Recently, I’ve had several discussions referencing the difference between the metaphorical ‘Twilight Zone Ending’ (where karmic justice is served out in a balanced manner) and the ‘Outer Limits Ending’ (where everyone dies screaming.) To be honest, though, neither ending is ideal for characters that you are emotionally invested in, leaving us lamenting the state of men like poor Henry Bemis, or worse, the eternally lost Sam Beckett, who never made the leap home. There are any number of stories that end terribly for the people involved (heck, even Gilligan’s Island ended their reunion/rescue movie with the castaways back on that same deserted island) leading us to today’s climactic query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is still a little torn up over poor Hoban Washburn, asking: What, to your mind, is the cruelest ending in all pop culture?

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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8 Comments

  1. Alisha
    April 23, 2015 at 11:40 am — Reply

    I never thought Sam Beckett’s fate was cruel, but my interpretation was that he made a choice to continue to leap through time and help people.

    I kind thought the ending of “3rd Rock from the Sun” was kind of cruel since Dick pretty much made Mary forget him. I like the alternate ending that was only shown in syndication (and a DVD extra) better, where after the Solomons are beamed up, Mary wakes up and walks to the car, then a naked Dick is beamed back down and screams “Alien abduction! Alien abduction!”, grabs Mary and they both beam up.

    And the finale of “Torchwood: Children of Earth” was REALLY cruel. I get why Jack did what he did, I can understand it was one life to save many, but that doesn’t make it any easier that he sacrificed (or, more bluntly, killed) his young grandson. It actually made Jack Harkness go from one of my favorite characters in the Doctor Who setting to one of my least favorite characters in all of fiction.

  2. Ram_evilspaceknight
    April 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm — Reply

    I agree about it being Sam’s decision to keep leaping. It’s what he’d do.
    Cruelest ending for me is Twin Peaks. Having such an earnest character so utterly corrupted was horrifying to watch.
    Still hasn’t sunk in.

  3. Oldcomicfan
    April 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm — Reply

    I believe it was a Twilight Zone episode (though it may have been Outer Limits) where Burgess Meredith played a milktoast whose only love was reading, but he never gets the time to do it, until a nuclear war wipes out all other life on earth, leaving him the lone survivor in a vault full of books, and just as he realizes he can finally indulge his passion, he drops and breaks his eyeglasses and can’t see to read. This was the cruelest ending of every TV show, comic and movie I ever saw. The second cruelest was the ending of Heavens Gate (the unexpurgated version) where Kris Kristopherson starts out the movie as a rich idealistic son of a wealthy man who has no goals in life. He goes west, gets involved in the Johnson County War, fights the good fight, slaughters his way through all the bad guys, falls in love and has a grand old time until – BAM! His girl friend is killed and he just goes back east to become an idle drone living off his parent’s money as if all the triumphs and tragedies he had endured had no meaning at all, and I was left thinking “why the hell did I waste nearly six hours watching this inflated turkey?”

  4. DamienR
    April 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    For me, it’s a toss-up between the aforementioned and much-beloved TZ episode “Time Enough At Last”, and the ending of Lazenby’s outing in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” .. :(

  5. Mauther
    April 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm — Reply

    I’d nominate the 80’s Twilight Zone episode (and excellent short story) “The Cold Equation”. The entire story is doing everything to solve a young girl who made a simple mistake, and in the end no matter what they do they have to come to peace with the unyeilding math that says they have to kill her.

  6. Mike
    April 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm — Reply

    Hands down, the ending to 2009 movie The Mist was quite possibly the cruelest I’ve ever seen or imagined. You know it’s twisted if Stephen King prefers it to the ending of his own book.

  7. Arbor Day
    April 23, 2015 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream. I wish I could wipe the memory of that story out of my brain.

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