Advertisement

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




9781408857175

Lou Heinrich

To see each other’s innards: Intimacy in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

In Stone Mattress, Atwood’s stories make a remarkable study of intimacy, of seeing each other’s innards, in different partnerships. Through the domestic details she describes, her masterful characterisation and her sharp tone, Atwood crafts the mundane into the profound. Read more »

9781863957120

James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

B5QJwMhIYAAfjxG

Rebecca Shaw

A Tale of Two Penises: Double Dick Dude and the invisibility of male bisexuality

For the past year I have found myself fascinated by penises. If I’d been to the races, I would have created a monstrous dick fascinator to wear as a beautiful physical representation of my mental state. But let me be clear, I have not been captivated with all or even many penises. My fascination has solely been aimed at the two penises owned by the man known only as ‘Diphallic Dude’, or more casually ‘DoubleDickDude’. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »