Having finally watched the last three episodes of Community Season Three this week, I was glad to see some closure given the the plot points of this year’s episodes.  With May being the time of season finales (or ‘last of the series’, for the Brits) I started to wonder if my appreciation of closure is universal, or just a sign that I’m getting old and complacent.  (Do not say a word, Stephen…)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) came from this train of thought:  When it comes to season-ending episodes, do you prefer a compelling cliffhanger or a season wrap-up?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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11 Comments

  1. foolsmask
    May 20, 2012 at 11:36 am — Reply

    I have no preferance at all. I think both are valid, HOWEVER, I despise (non-sitcom) shows that only do one or the other. I say do what is natural for the show’s timing. If you have spent 12 weeks on a plotline then a wrap up is a good idea. If you just wrapped on a big plotline recently then go for the cliffhanger. Just make it relevant.

  2. May 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I’m still wowed that we got three episodes of Community in one night. Weird, right? I loved Community’s ending, but I equally loved How I Met Your Mother (although all the Victoria teasing was just downright MEAN.) So I have to agree with foolsmask, it depends on the timing of the show.

    But this Dallas remake looks terrible.

    • @lantis
      May 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm — Reply

      What do you mean Victoria teasing? Ted’s not the groom in that final scene, Barney is. And given the timeline that they put into that season of Ted having a baby by 2015, if Victoria isn’t his one true love they only have one season left to introduce Ted’s future wife.

      With all that said, I love cliffhangers during a season. I hate them when I have to wait half a year for a resolution. Season finales should be like the final chapter of a book. I think a season should tell a story of the characters and once that story is concluded you can move on to the next season.

      • brenton8090
        May 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm — Reply

        Well, since we’re spoiling. I have a giant Victoria crush (like Matthew) so all the will-they-won’t-they back and forths in that episode were painful, even if they sort of resolved it at the end.

  3. Oldcomicfan
    May 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    I think Star Trek TNG did it right. When they were certain of the next season being picked up, they ended with a cliffhanger. When they decided to end the series they showed an end. Aside from MASH, that was the first time I recall seeing a final episode. Usually television shows go out with a whimper instead of a bang. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a cliffhanger ending when the show never comes back. I got so annoyed with Sherlock last season because after only three episodes, the series ended half way through the episode, and it wasn’t until only a few days before the broadcast of the first episode of the new season before they announced there would be any more to the series!

  4. The_Bear_Jew
    May 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    Season Wrap Ups

  5. May 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm — Reply

    I prefer a tidy wrap-up just in case the series isn’t renewed. So many series I like have ended a season on a cliffhanger and never came back. It is beyond frustrating.

    But that doesn’t mean that they can’t drop a few new plot ideas into a season finale as long as the current story wraps up. Doctor Who has done it pretty well before, dropping hints into the season ending (or quite near it) that we ignore until next season comes along and we realize it was also something else than what we thought (Like “The Silence”).

    • dantemarx
      May 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm — Reply

      I concur. A season wrap up surely does the trick for me. However, good story telling should feature a few earlier threads that can come into play at a later time point.

  6. Ricco
    May 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    Never been a fan of cliffhangers, the end of Supernatural season 5 and Buffy season 5 are some of the best moments I’ve ever seen on tv.

    They were not cliffhangers, on the contrary they were ends, natural conclusions to years of storylines.

  7. Xian
    May 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm — Reply

    In general, I prefer wrap ups. I’m okay with cliffhangers if I know another season is coming, tend to hate them if a show is ending.

    In either case, I’m annoyed when a season finale- either by way of a wrap up or a cliffhanger- seems to suggest a dramatic shift in the status quo only to have that undone uninterestingly or with unnatural haste come the new season/series. It doesn’t make or break a show for me, but feels dishonest and takes me out of the show for a moment.

  8. Prospero
    May 21, 2012 at 12:21 am — Reply

    Generally not a fan of cliff hangers, primarily because when the next season finally rolls around, they expect us to remember & be invested in a storyline we probably haven’t given any real thought to for 4 or 5 months.

    It obviously doesn’t work for every series, but my preferred layout for tv shows are the season-long, serialized arcs used by The Wire and Justified. Build a storyline all season long, weave it throughout every episode, (even ones that aren’t totally focused on that major story), and then pay it off in the end with a wrap up, leaving the series ready to explore new territory next year. Not only is it a very satisfying way of doing things, but it also makes the shows sort of transcend the medium by turning each season into what amounts to a super-sized movie. If the show is good enough (and both The Wire and Justified certainly were/are), this format ends up serving the same purpose as a cliffhanger anyway, since, after watching Justified’s end of season 1, for instance, I couldn’t wait to see who the new villains would be in season 2, and the same goes for seasons 2 & 3.

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