Good series finales are difficult to come by. As viewers, we have certain expectations of what endings should be. We expect them to be grand. We expect to see familiar faces return. We expect things to come full circle thematically. We expect tears of sadness and joy. We expect answers. Most importantly, we expect closure. Think of how many shows have botched the ending (and no, I do not consider Lost to be among them). I’ve heard it from other writers and as a writer myself, I’d have to agree – endings are hard.
One of the things that I’ve discovered through my years of TV watching is that the best endings are ones that end in hope. The best endings don’t just end the story, they begin new ones. Nobody wants to leave their favorite characters with the thought that there’s nothing left. Good stories, and by extension good TV shows, allow us the opportunity to see into the life of a character (or characters) for a time and follow them through the trials and tribulations of life. We see them at their best and their worst. We see them fall, and hopefully, rise back up again. The best stories show us a character who triumphs over adversity and comes out the other side better than they were before. The best stories then show us that there’s more to come for that character and leave us with the knowledge (or at least the hope) that they’ll be able to face whatever may come their way next. The best stories indicate to us that life doesn’t end simply because the story has reached its conclusion—these stories are just snapshots, windows into the life of a character that last for a finite amount of time. These are the best stories, the best endings, the best finales.
I always saw my time at Trinity Western University as a television show (I’m ashamed to admit that in the past, I’ve accidentally referred to the years as seasons). I suppose this will sound silly to some, but it’s sometimes hard not to see things in this way when television is as big a part of my life as it is. My degree was conveniently split into four “seasons”, which, in the current television landscape, is a decent amount of time for any show to run. There was a setting and a premise (and there was most certainly a soundtrack), but most importantly, there was the thing that makes a television show possible – a large and varied cast of characters. Just like with any good television show, the characters are what stuck with me. The characters are what kept me coming back, season after season, anxious to see how things would turn out. I was also a character – the main character of my very own television show.
Just like with any television show, things changed from season to season. Settings differed, characters came and went, relationships faded, new ones were born, conflicts arose, mistakes were made, and victories were achieved. When I reached my graduation in April, I considered that my series finale. Now I’m not so sure, because it wasn’t a good ending.
Looking back on it, my graduation from Trinity Western University was a good season finale, but it wasn’t a good series finale. Graduation was grand, to be sure, and things did come full circle in ways. There was certainly a parade of familiar faces and tears were shed, though mostly of the sadness variety. What there wasn’t, however, was closure. If a character is supposed to be better at the ending than they were at the start, then how come I feel no different? How come, after these four season, I feel as if I’m just as lost, confused, and broken as I was when I began?
As much as my life circumstances have changed, I can’t accept that my series finale occurred back in April because my journey as this character hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. There are still challenges that I have to overcome. Settings will continue to change, characters will continue to come and go, existing relationships will evolve, conflicts will arise, mistakes will be made, and hopefully victories will be achieved.
Endings are hard. They’re hard on television. They’re even harder in real life. But maybe my ending hasn’t happened yet. Maybe this chapter of my life isn’t over yet. I still have lessons to learn, I still have questions that need answers, and hopefully I still have that large and varied cast of characters.
I look forward to that day when I can close this chapter of my life, better off than when I began it. Until then however, I’ve got a fifth season to experience and it’s about to premiere.