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




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 »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

354_1

Hannah Kent

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Hannah Kent defends Highbrow Literature

I understand why many people have a problem with highbrow literature. ‘Intellectual snobbery’ is a common accusation, as though the reason people read and write the stuff is solely to intimidate their dinner guests. ‘Highbrow literature is for wankers,’ I hear them say. Well, ladies and gentlemen, so is Fifty Shades of Grey. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. Read more »

Babadook

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Bad Mothers

Movies – especially horror and psychological thrillers – have always loved to explore and exorcise our deepest fears, and when it comes to mothers those fears are many. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »