Complex TV


American commercial television differs from much of the world in how it privileges a narrative model in which a successful series never ends, with a final episode typically regarded as a sign of commercial failure and/or creative exhaustion, and often programs end by abrupt cancellation more than planned conclusion. In the past decade, more series have planned their conclusions, creating a set of precedents for serial endings that variously embrace ambiguity, circularity, reflexivity, and finality. This chapter looks at the concluding seasons and episodes of Lost, The Wire, and The Sopranos as exemplars of both narrative strategies and the divergent viewer and critic reactions triggered by various finales. The book concludes by discussing notions of “ends” in terms of the goals of serial criticism using case studies from Homeland and Breaking Bad, infusing some questions of politics back into the book’s poetic approach. Finally, it reflects on the book’s own seriality in its online prepublication.

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