This month AMC's Breaking Bad is coming to a magnificent end, and people are getting pretty weird about it. Walter White has taken us on a depressing, horrifying ride, and we are almost done with him. The final instalment will likely be a jaw-dropping, tweet-worthy finale of finales, and I could not be more excited. Watching the final episode of a beloved television show is an emotional experience. We see characters grow, make mistakes and evolve into different people, so letting them go can be really intense. I realize there might be such a thing as becoming too invested, but that certainly hasn't stopped me from bawling through almost every finale I've ever watched.
There are three basic kinds of series finale episodes. Of course, shows do break from these formulas, for better or worse (ahem, Lost), but these are your basic three options.
Examples: Everybody Loves Raymond, Star Trek: The Next Generation
In the Raymond finale, we were left feeling like the Barones' lives would continue on, business as usual. Years after we've left them, we can assume that Debra and Ray will fight and make up and that Marie will continue to smother. Although this approach is less popular, I find it wonderful in its own way. There is something calming about the idea of a loving family continuing to exist as a loving family or of a group of futuristic do-gooders continuing to better the universe.
Examples: Friends, Seinfeld, The West Wing, 30 Rock
The most common types of finale episodes involve a major scenario change. This can be absurd (the whole gang ends up in prison) or heartwarming (Liz Lemon figures it all out). Understandably an audience can gain more closure knowing that the "Friends" won't be hanging out at Central Perk without us and that President Bartlet has passed the baton to a new guard. These are typically the types of finales during which I sob uncontrollably and start writing fan letters to Aaron Sorkin.
Examples: Pushing Daisies, Firefly, Arrested Development
It is absolutely infuriating to see a great show cut down in its prime. This typically results in a weird ending. Sometimes it is a cliffhanger, sometimes a poorly constructed attempt to wrap up several storylines in a few quick episodes. Particularly with shows that I loved, like the phenomenal Pushing Daisies, this is as disappointing as it is frustrating. The only redemption you can hope for with these weirdo finales is some kind of afterlife for the show. Firefly found that in a feature film with Serenity, and Arrested Development has more recently been resurrected by the grace of Netflix.
Where will Breaking Bad land on the finale spectrum? Either Walt will pay for his laundry list of wrong deeds, or Heisenberg will saunter out into the world, a broken shell of a man. All I know for certain is I will be crying…and tweeting.
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