So Let's Talk About Endings

It was so nice of the How I Met Your Mother people to schedule their much-reviled series finale the same week I’m teaching endings at McDaniel. I’ve only seen half a dozen episodes of HIMYM, so I have no investment in the finale, but I am interested, as always, in the reactions to story by readers and viewers. And this is a big reaction.

We’ve talked here before about the contract with the reader, the promise the story makes at the beginning. In the case of HIMYM, it was that the story would end with how Ted met his children’s mother. SPOILER: Nine seasons later (and sometime we should talk about stories overstaying their sell-by date), in one episode, Ted meets the woman who will be the mother of his children, marries her, has the kids with her, sits by her bedside while she dies, and then goes to find the woman he’s loved all along, “Aunt Robin.”

Viewer reactions have not been good. Again, I’m not a regular viewer, but just looking at the facts in the above paragraph, I can tell you that if you promise the reader something and then after nine years deliver it and take it away again in forty minutes, you’re kneecapping reader satisfaction in a big way. The speed of the resolution, the neck-snapping turns the plot took in those forty minutes, the abuse of characters established over nine years in under an hour, all led to a feeling that the writers had said, “Fuck it, let’s end this sucker and go get a beer.” This is bad because it violates the number one rule of endings:

You have to make the climax the best part of the book because if it’s not good, the whole story goes under.

Why? Because it’s the promise that’s kept the reader reading, that need to see the protagonist and antagonist face off in a fight to the bitter end, to see the girl get the guy she deserves, to see everybody back in a stable world, the story finished and reader catharsis delivered. Beyond that, it’s bad just because it’s the last thing the reader reads and therefore the thing she’ll remember most. If the climax doesn’t deliver, your story is toast.

What’s most interesting to me about a lot of the internet chatter about HIMYM is that there are people defending the finale because everything in it was foreshadowed in the previous nine seasons, or because it was clear that that’s what was right for the characters, or because that’s what the fans wanted. It’s as if they just explain the ending, everybody will say, “OH, now I see,” and change their minds. But people have already seen the ending and they didn’t like it; the number of people tweeting, “It wasn’t called How I Met Your Aunt Robin” must be in the hundreds by now. If an ending tanks, explaining why it was good is useless. If people didn’t like it, it wasn’t good.

My lecture on endings has this to say about the impact of the story climax:

Bob Mayer and I used to argue about the Most Important Scene in a story. He insisted that the first scene was the most important because it set everything up, introduced the protagonist, and put the story in motion. But mostly, he said, the first scene was the most important because if your reader didn’t like it, she wouldn’t read the rest of the book, making any other scenes in the story moot.

I argued that the last scene was the most important because that’s the pay-off for the reader, the big finish, and if that scene doesn’t satisfy her, everything that went before it was wasted, the entire story experience falling flat, which leaves you with a frustrated, unfulfilled reader. Have you ever read a book that started slow but had a magnificent finish? Did you read that author again? Have you ever read a book that was wonderful right up to the end, but failed miserably at the climax? Did you ever read that author again?

Or as Mickey Spillane put it, the first page sells the reader on this book, and the last page sells the reader on the next book. I’m less interested in the selling aspect and much more interested in the reader satisfaction aspect, but the ideas are the same: fail at the beginning and the reader might stick with you to get to a great ending, fail at the ending and the entire story fails.

I asked the McDaniel students to talk about bad endings they’ve read and great endings they’ve read, and I’ll extend that to film here. What makes a great ending? What endings have failed for you? Reaction to the examples is subjective–I’m one of the few people who think the ending of The Sopranos was brilliant–but I think the reasons behind the reactions are objective: What kills an ending for you? And more important, what makes for a great finish?

121 thoughts on “So Let's Talk About Endings

  1. I think that the most enjoyable endings for me are ones that manage to surprise me, but have a feeling of inevitability at the same time. I think each of the Harry Potter books have great endings. Each time there’s an unexpected revelation that impacts on Harry’s character, resolves mysterious events throughout the novel and surprises you by making small details that seemed throwaway filler previously, suddenly become critical(e.g. Quirrell’s turban). At the same time, the revelation is combined with explosive action, real peril for Harry & co and no obvious way of escape. JK Rowling is a billionaire for a reason!

    American TV shows generally have sucky endings, because either the show gets very popular and then the show gets ridiculously drawn out, affecting the ending, or the ratings aren’t high enough and they get summarily cancelled with little or no time for the writers to wrap up the story.

    I personally really liked the HIMYM ending, mind you, but I think that might be because I didn’t watch very many episodes and only started following the show at the very end. So I didn’t have the experience of 9 years of being promised an epic meeting, and moreover the packed pace of the finale didn’t feel weird to me because I hadn’t spent years following the minutiae of the characters’ lives every week.

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    1. I actually would have cited the Harry Potter series (much like HIMYM) as a case where the author wrote the ending first and then didn’t change it when the characters organically grew out of that ending by the end of the series.

      The individual books were great but the ending struck me as overly simplistic and not really reflective of the people the characters had become.

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    2. I liked the Harry Potter endings as well, and I liked the last book’s ending. I truly wondered if Harry was going to make it. I believe Rowling set up the Christ figure analogy well, and I was very happy with the payoff.

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  2. I’ve been reading articles claiming that the HIMYM finale was the intended ending all along, and I buy it — the problem is that about seven seasons got in their way. If the finale had happened, say, at the end of season one or two, it might have been saleable! Clever, even. But this cast spent eight years growing out of the particular neuroses and fetishes that supposedly led them to that ending, and it honestly feels like being cheated out of character growth just because the writers refused to acknowledge that the story and the characters went in a direction completely different from what they’d planned. As a standalone piece of writing, the finale probably works — but only, I’d argue, if you push the characters back to who they were in season one and two. You could go on for paragraphs on the Ted / Robin / Barney resolution alone and why it frankly shouldn’t hold for any of the characters involved anymore.

    But then I’ve watched (well, fallen asleep to) every episode of this show over the years. It’s possible my viewpoint’s a little skewed from the main audience’s.

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    1. Evidently they filmed the ending with the kids at the end of the second season (because kids grow up in nine years) so they’ve been planning it for seven years.

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      1. It seems also that if they had the ending w/ the kids filmed and ready to go, then if they got canceled at any point they would have the ending ready. Just as a story/plot note. Sometimes writers don’t get a lot of notice when shows are canceled and sometimes the writers don’t have much time to wrap the storyline up to a close.

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        1. I think they chose to end it, or at the very least had warning.
          Joss Whedon always plotted Buffy and Angel so that at the end of each season you had closure. The fight was over. Leverage always leaves the team in a safe place. It’s not that hard.

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  3. The worst ending I ever read was in a German book. The heroine had problems with her boyfriend who preferred to leave on a scientific excursion without her, then his weird brother moved in, and in the middle of the book she started to have incredible sex but not much else with her boss. After many twists and turns, apparently all three are in love with her and she doesn’t know what to do. The last scene tells us that she finally knows, the doorbell rings, and Mr. Right is there to take her in his arms. Problem is, you don’t know which one it is – turns out they all have names with seven letters and by solving a little quiz, you find out his name. Can you imagine how enraged I was? Because I think that a love story should depict how people overcome problems so that they can get together, and there was no such development in this case, it was completely arbitrary.

