… is that ability to convey a sense of strength or weakness into the last moments of the entire franchise on which it is ending… and before I go on, I’m talking about finales for books, series, movies, comics, mass entertainment if you will and not the grand finale in someone’s evil scheme to take over the lingerie market and have hot girls model them to him every morning and night (I may have just given someone an idea there).
Finales (season finale, final chapter of a book, last entry into a comic etc.) hold so much weight on their shoulders because they’re the avenue to which we shall use to remember whatever entertainment brand we are spending our time on. For example, the way a season ends is one way we’ll remember the season… its breath-taking moments, action packed minutes and suspense filled cliffhangers for the next season to pick up from. Of course, not every season finale needs to have these qualities to stay deep and pave the way for the next (I had Supernatural completely in mind at that point) but that doesn’t mean it has to be laid back, melodramatic and end with a ‘That’s all folks!’ aura (I’m not pointing fingers here…). I finale can be in the form of 46-50 minutes, a chapter with 20-40 pages or a whole comic book issue; as opposed to the hours of other episodes, pages of chapters and numbers of issues that preceded it.
Still, all those before it paved the way for the finale to make it’s grand appearance and swallow whoever is concentrating on it into its fictional yet surreal world that exists beyond the normal expansive boundaries of ours, and so it can be a big letdown when what you’re watching/reading turns out to be a half-baked attempt at trying to teach a life lesson or happy ending. A pretty good example I have for this would be the final episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place, I’m not sure how many people actually care about that show anymore but it’s the most recent finale I’ve watched and so I’ll go with it. Also, I’ll be graceful and note when spoilers begin and end.
Wizards of Waverly Place ends with all the Russo siblings (Alex, Justin and Max) competing in the Wizard Competition (that alone is redundant in its own right) despite the fact that at some point Justin leads the others by say thousands of points or something like that. There is an explanation for this of course, as Justin manages to do something that resets his points and all his hard-work (or something like that); but despite it all still continues to work hard and manages the competition (thanks Disney for the lesson of diligence!). Now this is where the saddening bits come in. I’m a lover of WOWP but after watching the final episodes, watching re-runs don’t excite me as much as watching re-runs of The Last Airbender.
The Russo siblings start the competition just as soon as Alex decides to make some spaghetti for the family out of her good will rather than for selfish reasons. They start out with answering questions in which Justin immediately leads with 300 points. Max manages to answer a question and he gets 250, then in a bonus round Alex warps up all points and gets 300… tying her with Justin. At some point, a Griffin swoops down and kidnaps Alex’s bestfriend Harper and Justin’s bestfriend Zeke (who is dating Harper, figures). The siblings decide to take a time-out so they can rescue their friends from the Griffin, which they certainly do all happy and joyful. On returning back, they find the studio empty and the officiating wizard appears telling them they have been disqualified because they went past the time given them. Thus Disney chooses to teach a lesson that friendship is awesome, but punctuality is ‘awesomer’.
Lesson One kids, when you’ve been given time to rest, being punctual is more important than saving your friends from eagle-headed lion-bodied animals that breath fire.
To make matters worse, when the Russo siblings head back home Justin decides to blame the whole trauma on Alex, showing us that the grade A, honest, intelligent and have-your-back sibling Alex has always tortured and still ultimately loved is in fact a total douchebag who would trade the skin of his sister over the chance to be in a competition with twiddly lights and nauseating old people. Max, being the idiot that he is goes along to side with Justin over the situation and beefs Alex. More scenes pass with the characters letting us know that the Russo siblings had beefed for weeks on end, until their dad puts a for sale on the front door and let’s them know since they’re no more a family there’s no use for the business. The kids get agitated and re-open, packing God knows how many customers in one day that they couldn’t do in weeks. Coincidentally, they begin working together and Alex is forgiven by Justin and Max.
Lesson Two; when it comes to being a workaholic it’s more important than having your family around you because they’ll bring you down in a heap of Mickey’s poo.
Magically, they re-appear at the studio and find out they passed the 2nd round of the competition. But why, do tell where they thrown through such a traumatic experience all for the sake of winning points? The reason was because they were being tested (for WEEKS) because the competition tore their dad’s family apart and the officiators (or whatever their dumb wizards call them) wanted to see how strong the bonds of the Russo siblings were. So according to the head, when Alex was forgiven, they passed. YAY! Wait… what if they didn’t pass? Would they have been truly disqualified? All these and more will never be answered because the last round of the competition was to go through A GOD FORSAKEN MAZE; with explicit instructions telling them that ‘Whoever steps out first will be the winner of the wizard competition’… What is missing here? Oh yeah. Last time Justin and Alex had 300 freaking points, are they trying to say if Max stepped out first he’d win? Or were rounds 1 and 2 collective efforts and hence points useless?
Lesson Three; your hardwork matters, but when it comes down to it you’ve got no chance against an idiot with a chicken’s IQ who can run like the wind.
At the end of it all, Alex won because she helped Justin after he got his leg stuck in a twig root (I’m not kidding, even my 7 year old cousin would never be caught trapped in that thing) and Justin confessed after running out first. Because of his honesty, he became principal of some wizard academy and retained his powers as well, with Max getting the family business since he lost his powers. They all hug, happy with everything and it’s a Disney Happily Ever After, except the Russo siblings haven’t begun University and there’s no way a high-school graduate would be the principal of students that can be as huge as Hagrid.
Oh and another point I should mention… at first I didn’t quite understand it and decided to push it aside but the final episodes made me realize the wizards there knowingly wean themselves out of existence. The winner of the competition in each family becomes the only one to have wizard powers, with the others becoming normal humans. Every blessed show we know teaches the relevance of survival.. from vampires sticking together to werevolves knowing their own scents to witches and wizards fighting evil. Hell Harry Potter taught of the importance of sticking together and here you have a show with wizards making themselves extinct.
Lesson Four (supposedly); It’s good to have brains, soon as a favourite/best is chosen, you become useless.
So, what was I on about again? Oh yeah. Finales hold such great weight on their shoulders and need necessary precaution, proper preparation for proper execution and lasting effects. If done half-assedly, then the effect of the previous hours spent on the previous volumes begin to seem somewhat disdain. On the bright side though, it’s not every finale that ruins the experience of the whole thing. For instance the final episodes of Bleach were nice with kick-ass costumes and moves, but the whole storyline was a lackluster effort in my view and not really worth a final arc… that doesn’t mean the whole Bleach franchise has been ruined for me luckily.
If you ever find yourself having to write a finale, note the various factors (not so many) that detail just how awesome you could make your last shot hit home.