The Internet unanimously agrees: The Dexter finale was a bit weak. For those of you who didn't catch the series' final episode Sunday night (and we'll put the requisite spoiler alert here): Dexter leaves Miami and becomes a lumberjack and Deb (FINALLY) dies. Really Showtime? That's all you got? And to think, this came from the show that once featured John Lithgow naked in a literal bloodbath. (Le sigh, can someone please bring back the Trinity Killer already? I said it once and I'll say it again, I demand a prequel/sequel/special right meow.) At the same time, Sons of Anarchy's violent and jumbled return has heralded hours of heartbreak and ruined nights for this here entertainment writer — since the FX series only has one season to go before it bows — which forces the question: Do the shows we love struggle to finish, or are we acting out because we can't handle them being over? Do we simply love to hate endings?
It could be human nature that forces our hand when it comes to finale-hate. We emotionally connect to characters and it's stressful and unpleasant to count down the last hours we'll spend with them before we inevitably re-watch the series about a year down the line (looking at you, Sex and the City). But that anxiety seems to boil down with frightening consistency to our tendency to nitpick, be it about the quality of the writing, or the neatness with which all loose ends are tied up. Fair enough, leaving Dexter staring soulfully into the camera from his new hideout as a lumberjack does indeed reek powerfully of a cop-out, but how could the series have possibly have finished it off in a way that would be satisfying to viewers? Is there a single outcome in which the loose ends accrued throughout the last six seasons are unanimously taken care of?
It seems that what we expect is for television writers and producers to hand us an hour-long summation of all the emotions we've felt over the past however-many years the show has been on. And it's not to say that this type of finish is impossible — but a solid finish for a TV series is rare. I have very little doubt, given Breaking Bad's stellar last season thus far, that creator Vince Gilligan will manage to deliver a wholly appropriate and heart-breaking finale, but Breaking Bad is the exception here, not the norm. Sorry, viewers, expecting fresh and surprising plot twists every episode means that there are a lot of little wormy details that don't jive together when trying to finish off a story, and sometimes it can't be helped, unsatisfactory as it may feel. (Just ask anyone who invested six long seasons in Lost, the poster child for unsatisfying endings.)
Additionally, it's shockingly easy to forget that life never ties up its loose ends in a neat and timely manner either. Therefore, the expectation that a show will be able to do so feasibly and within a reasonable time frame is much like expecting that because you like ice cream there will be ice cream in the freezer. Life doesn't work that way, and neither do people or television shows. Dexter is over, and whether he did die in the storm, or he makes it as a lumberjack, or he somehow ended up in Argentina with Hannah, it all feels the same. He will not be punished for his crimes, and that's kind of the final word there. It sucks, I know, but it was the viewers who dictated how long Dexter ran for, so the fact that it perhaps ran out of steam finale-wise is on us as well as the writers. Sons of Anarchy, which is favoring excessive gore over tying up loose plotlines, might be killing me slowly, but I asked for this, and when last season ended disturbingly, I was still begging for more. So my dissatisfaction with how violent this season is and its final season will inevitably be sort of comes down on my shoulders as well, even though I had no part in writing it.
Maybe it seems unfair to ask viewers to lower their final season standards, but the fact remains: writing neat, touching, and relevant finales will remain just as difficult whether or not we adjust our expectations. So yes, Breaking Bad will continue to blow everyone's minds, and no, Dexter was not spectacular, but some shows are better than others. But, when judging a final season of a TV show, we have to ask ourselves: Are we mad about the series' ending, or are we simply just mad that the series is ending?