Friday, January 8, 2016


[Note: I wrote this post some time early last year and never published it. Probably because I couldn't think of a good ending.]

This past weekend I finished both Dragon Age: Inquisition and season 3 of Friday Night Lights which, if you're not familiar with that series, it's basically the season when most of the cast graduates, making it feel like an end to the series. In both cases, I had to come to terms with the feelings you get when something ends, particularly something you feel invested in.

Endings cause a mix of emotions, which makes them some of the most confusing things for people to deal with. I've heard people say that they've put books, games, and shows down for a while, unwilling to finish them, knowing that it means the experience would end. And I can understand that: endings are bittersweet, and many people need to brace themselves for the bitter half of that equation. Sometimes the sweet isn't enough to make up for the bitter. Sometimes people don't accept the bitterness at all. And, of course, sometimes the bitterness makes people themselves somewhat bitter.

I figured I should muse about endings while they're on my mind.

I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on launch day, and as I was checking out a lady came up to me with a clipboard asking me to sign a petition. She and her crew were organizing a movement to convince J.K. Rowling to write more Happy Potter books. I refused. "Stories need to end," I said.

It's a pet peeve of mine, this very American sense of entitlement that good things should never end. We're like the Persian king Shahryar from Arabian Nights, demanding a new story each night and threatening execution if our storyteller doesn't provide one. Many American TV shows never truly plan an ending. They simply keep going, contriving reasons to continue to exist and stretching out storylines until, eventually, they fade away. We just can't let them go. Not as long as we care, anyway.

I don't like that, though. I appreciate conclusions. I like when arcs swing back down again, giving us something to reflect upon. Did Walter win? Is Baltimore destined to never really change? How are Ron and Hermione together, seriously? What happens after the world is saved? How did I not realize Fen'Harel was in my party the whole time?

Endings often raise more questions than answers, which I think is one part that many people find frustrating about them. Even if every question about the major story arc has been conclusively answered, there's always, always the question "what happens next?" We can't bear not to know.

The idea that we'll never know makes endings a bit like death. I certainly feel somewhat melancholic sometimes after something ends. The degree of melancholy is different, of course, but we certainly mourn the end of a story as surely as we mourn the end of a life. Given this association, I understand why some people might avoid endings if they can.

Endings have another effect on me, though. A good ending inspires me or gives me a new perspective. Every ending is a learning experience, and one which is often worth the price in melancholy.

1 comment:

  1. I do feel a kind of emptiness after I finish something, especially if I've got a lot of time invested in it. But I too prefer things to end. The best stories do.