What’s Wrong with Today’s Endings?

Falling Skies Finale

Keeping up with a dozen or so different stories at once can be confusing. Still caught up thinking about last week’s Suits season finale, I completely forgot about the Falling Skies series finale that aired this past weekend. The “Falling Skies Series Finale More Fizzle Than Fireworks” headline I stumbled across this morning reminded me to check it out while also bringing up a few interesting thoughts about movie and television endings in general.

Is it just me or are screen writers having a hard time with endings? After watching/reading recent movie and television reviews, a disappointment with endings looks like it’s starting to become a trend.

I’ve been giving the issue a lot of thought since I started marching towards a visible ending to my Perilous Heights short story. While I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think myself on par with the teams of paid professionals that work on high budget scripts, I think I’ve isolated a couple main issues contributing to fan disappoint with recent finales.

  1. Mass acceptance is impossible.

We all know you can’t please everyone, but that doesn’t stop studios from trying.

The number one goal of every movie and television show in existence is to make money. The more people you can appeal to, the more money you can make. If a movie or television show is accomplishing that goal and attracting a wide range of people then it simply stands to reason that a lot of those people are going to walk away from the ending dissatisfied.

Some people like realistic endings, some people like happy endings, some people like tragic endings. Trying to have a bit of everything is just asking for trouble, which – without giving away spoilers – Falling Skies did. I think trying for mass acceptance is where a lot of poorly received endings come from. Stick to one ending and let fans argue between themselves about whether it was good or bad. That’s still better than being outright considered poor by the majority.

  1. It’s more difficult to surprise audiences than it used to be.

Whether they know it or not, people are inundated with stories from birth nowadays in a way they weren’t 20 – 30 years ago. If someone doesn’t read, they play video games. If they don’t play video games, they watch TV. If they don’t watch TV, they watch movies. Even if they don’t do any of that their friends and family members fill them in on things they’ve experienced. You don’t have to watch Fight Club to know the twist from Fight Club.

There are few things worse than an obvious ending. People like to be left in suspense or surprise while also feeling a sense of fulfillment. (Decades of cliffhangers will do that to a person.) The massive amount of pre-existing content coupled with the Nile-sized flow of new content coming out each year makes it difficult to keep audiences on their toes and happy at the same time.

Endings are only getting harder and harder to write as time goes on, which is why I think they’re so heavily scrutinized nowadays. Of course, you can also get people talking by writing an ending like the Sopran-

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