Why TV shows (sometimes) fail us

It starts small — as it should. A housewife sells weed in her neighborhood, an anchorman is left without his team, a chemistry professor loses it on his daily job, a young copywriter has his big idea, an injured soldier is looking for a flat mate, or a dead girl is found, with an antler-crown on her head. (Got all of them? Good.) The initial pace is slow, we get a feel of the atmosphere, everything is clear and simple, and that ease draws us in.

From there, the universe expands — as it does. We meet the protagonist, and soon, they get their Yang. A complementary character designed to accentuate their flaws and, in time, show us the well hidden good sides they possess. As a magnet, they push each other apart, but the audience clearly sees that all it takes is for one of them to turn the other end of said magnet. And eventually they do. They click, and immediately that itch the viewers had is scratched, and they are free to focus their attention on the bigger picture. The plot.

Which thickens — as it must. Some stories are better woven than others, but there is still the rush of each plot twist, the adrenalin of the opening. Whether it’s an Odyssean type of narrative, in which we see the character make the full circle, desperate to get back home (that home might be a place, a person, or a specific goal) or it is a typical hamartia-driven story, where we know that things can only end badly, for everyone involved. But when all of this unfolds, where do writers turn?

There’s still time for Draper to come home

To a conclusion — as they should? No. There is always room for another season, an additional character, more laughs or cries, and it’s a dare that’s extremely hard to resist. This, too often, ends in confusion or that unnerving feeling of saturation. The plot strings get all tangled, you don’t know whether your favorite character is evolving or, all of a sudden, acting completely out of character. And the hailed finale is turning out to be rather predictable. The big death. Which should feel climactic or earth-shattering, but instead ends up looking like lazy writing, especially if the character you once adored, lost all charm in the meantime.

Do we fear loose ends? Unfinished stories? We seem to forget that characters still live after we close the book or end a series. Place more trust in your audience, writers. We can, and should, imagine worlds beyond those you were, admittedly, kind and talented enough to create. Just don’t spoil them by fearing a quiet ending. Quiet is good. We need more of it.