Like me, you may be old enough to remember when episodic television ruled.
A crime was committed at the beginning of a show and solved by the end. The following week another crime would be committed and wrapped up within 50-minutes or so and everyone would go to bed satisfied.
These days, of course, it’s all arcs, volumes and series-long mysteries, 24-week long teases. Is he in a coma – looks like it. Will they get off the island – no, yes, but they’ll go back. Who the hell is spray-painting Bad Wolf all over the shop? That kind of thing.
With a serial element incorporated into many genre shows, programme-makers suddenly have to bank a denouement which explains sometimes torturous show mythologies if and when the whole thing grinds to a halt. And they can often tie themselves in knots wrapping up a series.
The US hospital show St. Elsewhere infamously revealed the whole series had been the imagination of an autistic child. David Chase alienated half his loyal audience by having Tony Soprano’s fate hinge on an enigmatic fade to black.
Sometimes it can be a difficult to tie up loose ends when a show is cancelled quickly. Patrick McGoohan had to admit to Lew Grade that he didn’t have an ending for The Prisoner, although the nonsense he managed to come up with quickly seemed to do the trick.
And now the US version of Life On Mars has divided audiences with its bonkers resolution to its central mystery. The explanation for Sam Tyler’s time-travelling in the UK-version was most-satisfactory, but had been so heavily signposted for two series that you couldn’t fail to see it coming.
In the US, they seem to have a more cavalier attitude to this kind of thing. If you, like me, have no intention of watching it, you may find the answers here at Dark Horizons.
How did your favourite series end, I wonder?