. Had I known all the turns the plot would take before I started, I might have avoided it forever. But ultimately, I’m glad I watched the show, and it remains one of my favorites. When people talk Breaking Bad at me, I talk Dexter back. That it’s the better show is a hill I’m willing to lie down on (for a while).

What pulled me in and kept me was Dexter’s character. The fact he wanted to change. For me, this is the lynchpin of a good story arc. Growth and change. I don’t mind if the character is resistant to it, but they need to want to be good, even deep down. Dexter’s need not to kill was as compulsive as his need to succumb.

Aspects of the series were problematic, but overall, I enjoyed the character arcs. There was one season even the writers seemed to want to forget (and I was quite happy to pretend it never happened), but again, it was all about the growth. I wanted the best for Dexter. So, you might think I would have more issues with the ending.

Subjectively, I did not love the ending. It did not make me happy. But it felt inevitable. Yeah, it would have been nice to see Dexter break the cycle, but ultimately, he couldn’t, and for me, that was okay—because it’s not as though he couldn’t try again. The series ending isn’t wholly definitive. It’s not final. It was more a sad truism. Dexter was still alive. That was something, wasn’t it?

Lost

Just another day at the Dharma Initiative.
Just another day for the Dharma Initiative.

What I’d heard about Lost was that the show lost the plot somewhere along the way. I didn’t know whether it had recovered. I hadn’t heard any specific complaints about the ending. I wanted to watch it anyway.

I’m not sure a show has hooked me this bad since The Walking Dead. One episode a day with lunch? That, followed by an episode after work, and sometimes another one after dinner. Four in one day on a couple of occasions. A Sunday spent clutching the remote and growling at anyone who dared wander close to the couch.

The three elements I enjoyed most were survivors of an apocalypse (the crash), weird stuff happening, and the character arcs. I could have watched them all working together, surviving and growing, on the island, forever. But all good things must come to an end, and for me, the first crack was Ben. Oh, how I hated Ben. Like, seethed at the television level of dislike.

I also did begin to tire of characters not answering direct questions or taking the time to pull everyone together to say, “This is what I know.” I mean, come on, Juliet. You had HOURS to catch everyone up on The Story So Far. Her enigmatic smiles kinda ticked me off too.

But I NEEDED TO KNOW WHY THEY WERE ON THE ISLAND. So I kept watching.

I have spent more time than is probably healthy trying to map out the how and why of the plot. Like, how everything worked or fit. But the ending was solid. It was what I’d expected from early in the piece, and I loved how the writers pulled everything together in the final season.

loved the final season. Ben’s redemption? I cried, damn it. It was so very well done.

I could spend more time than is probably healthy poking holes in the overall story too. There was so much that didn’t add up. By the end, though, I felt much the same way as I had after the last episode of A Game of Thrones. The story was worth it. The whole story. The payoff was good enough, rich enough, to fade my quibbles into insignificance—or a healthy debate over coffee at one of the nerdy conventions I might get to after lockdown ends.

Next up on my competed series watchlist: True Blood.

I know. I know! I’ve heard the opinions. I’m spoiled for the ending. But I loved the first six books, and I’m prepared to reserve a lot of judgment to watch Alexander Skarsgård do his thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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