Finales Galore: Good Day, Good Riddance, Goodbye…

Posted on May 28, 2010

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Perhaps it’s always been the case but to me, it seems in the last few years that TV series finales have become something of a personal event for people who’ve been following them from the beginning. Indeed plenty of writers take a series finale as their opportunity to be particularly sadistic and leave us all hanging on a cliff edge for the four-six months it takes for a new series to arrive, presuming it doesn’t get cancelled in the interim.

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I could write a book on TV series finales but it seems like something I would do at a later date so I’m going to refrain from doing so here, suffice to say that in the weekend just passed, TV viewers were privy to three (four if you count 24 but I’m not a follower so am leaving it out) TV finales, two of which we have now (presumably) seen the very last of.

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Warning: there are spoilers from here on:

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House:

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Gregory House has been limping around for six years, hard to believe isn’t it? That’s as long as Lost (which I’ll come to later) but not nearly as chore-like. In the last six years he’s been on Viocodin, he’s been off it, he’s been on Meth and off it, he can walk, he can’t, his metaphors have become increasingly more humorous…and, not to move away from the point, he’s been a miserable oul’ sod.

But probably the most interesting aspect of the series is how he relates to the people around him: his team are treated as his minions; his best friend Wilson looks out for him but isn’t averse to playing boyish pranks; and his boss Cuddy, whom it’s clear House had some kind of thing with, tries her best to keep him in line. It’s no coincidence really that after six years of TV, the writers of House have finally taken a few dangerous steps with this season and its finale. Coming clean off Vicodin at the beginning, there was always that possibility that House would slip, and he almost does, but in such a dramatic fashion that if the Emmy awards don’t recognise Hugh Laurie, they really do need to take a long walk off a short pier because he’s utterly fantastic in this episode.

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Losing a patient despite doing everything right, House reveals his secret Vicodin stash to us, presumably for when everything got too tough and it’s a scene that shows the remarkable vulnerable side to this character. In ways, it’s the final five minutes of the episode that sum everything up, whilst simultaneously making sure Season 7 will be an interesting endeavour. Long story short, House and Cuddy finally succumb to each others charms(?) and whilst there will be those who’ll lament the injection of soppiness, it was executed remarkably well. But don’t take my word for it, take a look for yourself:

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Lost:

As aforementioned, another six year series and one that like it or hate it, you can’t argue that it did something incredible in keeping viewers and (undoubtedly) nervous TV company ABC interested in seeing where it ended. That’s really where the downside comes in for the finale. While it’s beautifully shot (as Lost always is) the six years worth of material ties itself up in knots and leaves viewers with a somewhat cheated feeling in their stomach. That is of course after they brush their teeth to get rid of the sugary feeling the sentimental final scenes have given them.

At the end of the day, no one does sentimentality quite like the Americans. In the same way that no one does religious symbolism quite like the Americans and man, were these last few episodes roasted, pickled and sautéed with religious nods, most of them not remotely subtle. Confusing up to the end, the story basically revolves in some way around purgatory, a plot the writers had said they weren’t going to do but must have changed their minds when they realised that the fans had posted all other good theories on Twitter for all to see. Existing somewhere between purgatory, heaven, hell and the local Wal Mart, Lost turned out to be essentially a mumble jumble of plots, characters and conclusions, none of which, in hindsight will satisfy viewers.

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My one major satisfaction with it was the payoff for Michael Emerson’s character Ben Linus, who I felt was more interesting than any of the original characters and remained so the whole way through. I’m almost glad he didn’t partake in the maudlin reunion at the end. The problem with Lost was that it shifted focus far too easily from character to mythology and back again. What it’s done in this finale is said, ‘Oh the plot stuff doesn’t matter because it was always all about the characters.’ No it wasn’t guys, you just wrote yourselves into a labyrinth that you didn’t want or know how to navigate. Utterly disappointing.

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Ashes to Ashes:

The finale I’d been anticipating the most didn’t let me down, despite seeing the same premise repeated in Lost a few days later. Ashes did it better though. An admittedly smaller scale theory puller than Lost, the two shows were actually quite alike and not just in their remarkably similar endings.

The difference was, Ashes knew where it was going right from the start. Or at least from the start of Ashes anyway. The ending certainly will put a different spin on original series Life on Mars now. But back to Ashes, yes, there are plot points left unanswered, some of them will draw theories for years to come but it’s a testament to the series and the writers that people will continue to talk about it. Whose heart stopped though when Gene Hunt joked that his real name was Nigel Perkins? Who felt the tears welling when you saw him standing alone on the street near the end? And who had that feeling of ultimate admiration when he stepped out of his office to deliver his last line, “Word in your shell-like pal” a mirror of his first line to Sam Tyler way back in Life on Mars. It’s a sad day but the ‘Guv’ has left our TV screens.

While I still feel that Series 2 of Ashes was probably the pinacle of A2A (Life on Mars will never be bettered…) Series 3 pulled out all the stops to make the finale memorable. Danny Mays as Jim Keats gave an incredible performance in the finale while Philip Glenister will surely be the recipient of every TV award going this year.

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Where Ashes worked better than Lost was in its simplicity, the writers even stated that the ending was simple but poignant. The religious symbolism wasn’t quite so in your face either.

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The similarities between the two series will cause much consternation and debates over which was better. For me though, Lost’s finale was peppered in relief that a 6-year chore had ended. Ashes finale felt like I’d been fired from the best job in the world.

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Lost and Ashes to Ashes have finished permanently, ready to be relived through TV reruns and DVD Box-sets.

House MD has been picked up for a seventh series and will return to our screens sometime in the near future.

Posted in: Reviews