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    1. That’s where my ‘read the ending first’ strategy might have come in handy! Of course, it helps if you don’t like suspense.

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      1. I always do that TOO! Especially if there’s a whole lot of suspense and mistrust going on. I don’t want to have to take antacids in order to put up with a whole lot of author-engineered anxiety.

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    2. I think my least favourite ending ever has got to be Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. 99% of the book had me riveted, and then the ending – epilogue, really – just completely confused and enraged me. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about.

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  4. My all-time favourite endings are those that inspire me to fantasize what happens immediately after them – where I love the characters, and can see they’re going to have a wonderful time, so I follow them in my imagination for a bit. Georgette Heyer’s ‘The Nonesuch’, for example, where they’re going down to London, and will meet each other’s families (and surprise and delight them).

    But I always skim the ending first if I’m not sure of the author. Don’t want to waste my time with a story that has an unhappy or unsatisfactory ending. Although ebooks have kiboshed that strategy: I have to start at the beginning, with sample pages, instead.

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  5. “How I met your mother” reminds me of the “Mad about you ending” – a whack load of story all delivered in a video message to Mabel on her birthday.

    All the finales seem to be unsatisfying. Seinfeld too. I was to young for Mash -was it any good? I read that it was one of the most watched.

    Endings matter because it is the fulfilment of the potential. Most of us are still hella mad at Tamora Pierce for the Beka Cooper books. I’m kinda leery of reading Briar’s story of Yanjing. So much so I still don’t know what it is called.

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    1. I was pretty young when MASH ended, and I only remember a small part of the finale.

      SPOILERS:

      Hawkeye is in therapy and the end is told in flashback. For some reason he was on a bus with civilians being evacuated. The bus was stopped and they were all trying to be quiet because the enemy was nearby. Hawkeye tells the psychiatrist about a woman in the back who had her chicken with her and that the chicken would not stop clucking. It just wouldn’t stop making noise, so the woman killed it. But Hawkeye has misremembered out of trauma, and it wasn’t a chicken. I don’t know what else happened in that episode, because I was so horrified. Very definitely left a feeling that war is terrible and damages us all. So good? I’m a romance reader, I prefer my HEA.

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      1. I saw this when I was young also, and I was horrified. To me it has always been the worst ending in TV history. When I watched the HIMYM finale, this was a close second.

        I wonder if both endings don’t share the say problem for me: A comedy ending as a drama.

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    2. I kind of like Briar’s story because it seemed like natural character growth–he’s growing up and learning that sometimes life is just crap, so he deals with it in a very Briar-way. I will say the Will of the Empress pissed me the f**k off because it felt like we were starting a whole new series with characters who’ve never met. I don’t care how long you’ve been apart, if you’re closer than family for years, have fought off pirates, survived natural disasters, and a plague, you will treat each other with a bit more love and respect. It should not take one of you being subjected to her worst fear, kidnapped, and almost raped before you get it together.

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    3. I do think the MASH ending was pretty good. It might be one of the few where it really felt right. Basically, they went home. There was a couple of storylines leading up to that, including Hawkeye’s story, a straw on the camel’s back kind of thing. But in the end he really is okay, so it’s a happy ending. Well, a bitter sweet ending with the camp being dismantled and everyone going their separate ways. There was another storyline that season with Klinger getting married and one with Charles having his own meltdown. I thought they wrapped things up really well.

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        1. Oh! I think I would still mist up watching the Henry episode again. And, yes, M*A*S*H had an excellent ending. Even though the show evolved, it managed to do it well.

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    4. I still feel that the last book in the Beka Cooper series was a reader betrayal and a character betrayal. I intend to pretend to myself that only the first two books exist because they are excellent. The third one is dead to me.

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      1. I know what you mean. I waited YEARS for that book and then she glossed over anything I wanted to know from the first two books.

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      2. I feel this way about a lot of movies – they tack on 2 or 3 extra minutes that ruin the ending. Sometimes me & my friends sit around and make lists of movies for our Festival Of Films Stopped At the Moment They Really End.

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    5. The final season of Star Trek the Next Generation was pretty disapointing overall but the final episode was a great callback to the first episode without betraying the limited character growth that TNG allowed.

      By and large the last Buffy and Angel episodes were consistent with their heroes, they had horrific deaths of beloved characters but nobody was egregiously out of character and some of the plot points were the result of the way characters had grown and changed (also the world’s most triumphant poetry reading in Angel).

      There was a beautiful quiet scene in the Angel finale that was a callback to a character first introduced in season 2 of Buffy who was only in 4 episodes of the shows but it still made me want to punch the air.

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  6. Ok… this one I will weigh in on, but in a very limited way or else this could become an epic rant.

    HIMYM has HISTORY for both my daughter and me. We loved this show. We quoted this show. We had inside jokes about this show. Logically and intellectually I know this is just a TV show but…

    I FEEL BITTERLY BETRAYED BY THE FINALE!!! My daughter and I both were furious with the ending. Why did “just a TV show” have such a huge reaction for us?
    1. In the span of 40 some minutes they completely wiped out the growth of almost every character.
    2. They spent an entire flipping season at Barney and Robin’s wedding only to have them divorce?!!!
    3. They built up an entire season showing how awesome Ted and Tracy were together, how their quirks fit each other. Then they treat the mother basically like she was just breeding stock!
    4. They went over and over throughout the series how Robin and Ted were not right for each other, that they were fundamentally different from each other.
    5. Robin ended her engagement with Kevin because not only could she not have kids, she stated she emphatically never wanted kids.
    6. Barney could only truly be redeemed to a mature man by having daughter, but because they wrote Robin as incapable of having kids, or wanting kids, her and Barney could never get to a mature relationship!
    7. It always felt to me that Robin and Barney were meant for each other from early on in the first season I think when Robin became Barney’s wingman and as Barney said had already flown higher then Ted ever did as his wingman.
    8. They showed Robin being completely heartbroken when her and Barney broke up, but her rebounding when she and Ted broke up.
    9. Robin’s job that drove Barney away, would not work with Ted’s life and his kids.
    10. So they totally sell me on the point that Robin and Barney had to get married so that Ted could meet his great love, Tracy like that was fate and destiny only to have her die and him end up still pinning for Robin and really as said before totally demolishing his character’s growth.

    All I can say is Thank God they did not muck up Lily and Marshall. But wow how dumb to stick with the ending that yes may have worked has the series ended in 3 or 4 seasons and totally ignored how the series had grown past that ending and how Ted had finally, finally, finally! gotten to a place where he had grown past Robin and was truly ready to move into his future with THE MOTHER.

    Rant over. Thank you for giving me this place to vent. Really this is the only place I could vent like this because I am way to old to feel this strongly about how they wrapped up this show.

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    1. Regarding #9, my take was that Robin having dogs again meant she wasn’t traveling for work anymore and had a job with relatively normal hours. Which led me to wonder why she and Barney couldn’t have gotten back together—because I’d forgotten your point #5 that she didn’t want kids (I’d remembered only that she couldn’t have any).

      I was extremely conflicted about the ending, but what I think I’m coming down on is that I don’t hate what they chose to do, but the pacing was so screwed up that it didn’t work. (And I completely understand everyone’s rants.) Ah well.

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  7. Whew! Makes me glad there’s yet another TV series I never invested time and emotion in.

