Sunday, April 02, 2006

The West Wing starts a resolution

With just a few episodes to go before the series finale in May, the West Wing is finally taking the time to tie up their loose ends and resolve some storylines. If the previews for this week's show are any indication, some of the Josh-Donna tension that's been simmering for years will finally come to a head.

While it's nice to see them get it together (like Josh and Donna themselves, the audience has been longing for some action between them for a long time), it also leaves me wondering about how shows should leave us. Should they tie up everything with a pretty little bow? Should they leave things open for the audience to decide the fates of the characters? I'd say, for me as a viewer, satisfaction from a series finale comes somewhere in between. I want resolution for a few things, but I also don't want to be talked down to. Things in life don't end so cleanly; why should we expect things in TV to come to the perfect conclusion?

Here are my thoughts on a few finales I've found memorable:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Characters hook up, learn something about themselves, fight, and/or die, and the world is changed forever. It isn't the best Buffy finale (that title falls to "Becoming" or "The Gift"), but it had the right feeling - closing some things and leaving some open for you to decide for yourself. It feels like it should: like the end of a chapter, not the end of everything.

Dawson's Creek: Yes, I watched the show. Yes, I'm kind of ashamed of myself. Let's move on. The finale of DC is all about tying up loose ends. Every loose end. Ever. (I'm pretty sure my shoes were untied at the beginning of the finale, and when I looked down at the end, they were magically double-knotted.) We find out who's meant to be with whom, who gets to croak for the requisite finale sobbing, and where our friends end up living and working in the future. And you know what? I love it. I think it works for DC. You don't watch DC for the mental gymnastics. You watch it for soapy goodness. So when you find out everyone lived happily ever after, it's the logical fulfillment to a childish story.

Farscape: Technically it's got two finales, but I'm talking about the one they creators got to prepare for - the miniseries. While I loved the series, I think the miniseries ends just a bit too much on the bow-tied side. It could just be the semi-cheesiness of the final note of the show, but it could also be that after so many years of fighting and darkness, it didn't sit right to have the characters totally happy at the finale. Perhaps "Bad Timing" worked better for me; maybe to me Farscape will always be about two characters who are meant to be, but couldn't quite get it together.

Felicity: I wouldn't have thought it possible, given that I always preferred Noel over Ben, but this finale was completely satisfying. Strung between two romantic options for years, Felicity finally figured out who was right for her. Characters are in peril, different futures are explored, but it comes to a close that sits right with your heart. (Wow. Did I really just say that? I'm becoming quite sentimental in my doddery.) I think this finale had a little something for everyone, and left you hoping only good things for the characters.

One finale I'm looking forward to is Alias, another J.J. Abrams show. If it's as good as Felicity was, I'll be a happy camper.

What finales are you looking forward to (or anticipating with dread)? One series finale I most certainly do NOT want to see this May is Veronica Mars. Season finale only - I insist!


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