Keep Calm, Trope On: Series Finales

We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this bi-weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.

It’s one of the most bittersweet things art can offer.

After spending weeks, months, or even years watching and falling in love with a television series, to watch it all end can be both heartbreaking and satisfying.

You know a show is good when their finale not only completes the series, but completes all your feelings you have for it. It makes you feel as though you didn’t waste all those hours growing attached to certain characters and stories. At the end of the day, it should make you feel like it was worth your time.  

Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done, as series finales tend to also be some of the most polarizing episodes of television. It can be extremely difficult to wrap up multiple seasons of a television show into a single episode. How will Grey’s Anatomy, whenever it decides to end, conclude sixteen seasons worth of television? Look at the bang-up job they did completing Alex Karev’s storyline.

Most series finales of shows that I have loved, I have genuinely liked. Except for Chuck because how the hell can we not resolve Sarah losing her memory? Five seasons of growth only to have her reset at the end of the final season is kind of bullshit if you ask me. One of the most frustrating things to happen in a TV series, to be honest. But I digress.

My biggest contention with series finales don’t have to do with the episode itself, but more so when the episode happens.

For example, I just binge-watched Lost Girl, a Candian series that followed the life of a succubus (a type of fae that feeds off people’s chi). It has easily become one of my favorite shows out there and, thanks to the coronavirus, I binged it very quickly. So, when season five rolled around, I began dreading watching it all end because I had grown to love the universe and the characters so much. But as season five progressed, I started to realize that, you know what, this would actually be a perfect time to end the show.

See, they introduced the biggest of all bads – Hades. And when you defeat Hades, how the hell can you possibly top that the following season? Well, you really can’t.

As much as I grew to love Bo and the characters of Lost Girl, I began to look forward to seeing where everyone would end up and whether they’d live happily ever after. And when I watched the series finale, I couldn’t be more happy and satisfied with how it turned out. The penultimate episode and the series finale was a perfect little bow tie on top of an amazing five seasons of Lost Girl. Sure, I would’ve watched a sixth season but why would I when it ended so well?

Lost Girl is a show that knew when to end and so, when it did, it was goddamn amazing. A lot of other shows don’t really take advantage of that.

The Magicians used to be one of my favorite shows. It was funny, well-written and had some fascinating storylines. At the end of season four, they were finally about to complete the mother of all quests – to defeat the monster. And with a heroic sacrifice by Quentin, they did.

It was a tragic ending but it really did feel like an ending. Yet, the show didn’t stop there and has continued for another season. I haven’t even watched the current and final season because, to me, the show had a perfect ending with season four. Of course, I’ve heard good things about season five and I’m sure I’ll watch it eventually. But it still bothers me that an additional season felt needed at all.

I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. I also believe that five to six seasons of a series is the perfect sweet spot. It can still be fantastic without going too over the top.

Every opportunity I get to talk about Falling Skies, I’ll take it. It’s a gem of a show and is completely underrated. It wasn’t the best show to ever grace my television screen, but it was full of entertaining, sci-fi fun. It ended after five seasons with 52 episodes total. Falling Skies was one of those shows that seemed like they knew that it wouldn’t be a long-running show and that they knew at what point it should end.

Season five isn’t my favorite season of Falling Skies but the series finale is one of my favorite episodes. Maybe a slightly rushed episode, but it encompassed everything that I loved about the show. Also, Maggie and Hal ended up together, so I was more than okay with that ending.

Another great example of a show quitting while it’s ahead is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seven seasons were really all they needed to tell the stories they needed to tell. And the series finale was an emotional rollercoaster that finally gave us a conclusion to Buffy’s journey. By telling us that there is more than one slayer out there, it gave us comfort in knowing that Buffy was probably okay. That’s all we really want from the end of a story anyways.

I suppose that’s why the Chuck finale irks me so much. The optimist in me believes that when Chuck kissed Sarah, her memories came flooding back. But because that was never confirmed, we’ll never really know. Open-ended finales are brutal. It’s like cliffhangers on season finales except you will never see how it will end.

What Chuck excelled in their series finale was that it played homage to what we saw the past few seasons. Easter eggs filled the series finale and definitely made me cry a few times. One Tree Hill and The Vampire Diaries did the same thing in their finales which made them all the more bittersweet. It reminded the audience of where the show started to where it ended up.

Let’s be real, no one wants their favorite television show to end. But we all know that, eventually, they have to. So why not go out on the highest note and give the audience exactly what they want.

People remember series finales more than any other episode of a show — just look at Lost. So, you might as well choose to be remembered in the best way possible and deliver a finale that blows people’s minds.

All the best ones do.

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