Breaking Bad
Use your words

Is there any satisfying way to end a modern drama?

Asks Matt Zoller Seitz writing for Vulture:

Walter White goes free. Walter White redeems himself. Walter White dies of cancer. Walter White gets buried in the desert and eaten alive by ants. Walter White goes to the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks and has coffee and pie with Special Agent Dale Cooper.

One of these potential endings might satisfy you, or none might.

It’s probably especially hard to write an ending for an anti-hero, like the ones on dark post-Sopranos dramas such as Breaking Bad or Dexter, because a big part of such shows’ excitement comes from the dual pleasure of simultaneously loathing and cheering the protagonist.

There are big problems with both “justice” and “no justice” endings. If the anti-hero is punished, the viewer is guilty by association. But if the anti-hero is let off the hook — or has to “live with himself” — the show can seem amoral, or at least wishy-washy. Even a more nuanced or ambiguous nod toward one end of the scale or the other could backfire, seeming to neaten up a worldview that was intriguingly complicated. On top of all that, there’s the vision thing: Endings put a frame around the story and suggest why it was told to us, and what we should take away from it. If the anti-hero walks free, some might think the creator is a cynic, or a provocateur testing our moral compass for years but declining to say what direction the show was really headed in.

It’s an interesting problem. Vince Gilligan seems to think they came up with a satisfying finale for Breaking Bad. I can’t wait to see what happens, but in my experience the anticipation is usually the best part.


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