A “Bad” Ending Is Better Than None At All

    The good news is, the producers of the show have responded in kind, planning a 16-episode season five. The bad news is, season five will be the show’s last. Producer Vince Gilligan has been quoted many times as being ecstatic about this finality. For him, the opportunity to plan an ending, to fully, deftly end his story is a dream come true. 

    This is a rather unusual request from a show. One of the only other times that a hit television show has deliberately asked for artistic license to, well, end its story is “Lost” in 2007. And though many, myself included, might believe that a conclusive ending to a television show actually enhances its overall quality, some attention must be paid to television’s unusual form of storytelling.

    By its very nature, television shows aren’t meant to end. One of the longest running scripted shows in the history of television, “Days of Our Lives,” is a soap opera that has clocked 47 seasons and is still running strong. It is the narrative that never quits narrating, and writers who truly know their craft are the ones to make this happen. By gauging the audience’s approval or disapproval, television writers know just when to ax unpleasant characters (Nikki and Paulo from season two of “Lost” come to mind) and can tweak their show accordingly. Without the luxury of a conclusive ending, writers can drag the story into a dead end and quickly turn it around, or just lose focus altogether (ahem, every season of “Heroes” after the first one). 

    Still, I argue that many shows have dragged on for far too long — shows that could have benefited from a pre-planned ending. “How I Met Your Mother,” for example, has overstayed its welcome. Despite a built-in ending, there is no ending in sight (hint: At some point, it’s supposed to involve the mother); instead, the producers are milking their Neil Patrick Harris cash cow for all that it’s worth, destroying the liveliness of the story in the process. “Scrubs” almost avoided this issue. Its stellar eighth season, tapped as its final one, had a series finale that made fans forget the tepid 6th and 7th season entirely, a commendable feat. But in an act where pride clearly trumped good sense, creator Bill Lawrence allowed season 9 to happen, a pitiful excuse for a continuation/spin-off that ruined the show’s season eight high. 

    For this reason, I’m excited for “Breaking Bad”’s fifth and final season. After all, when “Dollhouse” was given notice that its second season would be its last, Joss Whedon cranked out one of the best examples of condensing a five-season arc into one, defiantly ending his show on his own terms. Perhaps, control of destiny is for the best.

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