    Sure Thing asked about the MASH ending. It was perfect.

    The ending to the Fugitive was a letdown for me because it revealed there had been a WITNESS to the murder, who KNEW Richard Kimble was INNOCENT, who kept quiet about it all those years the Fugitive was on the run, because he’d been at the Kimbles’ house the night Helen was murdered and hadn’t lifted a hand to save her. Arrggh!

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  8. I’ve only dropped in on HIMYM periodically, but after reading a recap of the finale, even I felt betrayed. The pilot of that show was fun, and the thing I liked best about it was the surprise of that line of voice over, “And that’s how I met your Aunt Robin.” It was a good Gotcha because it came after only 20 minutes. They told you in that first episode that Robin was not The Mother, which read to almost everyone as “They won’t end up together.” By killing the woman we’ve come to think of as the love of Ted’s life to force him back to the woman they promised was NOT the one for him (and showed was not right for him) was the equivalent of lying to the audience for nine seasons. That doesn’t even touch on the betrayal of Barney and Robin’s relationship, which was the only thing about the show I was ever really invested in. Barney and Robin helped each other arc; the same cannot be said of Ted and Robin. Glad I saw the episode where Barney and Robin get married, I think I’ll just pretend that was the finale.

    I also pretend the two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels never happened. The end of the third movie ranks high for bad endings (Will ends up some sort of undead pirate who can only see Elizabeth every ten years). Hate it. Mostly because it did the same thing HIMYM did: it broke the promise made in the first movie, that Elizabeth and Will would be together.

    Then there’s Caroline in the City and The Glades, both of which ended on cliff hangers. Unfinished stories piss me off. And while part of me blames the networks, writers shouldn’t be ending on cliff hangers anyway, so it’s their fault too.

    Season 3 of Veronica Mars was an ending I had mixed feelings about. It left some of the characters in places that made me unhappy. But while there were a couple of things left ambiguous, it didn’t feel unfinished (it was pretty obvious Keith would not win the election). Besides, that show was always more than a little noir, and complete happiness for everyone was never a promise they made, so I was OK with it if not enthusiastic. The end of the movie felt good, so I’m pretty happy with Rob Thomas right now.

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    1. Ugh. The Glades! I’m still bitter at A&E about that one. There should be a law. If your show is in danger of being canceled and not returning for another series, you are forbidden from doing cliffhangers let alone cliffhangers that leave the main hero shot and bleeding to death on the kitchen floor. (and that’s not a spoiler cause that was like a year ago at this point LOL).

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      1. What’s especially frustrating about it is that they didn’t do that for the two finales before. Season one, Jim and Callie finally sleep together. Season two, he proposes. Yeah, you don’t see her answer, but if it doesn’t come back it’s easy to believe she said yes. But the season they finally do the stupid cliffhanger, they get canceled. It’s like they were daring A & E to kill that show.

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    2. I’m with you on Pirates of the Caribbean, although I think most of us would have felt less betrayed if they hadn’t cut out scenes which explained what happened with Will’s undeadness and with Elizabeth (I only know because I looked up deleted scenes after seeing it because it felt like such a let down). They filmed an explanation where we learn that yes, you became strange magical ship captain who can’t set foot on land for ten years, but if your loved one is faithful for those ten years the curse is broken and you can be normal again. Davy Jones’ problem was Tiadalma/Calypso didn’t stay faithful, so his curse just kept getting worse. And then he became a squid monster. See, if they’d left that bit in, I wouldn’t have felt betrayed; yeah, they have to wait ten years for HEA, but they will get it eventually. Even if they already have a grown up kid by the time they can start. Without that scene, it’s just more WTF in a movie that was already full up.

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      1. Didn’t know about that. I probably could have lived with it if they’d left that in there. What were they thinking?

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      2. I HATE it when a move is bizarre and you’re a bit confused, then you watch a minute or two’s worth of deleted scenes and everything makes sense. You end up spending all your efforts thinking, What in the hell was the editor thinking?!? The Kingdom is a perfect example of this.

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  9. “sometime we should talk about stories overstaying their sell-by date”

    This. I’ve been trying to think of my reaction to TV series endings and I’ve realized that I’ve never stuck around for an ending. By the time TV wraps up a series, I’ve been gone for years, bored by a show that’s outlasted its story. I think I need to start watching UK series that, I hear, are MUCH shorter. 🙂

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    1. Life on Mars. Sixteen amazing episodes with the best ending ever. If the DVDs weren’t 50 bucks, we’d do every episode for a Sunday series.

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      1. Love that show. And I liked Ashes to Ashes as well except..ARGH…I can’t get the second season. But the original stands on its own.

        Series finales I liked:
        Buffy (because it stayed true to the concept of the Slayer and solved the problem Buffy felt being isolated.)
        The West Wing. Makes me smile.
        Hill Street Blues–life & the struggle continues.

        And, of course, Newhart. Which, if you’re going to pull a swerve, it’s gotta be *this* great a punchline.

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  10. It occurs to me this is an appropriate place to thank you for the Life on Mars recommendation. I found the DVDs at Half Price Books and spent two days watching all of it. Now THAT was an ending. Vindicated my certainty EDITED FOR SPOILERS. It was one of those shows I think I’ll need to see two or three more times before I really appreciate all the things they did, but on first watching it was a fantastic two day marathon.

    Other great endings…Pride and Prejudice (self-explanatory). The Brosnan Thomas Crown. It was so like him to plan an elaborate con to get her to realize how much she loves him. Life, even though I’m angry at NBC for canceling it in the first place. Buffy. The great conclusion to Spike’s redemption arc (if we don’t count him moving to Angel), and Buffy looking at all the possibilities, all the things she can do with her life now.

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    1. Yikes, you put the ending in there. I took it out, but a lot of people haven’t seen that.
      I loved the Life finale. It was so satisfying, just brilliant.

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      1. Sorry about that…should have at least used the spoiler tag.

        The first season finale of Life is one of my favorites, too. They could have ended there if they were forced to. Personally I think fear of cancellation encourages TV writers to finish what they start before it gets drawn out to Red John length. I still maintain that’s what happened with every 13-episode run of Chuck.

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  11. I’ve not been a HIMYM fan. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there, but I tuned in for the last half our or so of the finale just to see what was what and even I knew viewers were going to be upset. It ended and I thought, “Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t watch this for 8 years.” I’d have been very angry. Reminds me of Lost.

    I read the viewer reactions online as well, read the show runners excuses, and saw the whole justification thing from other viewers, and the blow off thing (you don’t like it only because your shipping of XYZ couple got in the way so therefore you can’t possibly hold a valid opinion about the show!) and just kept thinking of how this is the problem with clever show hooks: Eventually you have pay it off. If you can’t do that in a satisfying manner, you’re in trouble.

    I may have problems with the show Justified but even that show recently said it wasn’t going to do the original 7 seasons it planned but was ending it in 6 because it had nothing more to say. It knew when to let go. Kudos to them and more shows should be like that.

    Instead, you now have a ton of POed HIMYM viewers who are saying they’re done, not bothering with DVDs (btw, seriously shows? Do you *not* take into account rerun syndication demand, DVD and merchandise sale before you tank your own show? Come on!) and certainly *not* going to check out the coming How I Met Your Father series because now they don’t trust the show runners storytelling. Ouch.

