What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

19 May 2011

Endings: Very Important

WARNING!! This post contains spoilers about this week's NCIS episode, which was also the season finale. If you haven't watched yet, then do not, under any circumstances, press that button. (My apologies to non-US readers; I imagine you haven't had the option to see it yet. But I'm writing this now while I'm still thinking about it.)

Well, if you made it past the jump, then here goes. I love NCIS. I love the characters. I love the dialog. I love how every time I think they've run out of ideas, they surprise me. I love how the writers deal so beautifully with stringing along a story arc over multiple episodes, an entire season, or even multiple seasons (e.g., the tension between Gibbs and Vance).

The writing on the individual episodes, though, is pretty hit-or-miss. And nowhere is it worse than on season enders. The writers will give us such a beautiful buildup, it's all amazing, I can't wait to see the end, and then... clunk. And this season, alas, was no exception. All that tension they built up over the last four weeks (SERIOUSLY, STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO BE UNSPOILED) so that we all think something horrible is going to happen, and  on Tuesday night... nothing. The death of a tertiary character? Another tertiary in the hospital? You call that a terrible ending? That sort of thing happens on cop dramas all the time. Come on, NCIS. The penultimate episode with Mike Franks dying? Now that was awful. That was emotional and heart-wrenching. And he was a character we cared about. But not-McGee and not-Tony? So what? Even EJ being in danger was no big deal (although I admit you scared me a bit with Jimmy).

I will say the cliffhanger-- bringing in Tony to handle someone in the agency-- has me wondering. I hope they do something interesting with that next fall. But if it turns out to be Gibbs, I will weep in despair at their inane predictability.

All that to say, if I've learned nothing else from this show, I've learned the importance of a good ending. All the loose ends need not be tied up. People don't want tidiness from their stories; they want drama! They want something to hang on to! They want a reason to continue to care about the characters long after they are gone! I'd be the first to admit that endings are not something I'm well-acquainted with, mostly because I often feel at a loss as to how to finish a story. Because as a writer, I want my characters to have all their problems solved and everything tied up in a nice, neat bow. But as a television viewer and (more importantly) as a reader, I know that's not what I want to see from other authors. So I'd better not do it myself, either.

What kind of endings do you write? What kind of endings do you like? What did you think of this week's NCIS?

14 comments:

Rachel Morgan said...

I don't watch much NCIS (like I don't even know who the people are!) so I felt safe clicking through!
I think enough loose ends need to be tied up to leave the reader feeling satisfied, but some can be left hanging, just to keep readers wondering a little bit!

....Petty Witter said...

I generally enjoy such programmes but to be honest got lost off with all these initials and spin-offs from the original programme so now tend to stick clear of them.

Will Burke said...

I love NCIS, and was sad and a little surprised to see Mike Franks die, but his last line was great! I also liked his "...cheerio..." line. What I've learned most from NCIS is that cliche character types still have some live in them. "Ex-military cop, surly, has trouble with autority figures." yawn. But Harmon and the writers have given a really captivating character from the ol' standby. Same with all of them; go ahead and discribe them in 7-10 words, and you'll see formula after formula, but the depth shows through the writing and acting.

Su said...

@Rachel: Exactly! Especially when we know for sure that they'll be back next fall!

@Petty: I'm not much into the police dramas, except this one. I tried CSI for a while, but didn't like any of the characters.

@Will: I think the characters are great on NCIS. My problem is with the plots being so predictable and the endings always being so tidy. Which is why I'll be really annoyed if Gibbs is the person Tony is handling, because that's so obvious. I really, really hope it's anybody else, except perhaps Ziva, since that would also be an easy route.

catherinemjohnson said...

I haven't watched that NCIS for a while, the relationships between them though funny and entertaining were always the same. Every so often I watch the new NCIS and I love it! I must say those programmes do have a great way of reaching a climactic point and then ending on a casual scene with a hint of something either funny or a lead in to the next programme. Great way of showing an example of a good ending :)

Trisha said...

I'm watching season 1 of NCIS right now. I own 1&2 on DVD.

Su said...

@Catherine: I like the new one, too. Hetty is my favourite. :)

@Trisha: Rewatching, or watching for the first time?

WritingNut said...

I've actually never seen it, but you've made me want to! :)

Rusty Webb said...

Wow. We really were on the same page today. You know, maybe I'm cut out to be a TV writer moreso than a novelist. I'm okay at getting the ball rolling, not so good with figuring out how make it stop.

Su said...

@Nut: I really do love this show! They just don't have the best track record (IMO) with season finales.

@Rusty: Hey, on TV you never really have to make it stop-- in theory, anyway.

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Kari Marie said...

I don't watch NCIS either, but I know what you mean about season finales that are built up and then seem to deflate before your eyes. Beloved Husband says I get too excited about stuff so I'm easily disappointed. I suppose from the script writer's point of view it can be difficult to keep a good thing going for so long and still come up with new stuff. I don't think I could do it.

Su said...

The next-to-last episode was fab... I wonder if they had reordered things, if the finale would have been the brilliant can't-believe-it kind of episode they were going for.