Two television shows that I watched faithfully have ended, Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black.
One was about a world so different than my own, where rivaling factions fought to take control, all while depicting scenes of violence and gratuitous sex.
The other was Game of Thrones.
I loved both of these shows from the beginning. Well, GoT hooked me from the first episode where it took about 4 episodes to connect with OITNB, but you get the idea. I could say it took longer for OITNB because I’m a middle aged man with no experiences of being in a women’s prison, but I also haven’t ever fought White Walkers, poisoned child kings, or walked naked through the street with SHAME! being yelled at me. I may have had a dream about the last one happening, though.
While I stayed hooked on GoT throughout, I found the season or two of Orange before the final one to drag down the series, to the point that during what became the penultimate season I kept saying ‘this show needs to end before it gets bad.’ The performances remained great throughout, but writing didn’t give them enough to bite into, and with that incredible cast it was a shame.
Game of Thrones ended first and, well, I don’t have to tell anyone how that final season went over. I tried my best to defend it for weeks after, but in the end was disappointed. It was still beautiful to watch and mostly I’m fine with ‘how’ things ended, but just not with how they got there.
Then there’s Orange. After two seasons that I stayed with because I felt I owed it to the characters, the final season did something I did not expect. It stepped up and said ‘here you go’ and delivered the most incredible set of episodes in the show’s run. Each time one would end, we would sit there silent for a few moments before letting out an audible… ‘whew.’ This was screenwriting at its best, bringing all those characters to conclusions, and not unlike GoT, not always in an uplifting way. Natasha Lyonne, a favorite of mine for many years (whom I ran into in a Portland movie theater arcade with Fred Armisen and fully fanboyed on them both), really shined on this season (If you haven’t seen her other Netflix show, Russian Doll, do so now. I’ll wait.). I cried several times in the series finale episode, which in itself is not astounding as I’m an admitted softy, but the writers pulled the right strings and the actors were perfection.
The acting on GoT was always strong, as well. Though at times it seemed the directors main feedback was ‘be more brooding.’
Ending a story is difficult. I’ve run into it five times over my five novels. The new film conclusion to Stephen King’s IT has inside jokes all through it about a novelist character who doesn’t know how to end his books, pointed directly at Mr. King himself who lets himself in on the joke in a great cameo. So even the most successful in writing have difficulty creating endings that stay true to the work and make the readers or viewers happy with the outcome. I’m looking at you, Lost, and shaking my head. If you want a master class in ending a show, look to Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the second and final season of Fleabag. For a show she never intended to have a second season, she pulled it off effortlessly and gave a finale that was satisfying.
I’m already deep into writing my next novel and in a rare twist, I know the ending already. And I think it is good. There’s also time for me to screw that up before I finish writing the book.