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  12. The HIMYM finale was horrible. It was fine that he didn’t meet the mother until the last episode, since the show was really about all five friends growing and changing over the years, and Ted growing into the person who was ready to meet his soulmate and build a life with her. It could have worked that she died (plenty of people would have been mad, but sometimes life happens like that, and he still would have had years of happiness with her first). It would have been tricky, but it might have been able to work that he later began a relationship with Robin, if they had taken any time at all to show Ted’s life after Tracy died.

    Unfortunately, the writers have always had a creative boner for plot twists. It’s not a surprise if you show Ted recovering from his loss, and spending time with Robin as a friend, and redeveloping feelings for her. It’s only a “big twist” if you show that Robin has almost completely distanced herself from the group of friends, then jump directly from Tracy dying to Ted dating Robin. Even though a few years had passed in story time, it made it feel like Tracy was just a momentary detour in the story of Ted–and-his-one-true-love-Robin.

    I would love to see a “questionable” blog post on how to recognize that your story has changed while you’re writing, and the original ending you’ve been working for no longer fits how the characters have evolved.

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    1. “it made it feel like Tracy was just a momentary detour in the story of Ted–and-his-one-true-love-Robin. ”

      Hmm, it never felt to me like Robin was his “one true love.” I know he loved her very early on, but then he thought he loved several women along the way for a time. In fact, I don’t think he and Robin would have lasted any longer than Barney and Robin if they’d married first.

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    2. On the one hand, I think it’s good to go into a story with a plan (for example, BSG…didn’t and left it for Future Ron Moore to figure out). On the other hand, this is the example of why sticking to a rigid plan after 9 years didn’t work either. Start out with a goal and a plan, but be able and willing to change it if you need to. ESPECIALLY given the nature of actors and television and networks.

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  13. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. I’m still bitter about that.
    The last volume in Jean Auel’s Earth Children series. I’ve decided to go into denial that it exists.
    The 3rd Peter Wimsey book by what’s her name Paton Walsh or Walsh Paton. No. No. No. No. No. No. I will not pick up another book by her.
    The asteroid movie with Tea Leoni in it. I’ve never been so happy to see a main character die, ever.

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    1. Just seeing that about the last installment of Auel’s books makes me so glad I didn’t read it. I had a bad feeling about it. (I had loved the series.)

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    2. Actually, I loved Deep Impact. I’ve seen it several times. I think that Tea Leoni’s character arc was totally believable. And the baby (different arc) lived.

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    3. I am also very bitter about this one. Could have been great. Eviscerated for nostalgia and the almighty dollar. Blearg.

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    4. Not Writer Beth, I’m with you about Jill Paton Walsh. I was just thinking of that abomination when I came across your comment.

      SPOILER ALERT (for those who still want to read them….)
      JPW’s casual decimation of the Wimsey dynasty has no place in the works, and because she is decidedly not DLS, the books don’t exist for me.

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      1. I was ok with the first 2 for the most part. After the 3rd one, nope, I won’t reread or buy any of them. And I don’t trust her writing now so she got knocked off the list of authors I track (or used to, pre-kids.)

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    5. I just finished the last Auel book. Ugh. Really, it was only worth reading from page 580 onward, except for the ending itself which made me feel like Auel was tired and had just decided to randomly cut the story off somewhere.

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    1. After all those years of “It’s not purgatory…” it was purgatory. Ditto BSG and “Starbuck’s not an angel…oh, never mind, she is.” Still ticked about that last one.

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  14. Haven’t watched HIMYM in a few years, so I didn’t watch because I didn’t care.
    The absolute worst ending I ever read (I won’t give the title) came after slogging through 600+ pages where the author created a fire which killed off everyone but the dogs. Ha ha. What does that tell you about his love for mankind?

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  15. Haven’t seen the finale but have seen the show. If there was viewer disappointment, I’m guessing it really comes back to the promise issue.

    As I see it, there was a problem with the promise to viewers from the get-go in that really there were two promises made: One in the title and one in the first episode.

    The title promised that the show would be about how Ted met his kids’ mom, but also because it’s the title it implies that meeting her is a big deal à la “How Ted met the love of his life.”

    Cut to first episode that sets up a Ted & Robin, boy meets girl, trouble ensues, boy eventually gets girl promise.

    Now if getting Ted together with Robin meets those two promises, probably there’s no problem. But they separated out the resolution of those promises instead.

    Likely, they tried to meet both promises in their finale by answering the title question then getting Ted & Robin together. Only that doesn’t work and it minimizes the mom storyline and the Robin storyline, leaving both feeling less important & anticlimactic.

    So in this case, I think whether you take your approach that the ending is most important or Bob’s approach that the opening is most important, there’s really a problem with both. For me, it comes down to clarity with the promise and follow-through. Granted, this may be tougher in a long-running series. But sticking to one main promise for plot A would have made the writers job easier I think.

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  16. I was mostly okay with HIMYM, although I agree that we should have had some quality time with the mother. I do think they telegraphed the ending a lot, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to me. Clearly Robin couldn’t be the mother, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to be: Robin is too much like Barney, and so not what average middle-class Ted wants for his future; and yet there was a lot of harping on a Ted/Robin romance. I think if we had been able to spend more time with the mother, if she’d been at least a semi regular recurring character, as opposed to a near mythical reference, fans would have been okay with it.

    As for an absolute best finale for a series ever, that would be the Inspector Morse mysteries.

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  17. A very good point about the effect a bad ending has on the reader!
    I can forgive slow starts, if something about the story triggers my interest. But a disappointing ending…? Doesn’t endear the author to me at all.
    E.g. I’ve just finished a book that started quite well. The first scene for me doesn’t have to be smashing good. It’s enough if I have the chance to meet the characters and get a feel if I like them and the set-up enough to continue (or find the as despicable that it feels interesting to continue reading). Here the first scene wasn’t gloriously fine but nicely done, with an interesting hero and an interesting set-up. For 3/4 of the story, no – for 4/5 of it – the book was hilariously funny and sexy and thrilling. A bit silly, but the sillyness was great. Nicely drawn h/h, i.d. a strong heroine in breeches and a very funny and sexy hero (who knew from the start that the heroine just disguised herself as a man, but played along cheekily). Then the author got over-the-top with the villain(s) and the ridiculous tid-bits started. Plus she had taken it into her head that she wanted to sart a series with this book, so she introduced the heroe’s family who then took over. We almost completely lost sight of the charming hero (who came back eventually but less funny) and the heroine became this girly girl interested in girly stuff, yak, when before she’d been dashing and brave. And I, the reader, got beaten over the head with the notion of how allmighty the heroe’s big brother was, but he wasn’t the freaking hero!!! I lost interest in the story with only about 4 chapters to go and picked up another book, a re-read that I knew could deliver both a gripping start and a satisfying ending. Only because I found it so sad that a book that seemed to draw me into a funny romp-story had such a disappointing development did I drag myself through the last few chapters. Which ended not with a climax but with a yawn – killing all the nasty antagonists off in an unplausible scenario with dull characters all around and deus-ex-machina-plot devices is rather disappointing!
    I really liked 4/5 of the book, but the last bit turned me off the author effectively because it’s the second book of hers that had the major flaw to indulge too much in her love of her own series (my first try had the exact same flaw, creating interesting characters and loosing sight of them completely because she had to somehow get her whole series-cast involved even if it was completely unnecessary, almost made the hero disappear among the notorious crowd and didn’t help at all). After two attempts I won’t try again for the foreseeable future and hope to find other good books.

