In the past year HBO ended two of its most successful shows, Games of Thrones & Silicon Valley. Neither of these endings were very well received. But endings are rarely the problem, usually the issue arises much sooner, and in the case of these two shows I think the issues were issues of lost identity rather than issues of conclusion.
The ending of Silicon Valley was disappointing because the show had become tedious and disappointing for several seasons. The writers seemed to forget what kind of show they were making. A comedy satirizing the tech industry became far too close to the actual realities of the tech industry. A show that made us laugh till we cried on several occasions, became something we could no longer find the will power to catch up with. Putting characters into amusing situations became seasons of torture, abuse and degradation disguised as humor. (Humor can be shocking, but shock isn’t always humor.) Ultimately the continual cycle of hope and failure sapped the audience of interest and the characters off all of their appeal. In the last episode I personally found myself thinking what the writers of Seinfeld had intended the audience to feel in their send-off: these people are completely unredeemable.
Games of Thrones on other hand, ended poorly because the audience forgot what kind of show they were watching. Did we really think Jon & Dani were going to live happily ever after and rule the Seven Kingdoms? Yes, we did. We forgot what we we were watching. We forgot what it felt like when they beheaded Ned Stark, Geoffrey was made king, & when Rob and his wife were murdered. GOT was a show about how even the best intentioned characters have dirty hands; about how there is no “right choice.” This was a world where happiness was brief and tempered with the choice to ignore the outside world. Live well now, because winter is coming. The end was disappointing because the show took place in a disappointing world which was perhaps too close to our own, where smug men abuse power, flaunt it on tv, and claim the favor of the divine. Maybe by that last season we all just wanted something less real. Maybe we all wanted to believe that at least in a fantasy world things could be different. Well, wrong show. Rewatch Start Trek: TNG.