Dramatic Series Finales: An Impossible Task? #tv

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I finished Penny Dreadful on Netflix last week. I wasn’t thrilled with seasons 2 and 3 in general, but that said, I didn’t like how it ended. I wonder if writers don’t know how to finish TV shows, or if we, as humans, are just impossible to please in that regard.

In the rare instance where I enjoy how a show ends, it’s almost always comedy. Hell, Parks and Recreation ended perfectly . . . twice! My sense is that comedies are more satisfying because the writers always go for a 100% feel-good ending where everything gets wrapped up happily. On the other hand, for a serious drama to work, it must often push some buttons throughout the series. When the wrong button is pushed in a finale, there’s no undoing it or making up for it. We’re all just left to feel unsatisfied. Even the Shield, which I felt ended well, still left me feeling at bit off only because there were a couple of things I didn’t like. They still stick in my craw a bit. For shows that don’t end so well, that effect is magnified.

For the record, Halt and Catch Fire is a drama that ended perfectly. The series produced its ups and downs by having the characters engage in destructive behavior that drove each other apart, yet somehow always brought them back together again. It ended with several of the characters having drifted apart, but because of that groundwork they laid over the course of the show, you come away feeling like they’re going to find their way back to one another again. This allowed them to “move on” and have a resolution very different than that of their friends while still facilitating a “feel good” ending.

So no, it’s not impossible, but it seems to be very difficult. I should probably take a screenwriting class so I can understand this process better, but this is how I interpret what I’ve heard from others and what I feel myself.

What dramatic series do you think ended well?

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Good Watch: Penny Dreadful. Well, maybe a mediocre watch. @WesleyStudi #showtime #pennydreadful #goodwatch

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My latest binge target is Penny Dreadful. It’s a three-season Showtime/Sky Atlantic series that’s currently on Netflix. The seasons are 8, 10, and 9 episodes, each just under 60 minutes long. The series accomplishes what Universal Studios has been unsuccessfully trying to do on the big screen for some time: A shared monster universe. It’s brought together the legends of vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, Dorian Gray, and others.

Some of the actors are new to me, but the show is anchored by veteran actors Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett (playing an ultimately sympathetic Ethan), David Warner, and Eva Green. Joining them is an actor that’s new to me, Harry Treadway. I was happy with him as the redeemed villain, Narek, in Star Trek: Picard. Another actor with which I’m familiar that will join the cast in season 3 is Wes Studi, who’s strangely the only actor I’ve mentioned that’s on Twitter. I was happy with most of the other actors, who are all new to me (as far as I can remember).

I find the show weird, but considering the subject matter, how could it not be? It’s also not for children, and not just because of the horror content. One interesting thing about this show is that it brings all the different supernatural creatures into the story very quickly. That is, you don’t need to wait very long to see your first vampire if that’s why you’re tuning in. Paradoxically, however, there are times in the middle of season one where everything slows to a crawl. Season 1, episode 7 (“Possession”) felt like it was two hours long. I had to look at the time stamp to verify it was a regular-length episode. It doesn’t speed up from there. With almost two seasons (of three) complete, I still don’t know who “the master” is. Satan or something? I don’t know. I’m having trouble focusing at this point. In any case, get on with it!

While this is not what I’d consider top tier television, it’s reasonably enjoyable. However, the only reason I’ll finish it is because I’m a compulsive completionist. There are better things to watch. As always, YMMV.

If you’re into the horror genre, unrealistic redemption among estranged family members, and over-the-top British courtesy, you may enjoy it more than I.

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Follow Wes Studi @WesleyStudi