Question of the week: do you prefer your series open-ended or closed?


Last week, NBC’s Awake had its season and series finale. If you want to have it all explained to you, you can find out here.

But there have been varied reactions to the finale. Depending on how you look at it, there was either a definite answer to the central question of the series – which of the two realities is real and which isn’t? – or there wasn’t?

Equally, the ending of the season was always intended to be the ending to the first season, whether there was a second season or not. In other words, it was deliberately intended to be both open-ended and closed.

Now some people have been frustrated by the fact there’s no definite answer to the question, while others have been frustrated that there are no more episodes. The creator of the show, Kyle Killen, has argued that by leaving some areas open, it allows people to imagine more episodes if they want.

A similar attitude was taken by the creators of House, who had House and Wilson ride off together at the end of the final episode so that the show could live on in people’s imaginations if they so wanted. To have killed off House would have upset too many people, they argued.

Even in cases where there is an apparent finality to everything – for example, Blakes 7, in which everyone was shot dead – fans have continued to write stories about what happened next (and indeed there was an official book by Tony Attwood continuing the story) and others have petitioned for more TV episodes.

So today’s question is:

How do you like your series finales? Do you prefer them to tie everything off with neat bows, giving you a definite end to the story being told? Or do you prefer them to be open-ended? And does it depend on whether a central puzzle has been answered or not?

Answers below or on your own blog, please

  • Depends on the series. House resolved the majority of plot threads and left questions about the future of the House character, but also ended in a good place. However, shows like BSG attempt to be puzzles and so people would feel short-changed if they ended leaving many questions.

  • I think that only one programme ever ended to my complete satisfaction and that was Quantum Leap.

    The ending to Battlestar was the only logical ending so I was happy enough with that.

    I also don't think the Seinfeld Finale is as bad as people think (I'm with Larry on Curb)

    I also liked the Sopranos ending after the initial shock.

    Leaving things open has its pluses and minus, but I think in most cases show runners and writers just don't know how to end shows and take the easy way out.

  • bob

    I feel like an ending should be fitting thematically and that can sometimes mean closure or it could mean open-endedness.

    My favourite finale is Angel's. A show that was about the ongoing fight ended with an ongoing fight. Had it ended in a more closed off fashion, it would have been a disaster.

    But I also adore Six Feet Under's finale and it's hard to think of anything more closed. It was just thematically spot on.

    Now, when it comes to shows with questions and puzzles, it's a different matter. Because in my mind, the thematically correct ending for a show that revolves about a mystery is a mysteries ending with no answers. But there is a sizable audience out there that think that all puzzles are there to be solved. I see where they are coming from but that isn't how I like my tv.

  • Bob, you're spot on about Six Feet Under; I'd forgotten about that. So, Quantum Leap and Six Feet Under then *cough*

  • Mark Carroll

    I thought the “House” finale actually wrapped and tied up a bunch of things nicely indeed; it answered questions plenty well. “Awake” did a good job of tying things up too, given that they didn't know there wasn't to be a second season. I thought the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” did a good job, too; there were new threads I'd have liked to see followed, but I wasn't unsatisfied, though I'd expected to be. One might say that, say, “Babylon 5″s answered a lot of questions over its time but still ended open-endedly.

    I'm happy enough with open-ended finales, what annoys me is unanswered questions, especially ones that were very clearly raised; hence “Lost” being such a disappointment. Movies like “Franklyn” and “Ink” answer their questions well, and at least the former certainly ends at a new beginning; I liked it. I also don't mind implicit questions, where the work is more about “what if” than “why”: for instance, “Unbreakable” and “The Sixth Sense” never really explained a core premise, but that's okay because it wasn't cast as a mystery in the same way, more something to explore the consequences of.

    I suppose I'm not as much of a fan of closed endings, as they tend to be a bit grimmer and sadder. Typically, people die. If I like them, I probably wish there could have been more of them.

  • Lisa Rullsenberg

    I too rather liked the ending of Angel, even if it was imposed by the circumstances (and its proven handy for follow-up work in comic form).� I was happy with the Buffy ending (by and large), though am rapidly wishing the comic book would leave alone.� the cover art is often gorgeous but the internal drawing, narrative and characterisation isn't always worthy.

    My friend was happy with the Buffy ending as “at least they didn't all end up finding God” (pace The X-Files).�

    I've often been stuck with odd endings – open endings – less by choice than by cancellation.� Still steamingly cross with the BBC for not recommissioning The Fades (BAFTA win anyone? so it wasn't just the fans who loved it), which has a good open ending but with sufficient potentially resolved.