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A Tale of Two Finales

2010/05/28

Let’s get this on the table:  I like not understanding where things are going.  A brief overview of my life should attest to that.  And from a youth spent reading Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys I am left decades later still digging mysteries and the unexplained-at-the-moment.   

So it is that a good portion of what deep down appeals to my core on television in the last twenty years gets taken up in long-arc story formats; Twin Peaks really kicked it off before sputtering to an ugly death, The X-Files – yes, all nine seasons of it, which I re-experienced last year – is my reigning champion of all-time-greatness.  And I even love the ‘limited-run’ versions of these experiments, which as of late have been chaotic in execution, but fun nonetheless (see:  Harper’s Island, Happy Town).   Well, usually.  For that matter, I think Heroes told the single best long-format story I’ve ever seen on television.  In season one.  As further events transpired, we saw how that horse gotten beaten into a tattered area rug that didn’t look anything like it did when you brought it home from the store….but I digress.   

With this history in mind, you can see how this was a wild two weeks for me, with two of my favorites wrapping up their huge arcs once and for all.  Almost.   

Let’s start it off with the big hitter:  Lost.  Here’s the thing; they should have had an end-date in mind for this series the moment they got renewed for Season Two, and stuck with it.  As memory serves, that idea came into play at the end of Season Three, and in the interim, a lot of valuable time got wasted (or as I like to think of it:  all of Season Two, and a fer piece of Season Three).  In not knowing the end date, a lot of unneccessary distracting horseshit got brought into play that just confused the story in the long-run and lost viewers.  And they also made other bad decisions besides Ana-Lucia.  (HA!  I do two shows a night, kids.  Enjoy the veal.)   

Okay, so to the point….I thought it was a good wrap-up to a story that meandered around so much over the years that the questions it raised could never be answered, really.  Even the ones that were seemed to be unsatisfactory to half of the viewership.  Guess what?  Too bad.  You want to know what the numbers mean?  There were several explanations.  Didn’t like those?  Write your own, jerk.   

The End....and it certainly was.

 

Along the way, these guys threw in all sorts of small details that made me run to the Net and start searching.  That’s a success.  And when major, lovable elements naturally progressed, they followed them up with more than acceptable replacements (see:  Sawyer becomes emotional and introspective?  Enter Miles for smart-assery, and Frank ‘I Don’t Die’ Lapidus for general bad-assedness).  And in the end, without exploring what anything meant or debating endlessly with other nameless faces here on the digital podium, they gave me a happy ending, which is what I wanted to see after six seasons of all these people being repeatedly kicked in the balls by life, God, the Devil, the Island…..you see what I’m saying.  At least, the most happy of endings one could get within a show that ends with everybody dead.  It wasn’t overtly preachy, it wasn’t even totally definitive….it gave me just enough to let me make my own decisions on what I think it meant, and where it all went from there.  Good job, fellas….and thanks for getting out of the water before you got too pruney.  5 out of 7 stars.   

 Over on The CW, a network I am loving more by the year for its ability to put crazier and riskier ideas on the air, and then stick with them long enough to see where they go (though I’m still not happy about your bailing on Reaper a year ago) we had the Season Five finale of Supernatural.   

Now, Supernatural is a show that I avoided for two and a half years, because it seemed to me to be a ‘monster of the week’ formatted show.  Then one day, in the midst of the third year, I caught a glimpse of it and realized there was way more going on than I originally surmised.  For those that have never caught it, the show is more or less a mash-up of The Hardy Boys, Route 66 and The X-Files….or as I put it, ‘right in Matty’s wheelhouse’.  The story of two brothers who inherit their father’s lifelong quest of ridding the world of all things evil, by any means necessary.   

Similarly to the Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and current mysteries-of-the-unknown offering Fringe, when I went back and watched the series from the beginning, I found the first half of the first season spotty at best….this seems to be par for the course most times with supernaturally-themed shows, likely because their renewal status is on the line from the opening bell, so until they get some legs underneath them (and solid network committment), they often throw everything up into the ether and hope something awe-inspiring lands on its feet.  That said, going back and watching from the beginning is a must, particularly with this tale of Sam and Dean Winchester.   

Over the course of five years, what began as a quest for vengeance for the demon-caused death of their mother (and Sam’s fiancée as well) gradually evolved into a grand story about the Apocalypse, and the brothers contrasting ‘destined’ roles in bringing it to fruition (whilst they personally attempted at all costs to stop it).  The tale has been well-paced and developed throughout the course of the journey…and it all came down to this year.  At least, originally.   

The Brothers Winchester

 

Back story on that:  Supernatural creator and primary helmsman Eric Kripke has said from the get-go that his story of the Winchesters was planned for five years worth of telling.  This was the end of year five, Kripke is leaving the day-to-day duties, and the big story is, for all intents and purposes, done.  However, thanks to contracts, the stars of the show (Jared Padelecki as Sam, Jensen Ackles as Dean) are tied down for one more year, and far be it for the The CW to give up a still-producing cash cow.  So it’s coming back.   

Which, I can’t believe I’m saying, is a very bad idea.  Because in the longview of this series, years from now when the reruns aren’t even on TBS at four in the morning anymore, I truly believe that everything after this is going to be fluff.  While all the focus and hype for this year was on the big gun of Lost, Eric Kripke and his team at Supernatural did what David Lynch, Chris Carter, Joss Whedon and countless others before have failed to do; they achieved the unthinkable; they produced the single best series finale that this genre could ever produce.   

Perfect in tone, style and story, the big story of the Winchesters wrapped up with a finale that made sense, had a terrific blend of happy and sad resolution, and basically tied up all the loose ends from the previous five seasons.   And with flair and verve that didn’t sell out.   Didn’t think that was possible with a story of this scope.   

And because he wasn’t going to be a total dink, Kripke even provided a reasonable crack in the door so that Season Six doesn’t launch itself on platform of complete implausibility and ridiculousness.  Good sport, old man.  So I’ll keep watching, but my expectations are tempered – I really can’t come up with a ‘new pulse’ that is nearly as riveting as the road already traveled, but at least that way I can enjoy it for what it is.  7 out of 7 stars.

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