Two Endings

This has been an interesting week for endings with a lot of discussion going on as to how a long-running series should end. Of course, the general public has been fixated on the way David Chase chose to end The Sopranos after eight years.

Now, I haven’t seen this last mini-season – it’s all stored on the trusty DVR – but it was on my mind as I sat down last night for the final installment of an even longer running series.

During my first stint at DC Comics, I was always keeping an eye out on what other publishers were up to. In some cases, it was to see who was working and what they were up to. In other cases, it was because my steady diet of super-hero comics left me desiring to read comics about something else. When Patty Jeres started raving about this new miniseries form a small press, I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t missed an issue of Strangers in Paradise ever since.

This week, the final issue came out, putting an end to the long running drama about some real people who endured a lot out of love and friendship for one another. The work was nothing short of riveting, often times stunning. Terry Moore, the writer and artist, explored many themes and took his characters to some very unexpected places as he let his saga of Katchoo and Francine play out.

Along the way, I got to meet Terry on the convention circuit and had the pleasure to share a few meals with me. He was a great, unassuming guy who just wanted to be a storyteller. I was pleased to have had some time getting to know him and have been a supporter of his work ever since.

And now it is over.

Unlike Chase, Terry chose to neatly wrap up all the storylines and put his characters in specific places to leave the reader satisfied.

While his series was a little melodramatic compared to real life, how his characters acted and interrelated always felt real. And unlike real life, the ending was neat and tidy. I found myself tremendously satisfied and pleased that Terry left us with the gift of closure. I’ll miss them all, but am pleased to know how it ended.

The Sopranos, also melodramatic, was more like real life in that life goes for all the people still left breathing when the screen went blank. Like real life, we don’t always know how things turn out. I totally lost track of Duane, who for one semester was my college roommate or Heidi, my first series high school girlfriend. Their lives continue but my involvement with them, ended long ago. Am I satisfied in not knowing what became of them? I’m certainly curious.

However, after eight years of investment in Tony and his clan, viewers had come to expect a finish. After all, we watched the WJM crew turn out the lights in Minneapolis and followed Hawkeye’s chopped as it lifted above the 4077th. Even the one-armed man was captured. We’ve been trained to expect the period at the end of the sentence and get disappointed when we’re not supplied the resolution (one reason why people get pissed when serials get canceled before they can end — The Nine, for example.

Chase followed his artistic instincts and gave us the ending he wanted. No multiple endings shot, only an inconsequential page of Meadow actually entering the ice cram parlor, which changed nothing. He gave us the lives of these people and chose how he wanted things to finish…fading to black and letting our imaginations complete the story.

Terry went a different way, equally as valid. And again, thanks to conditioning as a consumer of mass media, perhaps more satisfying. I salute Terry for his achievement and can’t wait to see his new series, promised for the fall.

2 comments

  • Well, though we’re coming from different perspectives on this one (I’m not a professional writer, nor am I very familiar with either the Sopranos or Strangers in Paradise), I’m going to comment anyway.

    I would question just how much our desire to see a story end is one of conditioning. I mean, obviously, we’re all a product of our society. But I think it’s more than just the mass media that have taught us that stories have endings. One could argue that it’s understood both by the storyteller and by the audience. I mean, who hasn’t at one point or another been frustrated by someone telling them a long story that ultimately had no particular ending or point?

    I’m not accusing the Sopranos’ ending as being pointless, since, as I said, I’m not familiar with the show. Nor does a show need to tie up every loose end to end satisfyingly; plenty of series or even films end with a certain sense of “the adventure continues.” But from how I’ve heard the ending described, it seems to have ended with a paradoxical open-ended finality. This can sometimes frustrate viewers who look at something and think, “Well, this certainly *seems* like there’s a point to it, but I’m not seeing it.”

    Speaking of which, this comment seems to have meandered a bit from whatever point I was orginally trying to make. I’ve heard good things about Strangers in Paradise, though, so I might look into that one day.

    -Andy Holman

  • Paul1963

    Three series that had “life goes on” endings that I found highly satisfactory:
    Murphy Brown–Murphy will go back to FYI the next day and Eldin will be painting her house indefinitely after a final scene that beautifully reprises the last scene in the pilot.

    Cheers–The bar will open the next day with Sam behind the bar. All his regulars will be back (at least until Frasier moves to Seattle sometime in the next few months). The only change will be that Woody will be a customer instead of an employee (as will Rebecca in about a year).

    NYPD Blue–Sipowicz will sit in the office doing paperwork and go home late. The next day, all the detectives save the retired Medavoy will show up and catch cases.

    All of these sure beat “Everybody goes to jail because they’re selfish jerks” (Seinfeld).