    Another book that I read some time ago had an interesting enough start but sucked me in so completely into the story that I couldn’t stop until I’d finished it. Late at night and dissolved in tears because there was no happy ending – because there couldn’t be a happy ending -, but it was a very satisfying ending. It’s one book that made me start a notebook just for my thoughts on books and stayed with me for weeks. Well, months, because of all the books I’ve read in the last months this came to mind before all others.

    I’m not too sure if I really need a smashing climax at the end, but a satisfying ending to a satisfying read, which includes that the story better not be taken over by other characters than the h/h, that the author keeps interested in her/his story. Then the story ought to end with an appropriate climax, not wishy-washy, not dissolving like dirty snow in spring, but climaxy enought that you can close the books with a satisfied sigh.

    So I disagree with Bob’s point of view, because all the good stuff of a story gets tainted by a badly done ending and it certainly stops me from grabbing another title from that author again.

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  18. I thought immediately about your post about the romance contract. In this series, the showrunners greatly overestimated the degree of interest anyone but they themselves had in the Ted/Robin pairing. In fact, most of the audience didn’t even realize there *was* a Ted/Robin pairing, in large part because her chemistry with Barney (NPH’s character) was so terrific.

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    1. I liked Robin with both guys, but the showrunners really mishandled the relationships in latter years to the point where I pretty much didn’t care if Ted and Robin got back together or not, and the cuteness of Robin and Barney pretty much went to shit most of the time when they were actually together.

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  19. I am going to sheepishly put my hand up as someone who really liked the HIMYM finale. I’m a big fan, have all the DVDS, but this past season I continually took month long watching breaks because it just wasn’t as good as the others. Then I heard on the radio at work that the finale was on tonight and so I watched every episode I’d missed as soon as I got home. I watched the finale after work yesterday and I thought it made up for a bad season. A lot of the complaints here are ones I didn’t even think about but aren’t bothering me because I can answer every one to my own satisfaction. I’m not going to answer them here because if you hated it, you hated it, and you shouldn’t be badgered to like something that didn’t work for you. I will say that I felt you got a great picture of Tracy and how awesome she is in the latter half of the season and that the finale did nothing to diminish her being just amazing. I really liked how Ted losing her echoed her losing the love of her life at 21 and thinking she’d never find another because he was it. And one of the things I loved was that they gave you a hint that she was going to die in the episode with Robin’s mother. The second she said no other should miss her daughter’s wedding and Ted cried I knew they were going to kill her and I cried a bit too. That’s all I’m going to say in its defense, because I loved it but I’m trying to be more respectful of other people’s feelings.

    Other tv endings I’ve hated have more to do with getting canceled than the writers (Dirty Sexy Money and Veronica Mars in particular), but there are story arcs and character endings that have made me so angry. The Ponds’ ending on Dr. Who upset me no end, I felt like it was a total slap in the face to their time and to us (not to mention to the angels, who became a lot less terrifying in that episode). Same with Donna’s–felt like another total brush off of her character’s time in the Tardis. I used to hate End of Time, so much so that I never got more than halfway through the first ep, but I watched the whole thing recently and thought it ended brilliantly. Of course, watching the 50th anniversary special then got me very annoyed because it conflicted with a lot of what I felt we’d learned about the Time War in End of Time, but oh well.

    I hate the ending of 27 Dresses because I wanted her to keep her anger and vengeance. Her sister had been truly horrible for years it seemed, she deserved to feel like crap for more than a couple of weeks, and yet no, all is forgiven.

    I can’t really think of book endings I hate. It’s usually if I hate the ending it’s because I’ve hated the whole book. There are some endings I love/hate immensely–Sarah Rees Brennan’s books in particular because she keeps killing/maiming/emotionally destroying her characters–but I still re-read them and still buy whatever new things the author has coming out.

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    1. Don’t feel sheepish about liking it. I like The Sopranos endings. It isn’t whether it’s objectively good or bad–that’s not possible–it’s whether it worked for you.

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    2. Thank you for being respectful of my rant. Please don’t feel reserved about your enjoyment in the ending. I am glad that not everyone had the reaction that I, or my daughter, had. I wish I could have found some contentment in the ending and will miss many things about this show… I just can’t think about the finale.

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      1. You’re welcome Bernie. And it might make things a little better if you look up some of the How It Should Have Ended HIMYM videos on youtube. The ones I’ve seen gave a very wonderful HEA, and a lot of them were edited so well it was easy to pretend that it was the actual ending. It can’t fix what you already know, but maybe it’ll heal some of the finale’s emotional scars.

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    3. Eleanor said: “The second she said no other should miss her daughter’s wedding and Ted cried I knew they were going to kill her and I cried a bit too.”

      I’m really glad I missed that bit of foreshadowing. That breaks my heart.

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      1. It does, terribly. But it did also prepare me for the full on heartbreak, so I’m actually kinda thankful.

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  20. Book ending SPOILERS, but none for a book that’s come out in the last 20 years…

    Ugh, “Middlemarch”! The original “ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES!” ending, only with 100% more useless drama beforehand!

    Similarly, but less frustrating because it isn’t 400 pages long: “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

    That may all be about length and investment, though; I don’t mind it when everybody dies at the end of a short story, or the Connie Willis book where the main character is stuck in a town with the black plague and everybody else there dies (title currently escaping me, but you know Kivrin’s in a plague town pretty early on, so, not really a spoiler or a “Surprise! Everyone’s dead!” ending. And I certainly don’t mind how Shakespeare tends to leave everybody dead at the end of tragedies… but then again, I know they’re doomed early on.

    So I guess it’s like you said: broken contract with the reader = ANGRY READER!

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    1. Oh, I liked the end of “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” That’s actually one of my favorite endings. I guess I wasn’t really expecting her to get an HEA with that particular guy. It ended kind of how it started: with her being faithful to herself, which felt just right to me. I can understand how it would be frustrating though.

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    2. I didn’t read Middlemarch but I read Mill on the Floss in college. Argh. Iirc, it took something like 500 pages to set up this impossible situation and then like 50 to solve it by killing off half the main characters.

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    3. Connie Willis, The Domesday Book. Pretty grim. I love that book.
      Willis can do that. Talk about final scenes being important, the final part of Passage seemed to draw out and out, and the last paragraphs: boom. Worth it.

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  21. I’ve been reading a sweet contemporary fantasy series (R.L. Naquin, starts with Monster in My Closet for anyone who is interested). Sweet, funny, yet with realistic drama and danger too. At one point someone dies and I cried and cried, yet it didn’t ruin the story. It was right, even if I didn’t want it. I can’t wait for the next book!

    It’s sad but okay to kill a character if it works organically with the story and the character. As was mentioned earlier, the last of the Beka Cooper books by Tamora Pierce breaks those rules in order to keep some mystery or fulfill some storyline she had in her head. But it’s completely wrong on many levels and also shocking because always before she has hit it perfectly. (Ok, Will of the Empress kind of sucked, but not as badly.) really bad endings make me wary of further works by an author, even if they’ve always delivered before.

