KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Television

Will we ever be completely satisfied with a series finale?

by Stephanie Van Schilt , May 8, 2014Leave a comment

Mad Men

 

Last month marked the beginning of the end for Mad Men. Just in case you weren’t already aware of this via the countless articles and general anticipation, its seventh season has been renamed Mad Men, The Last Season on iTunes and assorted marketing ephemera.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) will have left us for good by 2015 and, like intuiting the demise of a real-life relationship, the words ‘Final Season’ loom heavily over each episode. In the case of Mad Men, the beats, character development, plot and – importantly in this period drama – narrative and historical chronology are all viewed through the finale framework. As the show builds towards a climax and, perhaps, resolution, fans are both retrospective and prophetic in their viewership.

Fixating with a demented passion only rivalled by creator Matthew Weiner’s deliberately enigmatic and uncompromising attention to detail, it’s likely that all viewers (myself included) will be left disappointed husks, continuing to pick over the corpse for clues long after Mad Men concludes.

That’s my obnoxious prediction anyway – I want to be proven wrong. I’d love for Mad Men to finish with a universally praised final episode and join the ranks of Six Feet Under in the lonely ‘greatest finale’ canon. However the more TV literate we become – forever grasping at hints, info, and titbits on forums or Twitter, reading recaps, interviews and combing back through a show’s mythology – the higher the stakes.

When a program ends, and a creator pens that final note for viewers before taking the show out to buy cigarettes, we irrationally expect them to distil the very essence of the preceding seasons into a singular half hour/hour/two-hour special finale. Most of the time, what they provide never quite lives up to expectation in ways that can easily be rationalised, however, due to the heightened emotion of watching The Final Season. Often, the verdict is stamped across the tombstone as the final credits roll: ‘Here lies a pretty great show,’ it reads. ‘It lived a good life but it ended badly/controversially/insipidly.’

Six Feet Under’s final episode powerfully evoked the show’s themes and, by jumping briefly into the characters’ futures, provided closure for its fans.But are satisfying finales even about closure and resolution anymore? Forget spoilers – are we just being spoilt brats because we can’t always get what we want?

Take How I Met Your Mother for instance. After nine seasons, the sitcom aired its final episode in March to a chorus of displeasure. While many believed the show undercut its central titular premise, I wasn’t surprised because HIMYM was innovative in its temporal narrative shifts. Furthermore, Ted (Josh Radnor) was a flawed and relatively unreliable narrator from the outset and this joke more or less came full-circle.

Breaking Bad also wound up in a circular fashion, its explosive antepenultimate episode, ‘Ozymandias’, had critics and fans foaming at the mouth in delight. Accordingly, it was hardly surprising that the very last episode – primarily focused on tying up loose ends and driven by a sense of finality – disappointed many.

While the closure surrounding Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) downfall in Breaking Bad’s final episode is criticised (and still questioned), other endings deliberately play on this tension between resolution, completion and continuity. There is no better example of this than The Sopranos ambiguous finale which, seven years on, still inspires heated debate among fans and detractors alike (including 20,000 word musings that verge on academic fan fiction).

Regardless, there’s still a little while until Mad Men wraps up and I’m interested to see how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll spiral down the speculative rabbit hole like the silhouette from the credits, clutching at signs and symbols as I fall. Apparently Weiner hasn’t even started penning the break-up letter yet: ‘I’m writing Episode 12 right now. I actually haven’t written the last two,’ he recently stated. Make of that what you will.

Stephanie Van Schilt is Deputy Editor at The Lifted Brow and a freelance writer. She tweets @steph_adele.

ACO logo




9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

womeninclothes-600

Carody Culver

Closet Concerns: Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes wants to tell a more inclusive story, to reveal the pleasures, hang-ups and complexities that reside in the simple act of dressing ourselves, and to remind us that we don’t perform our style rituals in a vacuum. Read more »

4285342-3x4-700x933

Kylie Maslen

The Harp in the South and other stories I wasn’t taught at school

The classics I studied at school were certainly great works, but how relevant are these books to young Australians? Yes, they were valuable to study as examples of technical skill. But they were all by men, all white and all dead. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

WinterSleep-2-poster-450

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A matter of time: very long films

It’s a fatal moment for any film lover: that instant when you look away from the screen and check your watch, holding it up to the light to judge how much time is left before you can escape. A wince of pain as you realise there are still 40 minutes to go. Read more »

Whiplash-Damien-Chazelle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Whiplash: bloody fingers and broken drumsticks

Whiplash is one of the year’s most exciting and electrically charged films. Admittedly, that’s a large claim to make for a little movie about a New York music student, his abrasive teacher, and a whole lot of banging and yelling in band practice. Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

6289302147_38e8035680_z

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Jacqui Lambie and the limits of Remix Culture

The combination of Google Image Search, Photoshop, and Facebook is a powerful one, providing web users with the ability to seek out swaths of copyrighted visual material, rip and manipulate these pictures so the original source is obscured, then share the freshly “remixed” images to a broad audience with no real fear of legal action. Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

9781863956925

Danielle Binks

Mean girls, bullies and private school privilege: Alice Pung’s Laurinda

Alice Pung’s Laurinda is hard-edged satire cloaked in contemporary YA: exploring class dynamics, everyday racism and bullying. Read more »

9780062211194

Danielle Binks

Nepotism, bullying and stalking: When online reviews go bad

The tangible power author Kathleen Hale wields, evinced by her numerous connections and Guardian platform, enabled her continued harassment of her book’s 1-star reviewer. The vocal support and defence put forward by Hale’s influential friends and family appears to be a case of privilege feeding narcissism. Read more »

3827910256_89135334f0_z

Chad Parkhill

Who killed Amanda Palmer fandom?

Fans and consumers tend to avoid music made by people whose actions disagree with their moral compasses, and, conversely, to reward those whose actions align with them. But are they right to do so? Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

augie-march-havens-dumb-300x194

Sean Watson

Literal metaphors: Augie March’s Havens Dumb

Glenn Richards’ style of songwriting, which is heavily informed by poetry and history, is what has made Augie March’s work so distinctive. Australian indie music has a long association with literary allusions, but Augie March have never seemed merely referential. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. … Read more »

thecode_main-620x349

Stephanie Van Schilt

An obligation to be kind? Australian TV critics and The Code

When Margaret Pomeranz recently spoke out about the obligation of local film critics to support the Australian film industry, she generated an interesting conversation in the critical community. Are critics who discuss the small screen in the public sphere obligated to be critically kind in their local coverage? Read more »

bojack-horseman-exclusive-trailer-debut_bghe

Stephanie Van Schilt

Jerks, antiheroes and failed adulthood in You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman

In addition to both being really funny, two new US comedies – You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman – speak to a widely-held fear about what, exactly, constitutes ‘adulthood’. Read more »