Elements That Make a Series Finale Satisfying
by Ashley Binion
Recently, networks have given many series, like Chuck and Fringe, a final season to wrap up their stories. It isn’t easy to wrap up a series that lasted for years in a forty minute episode, let alone one that will satisfy everyone who watched. With Fringe’s last hours airing on Friday, here are a few key elements to include in a series finale that will make the ending satisfying for fans.
Callbacks and Montages
I love when there are callbacks throughout the series, but a series finale is when they should be in abundance. By recalling poignant episodes or moments that happened throughout the series is a great way to service fans. Subtle winks and nods to these moments make the ending feel more personal for the viewer.
Many series, including Lost, Smallville, and Eureka featured these moments of reflection that included a montage. This moment flashes many key moments in the main character’s journey throughout the course of the show. During these montages, a viewer can pick out moments they remember and cherish.
Throughout the course of a series, many characters come and go. One of the best ways to reward loyal viewers is to bring them back for an encore.
Eureka and Smallville’s series finales did this exceptionally well. It would be difficult to imagine The Man of Steel’s early chapter end without bringing back Lex Luthor. On Smallville, Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex was a major player during the first seven seasons and to see him come back was satisfying as a viewer. Eureka’s series finale also brought back many characters including Sheriff Carter’s daughter Zoe, scientist Henry Grant, and the town’s oddball Taggart.
In a mythology-driven show like Fringe, there are overarching mysteries that continue throughout many seasons. These questions should be answered.
This is where Lost’s series finale came under intense scrutiny. People were unsatisfied with the lack of answers they were given in the series finale. Instead, the episode focused mostly on character development and demonstrating the arcs the major characters.
An “open” ending
I think might be the best way for a series to end. This way an audience knows that this ending onscreen isn’t the ending for the characters and that they continue on after the final minutes. But, too open of an ending creates misunderstanding within the audience.
Of course, this can cause much disagreement, like Lost. In their case, the ending was so open that people were actually confused by it. On multiple occasions, I have had to explain the ending. Many people I have encountered believed that (Spoiler Alert!) the castaways were always dead, but then I have to explain that they weren’t.
A too firm of an ending also creates controversy, for example the 2004 Battlestar Galactica. The first part of “Daybreak” was phenomenal and in my opinion this is where the series should have ended. But, they seemed to press their luck and made the ending too literal. (Spoiler Alert!) I mean, did the audience really need to know that Hera, a human and Cylon hybrid, is actually our great-great-great-ect. grandmother? Not really. Sometimes less is more.
What do you think makes a series finale great?