    Worst ending ever? Last episode of The Prisoner. The studio demanded extra episodes beyond what the writer planned and somehow the ending was on psychedelic drugs because it made no sense and answered no questions. The fans remain up in arms.

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    1. Actually Monster in my Closet was one of the books that I’d cite as really not working for me.

      It starts off sweetly and then devolves into a continous description of horrific rapes and deaths while the heroine simultaneously talks about how much she loves her best friend and neglects to tell her best friend to get out of town (despite the horrific rape/murders that are all centred around the heroine and almost inevitably going to touch the best friend in some way).

      I couldn’t finish it because of the heroines’ obliviousness.

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      1. This is good to know. Rape is something I have reader issues with, and this one has been waiting on my kindle. I’ll start it, but I will tread carefully.

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  22. I had a friend who told me not to read the last “Cat Who . . . ” book. There was supposed to be another one, but Lilian Jackson Braun passed away.

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    1. I think the last “Cat Who…” book I read ended with the barn burning down. At that point, they felt so much like a formula that I’d stopped buying them and rarely remembered anything about them once I’d read the library’s copy. But there’s about 6f them that are still in my core collection of books that have survived about 6-7 purges.

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    2. The last few books were really bad. She lost her ability to plot a mystery (I think I stopped at the third to last book or so once I realized that–senility was probably kicking in), and my mother told me at the end that ah, a terrible plot development happened outta nowhere.

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  23. There is a movie called “In The Blood” that I like to pretend ends earlier than its run time. It’s a great movie up until the last couple of scenes. Then it kills an important character, which, okay. If you insist. But then it does something even more outrageous after that which still irks me thinking about it these many years later.

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  24. My family has watched a few episodes of each season of HIMYM, so we know the general gist of the characters and their arcs, but by no means were we well invested. We only watched the ending because of all of the hoopla. My husband’s comment was, “Well, it was about what I would have expected as respects the quality of the story-telling we’ve seen before now, so I’m not surprised.” Even as uninvested as we were, we thought it was a pretty awful way to leave those characters. I was thinking before watching it that it’s kind of a tricky thing to end a show that’s mostly about that period of growth that happens starting in our 20s as we start the process to establish careers and adult friendships and (eventually) families of our own. Friends was in a similar place when it came to ending that series, so you know some amount of melancholy is going to be built in no matter what you do. But, oy!, even cutting HIMYM slack for that aspect of things still leaves me frustrated with their choices, which seemed to boil down to taking away nearly all of the character growth that was established for 3 separate characters. Quite an achievement!

    I think my demands for “great” as respects endings varies a little bit based on the media/format of the story. One thing that I think is in common regardless of whether it’s a book, movie, tv series, etc. is that I need to feel that the ending matches the story and is a natural conclusion to the character arcs, plot, style, and tone of what I’ve been following. I need to feel like my investment of time and emotion has been paid off.

    Favorite endings that come to mind immediately are My Antonia, The Sopranos, Newhart, The Great Gatsby, Casablanca, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and pretty much anything by Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and the Coen Brothers. (Which I think means I don’t mind surprises in my endings, so long as they make sense.)

    My all-time favorite ending thus far is for One Hundred Years of Solitude. For me, that ending felt like the entire story was built towards one sentence, and that sentence pulled every single string from every piece of the story in to one braid and tied it all up into one incredibly cohesive rope.

    I thought the ending to The Sopranos was brilliant for the same reason: they built the entire last season towards that ending and using Don’t Stop Believin’ as the music for that ending was like the cherry on top of it all. But even without that as my argument for its brilliance, I would also say that the series established in several ways and at several times before that last episode that the audience was seeing slices of the whole story, we were dropping in and out of these people’s lives and picking up/putting down threads as we went. Thus, ending the series in a way that showed the audience that the characters’ lives would go on in a way that was in keeping with who we knew them to be without us there to witness it was already well established.

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  25. I would say that with many romances, the first two thirds of the book are better than the last. Creating the relationship is interesting but once created, what is there to say about them? They are satisfying to experience, but much harder to write. Cordelia and Aral in the Vorkosigan series being a successful example of people HEA with each other without being boring.

    Eureka is a TV show that I thought ended beautifully, especially considering they had hoped for another season, and so had to wrap everything up satisfactorily in one episode.

    Mumford – one of my favorite movies of all time, is a perfectly good movie with predictably HEA factors…… and then the very last scene is a quiet little bit in the car where a main character is on the cusp of development….. and THAT is what makes it a great piece of art, in my estimation. Yes, everyone should go watch it immediately!

    I guess I am seeing that it is all about believable and satisfactory character development to me. I can’t watch Madmen because I can’t stand that Draper keeps looking like he has grown, and then, nope, back to being an idiot. I love Kathleen Gilles Siedel’s books, because the characters are so much more interesting at the end than they were at the start – because they grew.

    Enchanted April (the movie) has a one of the most satisfying endings ever IMHO.

    Funny that I read more than I movie, and yet most of my examples seem to come from video sources. Is it because they have to have a stronger ending?

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    1. I love Enchanted April. Adore, adore, adore! And you’re right, good ending. Thanks for reminding me.

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  26. The ending of book “Tigana” by Guy Gavrial Kay totally pissed me off and was Guy’s second chance with me. I’m never reading another of his book. He writes fantasy tragedy. Tigana could have had a mostly happy ending if he had wanted it. One simple change but no. I read his trilogy, the Fionavar Tapestry first and that has left some scars on my brain. A very disturbing rape scene that was essential to the plot but something I can’t forget.

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  27. I liked the end of The Life of Pi where Pi poses his question to the journalist. I think most writers would be interested in the idea that we use story and fable to make sense of our lives.

    Although I didn’t care for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy as much as the first two, I liked the penultimate end of Mockingjay. The last line before the epilogue was perfect, it resonated with the story, and I think the book could have ended there. Being a YA series, the first two books had a youthful underlying hope, but the third book in the series felt more adult in that it was bleak and cynical. For me the epilogue reinforced the bleakness. The penultimate chapter ended on a note of hope, and I preferred it.

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    1. I hated the ending of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The character I was cheering for died. Gah. Utterly pointless and senseless. I can get that from life, thank you very much. Cross that author off my list.

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      1. YES!!! I hated that ending. I thought resolving a story by having the main character get hit by a bus was outlawed along with having the main character wake up and it was all just a dream.
        With this ending, I cannot understand why this book was a huge hit. I warn people NOT to read it, because there is no conclusion to the story. No ending. Just BAM, and that’s it. All over.
        I love the title though. I use the book as a monitor base so I can see the title and get my monitor up a little higher.

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  28. I’m going off topic on my own post: I just watched the latest episodes of the two shows I watch, The Blacklist and Person of Interest, and they were both amazing. And to put this somewhat back on topic, even though they’re both hurtling toward the end of their seasons with story lines that are mesmerizing, they’re still delivering excellent climaxes to their episodic stories. Just excellent, excellent writing.

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    1. Brilliant move at the end with Root. Makes it all the more disappointing it’s not new next week.

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      1. Even more so because I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I love it that Control just got kneecapped by Vigilance, and even more that this show just became a story about battling AIs (I think), but mostly I just love these characters. Especially Shaw and the lawyer; I was so afraid they were going to do something stupid with Shaw and Reese; I should have had more faith.

