I mean. I like major plot threads to be wrapped up, sure, and I like emotional arcs to come to fruition, and it’s good if Chekov’s Gun gets taken away by the BATF agent at some point, but. I like my stories to end in a way that goes “we solved that specific plot problem, and now everything else gets to continue on more or less as it was, except for the ways the characters and their relationships grew and changed, and the repercussions of that specific problem that are still shaking out.”
I don’t like my stories to end in a way that goes “And everything you’ve been invested in is changed and gone forever and nothing will ever be the same!”
And it seems like in our new 21st century media era of Everything Is Part Of A Years-Long Dramatic Arc, that’s the only way things get to end anymore.
But, also: I’ve said this before,1 and I’ll likely say it again, but the basic reason here is because humans are bad at having a critical/analytical reaction to something at the same time they’re having an emotional reaction to it.2 So fostering an extreme version of the latter in an in-the-moment reaction is basically the Number One way of preventing too much of the former, because people also tend to over-conflate “Thing gave me Emotion X” with “Thing was Good” when, spoiler alert, it’s actually not that difficult to give humans emotional reactions since one of humanity’s core evolutionary traits is that we’re hyper-empathic.
As you can probably tell, I loathe media that does this, mostly because it’s one of those things that, once you’ve seen how the trick is done, you can’t unsee it. And boy howdy is there so much of it around to not unsee. It’s also worth pointing out that part of the reason is because I am very easy to sucker into having emotional responses to fictional media—one of the reasons I hate the Distancing Effect is because I don’t like segregating myself in that way from a narrative—and media that’s, shall we say, disrespectful of that makes me feel cheated and exploited.3
Tl;dr endings are hard, and being bad at them in a cheap way is far, far easier than doing them well in a way that works.
- About the ends of both Angel and Torchwood: Children of Earth, in fact, so this is… not a new observation by any means. [↩]
- Basically the reverse of My Media Nemesis, the Brechtian Distancing Effect. [↩]
- Which isn’t to say I universally hate rocks-fall-everyone-dies endings. I’m one of the like 0.01% of people who likes both the endings to Dragons Ages 2 and Inquisition, for example, and I’m also partial to Birdman-style ambiguous endings. [↩]