The Three Hundred and Fortieth Post: The One Where I Try to End It Well, But Can’t…Just Like “Dexter”

I just finished Legion and Chernobyl. I am satisfied with the way they ended (well, as satisfied with the existence of a 2,600 square km Exclusion Zone that’s going to be there for another 100,000 years). Dexter, Game of Thrones and The X-files? Not so much, really. There are a lot of series and movies that, to me at least, ended unsatisfactorily. It’s not just limited to T.V. shows. The Dexter novel series also didn’t stick the landing for me either.

What I don’t understand is while it is hard to end a series, why would you metaphorically sow salt into the earth and then burn it? A lot of good series have ended in less than optimal ways. Yes, I can understand that most times, the writer is not in control of when a series is going to end. One day, you’re in your bean bag chair thinking of what to get for lunch from the studio commissary…then the showrunner comes in, says the series has been canceled and every loose threat needs to be tied up in three episodes.

I’m going to admit, that I don’t have a lot of knowledge of what happens behind the scenes in the writer’s room, but I have seen my fair share of series go belly up. I can understand if you have no time, but as far as I can tell – “surprise firings” only happen in offices and the set of the Drew Carrey show. I’m sure you’ve got some time to get things together.

Is it really a case of ‘I am taking you with me’ in a literary sense? I don’t get it from a writer’s (as shaky as it is in my case) point of view. You spent this time in creating a world and characters that breathe, walk and talk as you will it. You build a fan base person by person with glances into your world. You add other writers to it and let them run with whatever threads you left, either seen or unseen. Slowly, that story becomes a world, a galaxy and then a universe. Unlimited in scope you marvel at your work.

The pink slip comes. Your universe begins to crumble at the edges.

If it were me, I would plot out a season, but I would have a contingency plan for when the axe hits. Have a script outline ready to go with a satisfactory ending ready to go. Why burn and salt when you can go out with a bang and a bow.

Did you know that when J. Michael Straczynski wrote Babylon 5 he wrote it every episode for the whole five season run? He ended it all in a good way, and even when the studio threw money at him, he kept it to a five season arc. Yes, he wrote a ton of movies following the end of the series, and he tried to keep it going with another series, but when push came to shove in his original baby, he stayed true to his word.

I think more series would be better for a limited arc. Write a limited arc…say…three seasons with a way to squeeze in one more if it’s popular. That way, if the series is trash, but the studio is going to commit to an arc, to either get to the magical syndication number or to get the writer under a contract for some real work, you have a way to wrap it up. If the series is popular, you have a way to keep it going. If the series sucks more than the black hole in the center of the galaxy, then you don’t have to worry about sustaining an arc because they’re going to pull it anyways.

Of course, this is all predicated on the old-fashioned notion that a season is 22 episodes with a break at the end of the season. Tell you what – I’m going to end this here, but next time, I’ll give you my opinion of the current status of season planning.

Please feel free to drop a line or a comment. Ta-ta for now.

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