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        1. So far The Blacklist and POI haven’t done anything to ‘break the faith’- but with all the examples of books, movies and TV show endings being discussed I don’t think viewers/readers can be blamed for being a little cynical at times. It only takes 2 seconds for a lunge to undo it all……

          TV shows as opposed to movies/books have it a little tougher in the endings department. Not only does an episode ending have to be satisfying – so does the season and series finale. I can’t think of a show that I have watched in its entirety where I can say that (although the Blacklist and POI so far haven’t disappointed).

          Onto movies – I’ve just watched Captain America 2 – and I love the little snippets that Marvel give us during the credits. It really ends the movie whole experience on a high

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          1. You’re safe with Life, Life on Mars, and Leverage. Person of Interest and The Blacklist are still on the air, but they’ve been excellent-to-amazing so far.

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          2. TV also has the risk of running longer than it should. Book series might face a similar challenge, but with one book a year, they don’t run of stories quite so fast.

            White Collar is ending next season with a six episode run; that one has been consistently good (up to season four, I’m waiting for season five to hit Netflix). So it has the potential to end well.

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          3. I loved it but I dropped out this year. I’m not sure why but I think it was because at the end of every season, they have Peter lose faith in Neal because he’s a conman and he does something shady, and that’s just stupid because (a) after four years these guys are so tight that it’s not believable that they wouldn’t trust each other any more and (b) YOU’VE DONE THAT FOUR TIMES ALREADY. I never bought that Sara left because Neal was always going to be crooked, either. That’s a lot of what turned her on. Well, that and Neal looks like Matt Bomer, so that would do it, too. So when I hit the fourth episode this year and it was still “Can Peter trust Neal?” I said, “Yes,” and cancelled my subscription. If Sara comes back and they try a new season arc, I’ll come back. I loved those characters.

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          4. Yes, having Neal hide things from Peter got old. Only saw season four once. I remember Peter going behind Neal’s back and Neal being angry about it. Then there was that FBI panel episode where they dealt with their issues over it, and he insisted Peter be in on the plan over Treat Williams’ objections. That was nice. But he spent so much of the season keeping secrets from him, and they’re past that. The writers seemed to realize that, because they had Elizabeth ask him to keep Peter out of it after someone sabotaged his breaks and put him in the hospital. At least they were trying to give him believable motivation for it. I was hoping season five wouldn’t be more of the same, and now I’m a little worried. But Mark Sheppard is apparently the season-long antagonist; that’s major incentive to watch.

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        2. The way they shift into the Machine’s POV from time to time really fascinates me; adding another AI to the mix would make that even more fun. That was a lot of numbers getting routed to Root, and I know she’s scary efficient, but no way can she deal with all of it alone. I’m hoping we get to see her band of “essential” people helping with those.

          Didn’t worry about Shaw and Reese, if only because the opening credits used that shot of her slow dancing with the lawyer.

          Watching Shaw and Reese flip to see who had to endure Mama Mia was great. I want to go to Youtube and watch that coin toss again.

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          1. I love it that sometimes they change the numbers and notations in the opening and you think, “Oh, hell.” When there was static halfway through and then Root’s voice replaced Finch’s, the credits were more exciting than most shows I watch.

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  29. I was terribly disappointed that Life ended, but I thought the last episode was terrific. And Leverage’s ending was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve watched it four or five times just picking up more and more detail each time.
    I am still extremely bitter about Harry Potter. I felt a huge sense of betrayal. It’s the only time I’ve ever intentionally abused a book.

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  30. I haven’t watched HIMYM in a long time, but I did read up on the finale, and like Katie, I felt betrayed. I’m actually glad I dropped it, and I don’t plan to catch up. I was thinking about you when I read it because what it immediately came to mind is the contract. I read what the creators said, and it really bugged me. They didn’t create a drama–HIMYM was essentially a romantic comedy, and the contract when it comes to a romantic comedy is a happy ending…and Ted ending up with Robin was pointless, in my opinion.

    I think that television shows get stuck with this notion that they have to surprise and shock their viewers. What they fail to understand is that we don’t need to be surprised, we need to understand. There is satisfaction in understanding, and outrage in confusion. I think the HIMYM ending is a perfect example of breaking the contract that was made at the beginning, and that’s why people were so upset. We accepted a long time ago Robin was not the mother. We stuck through Ted’s journey to meet the love of his life, only to have it end and be told, “well, actually, it was Robin all along.” Gotcha! Nope. I don’t think so. Sometimes, when people don’t see a twist coming, it’s because it makes no sense whatsoever. It’s lousy storytelling.

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    1. You’re right, that was a Gotcha.
      You know it’s such an easy mistake to make, and I think writers do it because they forget (or never knew) that the reader/viewer is a collaborator. Once you “Gotcha” readers, trick them, betray that contract to be clever, they’ll never trust you again. You can surprise them, but after the surprise they have to look back and think, “Of course, why didn’t I see that?” instead of “WTF?”

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  31. *spoilers for Avatar the last Airbender*

    For the most part the ending worked for me, there was a bit of a deus ex machina which allowed Aang to retain his principles and achieve his goals but other than that, everything felt earned and wonderful.

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    1. For that reason, I felt the other two storylines were much better “endings” than the main character in Avatar. The Legend of Korra similarly spoiled an otherwise excellent build up with a bit of deus ex machina.

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  32. I argued that the last scene was the most important because that’s the pay-off for the reader, the big finish, and if that scene doesn’t satisfy her, everything that went before it was wasted, the entire story experience falling flat, which leaves you with a frustrated, unfulfilled reader. Have you ever read a book that started slow but had a magnificent finish?

    The Usual Suspects – I’d heard such amazing things about it, I decided to finally watch it (had not been spoiled, amazingly!). I spent the first half going, why do people love this movie? And then, the ending. Makes the whole movie awesome.

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    1. My family re-watched that one recently for the first time since it came out and yep, it still totally worked for us.

      I guess the short version of the lesson from that story is that the audience should be saying, “How did they do that?” and not, “Why did they do that?” when arriving at the conclusion.

      (We had a similar reaction to Memento).

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  33. Sister’s Keeper – the first and last Jodi Picoult I read. I was SO annoyed by the ending, I felt so manipulated.

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  34. There is a kind of ending that I always like and that I think of as the “four more wonderful weeks of summer” ending. I think of it that way because Arthur Ransome ended so many of his Swallows & Amazons series that way. The way it works is that the contest, or the mystery, or the insoluble problem that drove the main plot of the story got resolved shortly before the end of the book, but then the author cleared up a few loose ends, reunited various characters with various other characters so that it was possible to find out how others reacted to the plot resolution, and then had the main characters turn happy as all get out when they realized that they still had FMWWoS to go.

    To me, Jane Austen ended Pride & Prejudice kind of like that. [PRIDE & PREJUDICE SPOILERS HERE 🙂 ] She didn’t stop at the church door after the double wedding scene, as the BBC did in their Ehle/Firth version. Instead she told about how so many of the other characters took the news of Elizabeth’s engagement; had Darcy & Elizabeth talk over how their feelings had come to change about one another, and then took a few subplots forward in an “after the wedding” segment that showed how even Bingley & Jane couldn’t put up with the family drama forever, how Lydia & Wickham were lazy parasites forever and ever, and how the minor characters were forced to come around. And then she described a bit of the wonderful summer weeks to come as Elizabeth and her husband and sister-in-law lived happily for a long time after.

