Endings are tricky. How do you find a meaningful way to finish the story you’ve been telling for years? What does a satisfactory end for Dunder Mifflin or the Sunnydale Scooby Gang or two monster-hunting brothers who have been, excuse the term, vamping for ten years even look like? It takes thought, work, and planning.
Alias‘ final season circled back to beginning in ways I lack time to describe. The Office, for good or ill, kicked off the final arc for Jim and Pam in the ninth season premiere. Arrow devoted its entire final season to saying goodbye to its main character. BoJack Horseman found two satisfying finales in one season: one where BoJack helps his friends find their better tomorrows before settling into what might be his own, and a second one after his many, many past sins have torn his peaceful future to shreds.
But knowing where you’re going is nothing without knowing how to get there. How I Met Your Mother and Game of Thrones had planned endings, but had put so little work into setting them up that they felt like betrayals to loyal viewers. Smarter people than me have examined how Game of Thrones fell apart, to the point where it angered viewers so much it’s mystifying they’re bothering to make a prequel series, because how many fans do they think they have left? How I Met Your Mother threw out the ending we thought we were building to for an ending they’d actively been writing away from for years. The ending of HIMYM damaged my relationship with the show; I used to buy the DVDs to rewatch classic episodes, now I haven’t considered rewatching any since the finale.
Lucifer knew they were at journey’s end, and tried to make their last ten episodes as special and memorable as they could. They started building Lucifer’s final fate before the final season had even started, planting the seeds in the fifth season finale without us even noticing. They got each main character to their own blue heaven (only literally in one case) with enough time to make their final episode all about their central duo.
Supergirl knew they were ending, and to all appearances, tried to make up a final arc on the fly. They spent their lead actress’ absence laying the groundwork for a bunch of side-character subplots but not resolving them, so even when their title character was back full-time she was shoved to the side. They had their weakest final villain, too much “tell not show,” and made it to episode 16 before trying to find anything approaching a theme, longer before asking “Hey what should Kara’s arc be.”
A great final season needs a sense of where you’re going, what you’re saying, how you’re getting there, and you can’t wait until the very end to get started. Lucifer’s conclusion was satisfying and thrilling enough I had to start a full series rewatch right away, knowing that each season would be better than the last (mostly, season three is longer than season two, but better might be a stretch). With Supergirl… there might come a day when I’m tempted to revisit the show, because I did once love it greatly… but I might falter after season four. They didn’t go full Game of Thrones, but it would be hard re-living a once great superhero show limping to a half-assed conclusion.
And on the topic of half-assed conclusions, I have a podcast to edit, so, um… bye.