I’m not quite sure what brought this on, but…

…I am really, really sick of stories that string me along.

The purpose of stories is to end. That ending can be good, bad, or ambiguous, but it has to be there. It has to arise naturally out of the story, and the story has to build towards it. You might not enjoy the story for its ending — god knows I’ve loved plenty of stories purely for the ride — but the ending has to be there. It has to be in mind. This goes without saying, I feel.

So why is it, then, that so many stories begin without the slightest clue as to what endgame they desire? Why do they feel compelled to snake through their existence with years upon years of false reveals, formulaic plot recycling, and padding?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course, as we know exactly why: Money. Creating something worthwhile is much harder than merely continuing something that’s already going, so that’s why most people choose the latter. Sometimes I wonder just how many shows have been ruined by writers or networks not wanting to kill the golden goose and keeping shows alive long past their sell-by date. I think about Veronica Mars, which for one season was about as good a TV show as you could want… but after it solved its central mystery in the first season finale, it was a zombie. The story it wanted to tell was over, but it continued just the same, and was a worse show for it. Burn Notice has been fiddling around doing nothing in particular to advance its arc for three seasons now. White Collar’s writers have apparently thrown up their hands in defeat and decided that if Season 1 was good enough for us last year, it’s good enough for us next year.

Is it really so hard to write a show that only has 12-26 episodes of content, then ending it once its time comes? It seems that shows which ended before their time are more fondly remembered, almost universally, than the ones which dragged out for years after everyone knew to abandon ship. If Cowboy Bebop had been an American series it would have ran for eight seasons, and no one would have cared when it finally bit it.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is that it’s easily solved: If you don’t want to solve your ongoing arcs, don’t include them. This isn’t rocket science. There’s nothing wrong with a show that’s unashamedly episodic and doesn’t have some pressing mystery underlying everything. I would prefer that most of the time, really. Don’t let the TV Tropes kids fool you — having a long-form story doesn’t automatically make everything better. If you don’t have any intention of resolving your plotlines in a serious manner, people will notice, and they won’t take it well.

I’m ranting at the writers here, but we the audience deserve a share of the blame as well. People love sequels and revivals and continuations; will embrace them even when they’re not needed, so it’s not entirely surprising that the people who make entertainment continue to gravitate towards those things as well. Zombie shows only get taken out behind the shed when it’s absolutely obvious that no one cares anymore, and they’re all the weaker for it. Maybe if we showed more appreciation for well-plotted storytelling and less for merely seeing our favorite characters back and doing their thing for another season, we’d get more of the former and less of the latter.


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