    I know it’s not really fully plotted with a POW/CRASH climax at the end of the book, but it’s a way to unwind a happy ending that I just love.

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    1. I couldn’t feel more differently about FMWWoS! When the interesting stuff ends, I want the book to end. I’ve just finished a Swallows and Amazons book and the way it drifts at the end annoyed me but I didn’t have a word for it but now I do It’s just the whole epilogue problem under another name. Sure, its nice to think people have nice lives afterwards, but really boring to have to read about it UNLESS the author has done something amazing and radical in the epilogue. Which no one ever does.

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  35. One case where “breaking the contract” somewhat did work was in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but of course, the Python team were the masters of the unexpected comedy. And I suppose if you took the “contract” as being the investigation of the historians murder, it did sort of give a payoff.

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    1. That’s the one part about Holy Grail I didn’t like, but then, as you said, it’s the Pythons so you roll with it. And the rest of the movie is so spectacularly good that I just lump it in with Young Frankenstein as a “crazy people created this amazing thing and then didn’t know how to get out of it” story.

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  36. “Lost” has made me wary of producers/show runners who insist they have a “plan.” I didn’t hate the ending, but it was deeply unsatisfying. The show promised answers to so many mysteries, including what exactly is the island. And delivered on so few. The convoluted and metaphysical answers didn’t help.

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  37. I’m interested in people’s thoughts on Resurrection. My household has become so cynical about series’ overstaying their storyline, (Revenge, Homeland, Lost), that we’re not watching Resurrection based on the assumption that the writers will never give us a satisfying resolution regarding what actually happened. In this case, we’re waiting to see how it ends, then watch it retrospectively if it delivers a reasonable resolution.

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    1. Do you have Netflix? There’s a French version of Resurrection on there, called The Returned. I think the two are actually based on different source materials, but by all accounts the French version is better.

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  38. No one has mentioned Babylon 5. Okay, so not a romance, but beautifully crafted. I, in fact, didn’t start watching it until the end of season 3 when I read that it was plotted like a book with a 5-year plan. I had to scramble to catch up, but it was so worth it.

    One series that I have mixed emotions about was Alias (which has a similar feel as the Black List). It jumped the shark in Season 4 and I stopped watching for a while, but I made sure to catch the finale which worked on most levels. I blame the network for the stuff that didn’t work. The first two seasons built heavily on what came before which made it hard for new viewers to pick up the threads, so the network pressured JJ to make it more “accessible” but the building story line is what I think made it worth watching.

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  39. I fell into HIMYM in syndication and loved so many things about it: the characters, the relationships, and the games they played with time in the storytelling having to do with the way you remember things (I loved the callbacks to various events and the ongoing mini-sagas like The Slap Bet, and I’m thrilled that to this day we – and Ted – have no idea what exactly The Pineapple Incident involved).

    I was invested in these characters and their growth as a group and as individuals. I was invested in Ted’s search for the happiness that Lily and Marshal had. And yes, over time I got particularly invested in Robin/Barney. One of the highlights of the penultimate season for me – the reason I stuck around for Season 9! – was Barney’s proposal to Robin and the Burning of The Playbook, and Ted’s decision to stop pursuing Robin and let her (and Barney) be happy together. I thought it was a huge, amazing step forward, and I was so happy about the significance of Ted meeting The Mother at Barney and Robin’s wedding.

    The ending of this series left me feeling entirely betrayed: so betrayed that I honestly don’t know if I can ever watch it again. I knew I was probably going to hate it when they pulled Robin and Barney apart in the first twenty minutes, and I realized that the entire stupid framing device of the wedding weekend was a magnificent and not-all-that-well designed bait and switch. I watched in mounting anger and frustration as ALL of the growth we’d seen for Barney was blown out, as Marshall and Lily had a third kid I don’t think we EVER heard about before, and the Mother became even more of a footnote in what was supposed to be her story. There were two scenes I liked in that finale: the one where Barney met his daughter, and the one where Lily cried in the empty apartment in that ridiculous whale costume. That’s it. Two moments that felt like the show I knew, and I have to credit NPH and Allyson Hannigan, based on my response to the rest of it.

    Yeah, they foreshadowed that the Mother was dead, and not just in that episode everyone mentioned: there was one in the last episode of Season 8 where Ted imagined a monologue where he ran to the Mother’s apartment that said, “In 45 days we’re going to meet. I wish it was today….” that was all about time, and how they deserved more of it. But I honestly hoped we were wrong, because it just seemed that cheap an out to me.

    So by the end I was livid. It did feel like a betrayal of the contract. Normally I’m OK with a TV show resetting their contract, too – if chemistry/story takes you away from your original goal, GO WITH IT. That’s what The West Wing did with Josh and Donna: Janel Moloney was not even on contract in Year 1 of WW. But the producers saw what she and Brad Whitford were doing, and ran with it (not always successfully), and they paid it off. TWW was a great series finale, and really great final season: especially impressive, because I thought West WIng really lost it’s way during season five and the first few episodes of Season 6.

    Anyway, back to HIMYM and THEIR contract. It changed over time, because they DID run with things: the amazing chemistry between Cobie Smulders/NPH, the break out nature of Barney’s character, and one more, late true game changer: the casting of Cristin Milioti as the mother.

    Because she was BRILLIANT. What an amazing actress. She had great chemistry with every character in Ted’s life. Her meetings with everyone – before Ted – were lovely. Her backstory episode was one of my favorites of the year. She was SO good, I just wanted more of her. More of her with Ted, more of her with Robin, more of her Barney and with Marshall and Lily sitting with her and Ted, because man did Tracy pass Lily’s ‘front porch’ test.

    So I think they gave us the EXACT WRONG amount of Tracy as portrayed by this actress. If they’d put MORE of her life with Ted throughout the season, we may not have felt so cheated – she wouldn’t have come across as Ted and Robin’s broodmare. The other option would have been to give us less – to give us that one, perfect scene on the train platform, and left it at that.

    Instead, we fell in love with her, just like Ted did: only we didn’t get six years to mourn her loss before we had to accept the inevitability of Ted and Aunt Robin. We got ten minutes.

    And not to put to fine a point on it? It sucked.

    So there is not a chance in hell that I will watch Carter/Bays next show, not-so-originally called “How I Met Your Father”. They flunked the last scene test.

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  40. I’m sure there are many others, but the first endings to come to mind that still irritate me are Angel, for various reasons but mostly because getting Christian Kane back just to destroy his character and make Lorne (of all people!) kill him was infuriating; and Medium, because the series always centered around Alison’s loving, flawed family unit — to a point where the Dubois family became one of my absolute T.V. favorites –, and suddenly killing off her husband in the finale so that she and her daughters were left without him for the next 25+ years was simply crap. The series had multiple earlier episodes that explored how Alison and Joe belonged together, how they’d keep coming back to each other even in alternate universe situations, how they only fully lived when together . . . and then she had to spend half her life without him. Grr, argh.

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  41. Star Trek: Enterprise had a truly terrible ending. As is often the case, it was a somewhat sudden cancellation with lots to tie up, yet for some reason we spent the whole episode in a holodeck simulation of the Enterprise with two totally unrelated characters from Star Trek: Next Generation. And they had a major character I liked die offscreen pointlessly.

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