"Hey, let me tell you something. I just finished this show/movie/book, and it's awesome! It has such a great plot! There are so many great mysteries and secrets in it, and the writing is just excellent... Well, at least for the first bit... I mean, it sort of starts to collapse under its own mythology after a while, and the ending doesn't really answer all the questions it raises, but man... you're in for a heck of a ride! ...hey, where are you going?"
When people get involved in a story, many have the basic expectation that it will have a satisfactory ending. This, in and of itself, is not unjustified: no matter how good acts one and two are, if act three is unsatisfying, that is all that the people outside the theater will be talking about.
The thing is, so much conspires against
a satisfactory conclusion.
Maybe the show was Screwed by the Network
and was canceled before any of the questions it raised could be answered
. Maybe as time went on, the story collected so many elements
that there was no possible way
that they could do each justice
. Maybe it was the first part of a series left unfinished
by the now-deceased
author, leaving the epic unfinished. Maybe the Series Goal
was never achieved
. Maybe the writers just plain tired themselves out of creativity
by the end of it, and so much Fanon Discontinuity
is claimed, you could swear the fandom was comprised solely of historical revisionists. Maybe too many a spoiler
was revealed, and it seems pointless to watch. Or maybe you've just heard that the whole thing devolves into such unspeakable surreality
that it would taint the rest of the experience.
Hearing about all these things makes people wary. No one wants to spend time dedicating themselves to something that will leave them disappointed. Maybe the overall experience would have more than compensated for any supposed deficiencies of the ending, but the potential viewer has been scared off.
This is Ending Aversion
Now, of course, one could make the attempt to keep watching it for as long as they liked it, then turn it off when they didn't. When someone becomes attached to the characters and the story, however, that's easier said than done. This, then, often results in the viewer going online to complain about what happened... and the cycle begins anew.
Ironically, the biggest contributor to Ending Aversion
might just be those who consider themselves the most hardcore fans of a work. Criticism is fun to read and to write and fan discussion will inevitably lead to someone choosing to Accentuate the Negative
of the shows they love: "They Changed It, Now It Sucks
." "It was better when all the mysteries were still up in the air
." "It was great when it started, but the last couple of seasons never happened
", and so on.
And well, it's hard to say that we're not somewhat to blame either
If a work is avoided because of a Downer Ending
, that is Angst Aversion
Compare to Hype Aversion
and The Firefly Effect
(wariness of committing to a new show, as opposed to one that has concluded). See also Awesomeness Withdrawal
. Contrast Ending Fatigue
when the audience starts wanting the story to end.
Warning: Ending SPOILERS below.
Examples and Reasons:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 4 made some decisions that weren't very popular, though the general attitude is that season 5 got better again. Showrunner Joss Whedon then took a year off during season 6 to focus on the musical episode (and Firefly), and while people do remember and celebrate the musical episode even years later, this meant that he handed off writing duties for season 6 to other writers, and it showed. Things got moving again in season 7 when Joss came back full time, and the story intentionally built up to the final battle, but many still found it to be little better due to problems with the characterization of much of the cast.
- Battlestar Galactica - the first two seasons are great, to the point that it won a Peabody Award during the break between seasons two and three. When season 3 got underway, they started running out of ideas, and it was downhill from there. It didn't help that a large portion of the acclaimed writing staff (but not the head writer) left the show before season 3 got underway, particularly all of the female writers (who also were acknowledged to be the guiding hand in the writing of the female characters up to that point). Though YMMV on if season 3 was where the seasonal rot started - there is also a large contingent of fans that thinks the second half of season 4 was where things started getting bad. And that's not even getting into the controversy over the series' Esoteric Happy Gainax Ending.
- Scrubs: Season 8 ended JD's story (our protagonist and narrator for the entire series) on a high note, and was intended to be a series finale. Season 9, however, revamped much of the cast (Turk and Cox were still regulars, others were relegated to guest stars), changed the setting, and had a different focus (med school). Series Creator Bill Lawrence initially wanted to rename the show to make it clear that this was a new beginning, but this was nixed by the network.
- The West Wing.
- Xena: Warrior Princess.
- Heroes - Some people think the rot even began with the season one finale. The problem isn't that the writers never planned out the show...it's that they intended the show to have an anthology-format with a rotating cast. Problem was that the season one characters instantly became popular national sensations, so they were forced to come up with new plots for them on the fly. It didn't help that there was a Writer's Guild of America strike which truncated season 2. Viewers started leaving in droves during season 3 when they started just recycling plots from season 1 (how many times can Sylar flip-flop from evil to good and back?). Was anyone actually watching this show by the fourth and final season?
- Stargate SG-1 - They'd sort of resolved all of the main story arc by the end of season 7, and a later episode broke the Fourth Wall to say that fans felt they phoned it in for season 8. The real break was seasons 9 and 10, when they introduced an entirely new set of villains, which to be honest were something of a retread of the earlier ones. They were even going to rename the show "Stargate Command" when season 9 began to try to emphasize how different it was, but rather than make a sequel-spinoff the network felt more viewers would stay if they kept the name intact.
- Star Trek: Voyager - The introduction of Seven of Nine in season 4 was intended to be an Author's Saving Throw, and things at least got more interesting. But seasons 5 through 7 are generally seen as a serious drop in quality, recycled plot lines, and just cranking out stories "like sausages". The series finale "Endgame" was heavily criticized.
- Bunny Drop - While the second half of the story introduced a Genre Shift and a Time Skip that was disliked by some, what really turned off a larger portion of the audience was the inverted Wife Husbandry aspect of the ending, where the female protagonist Rin is revealed to be in love with the man who raised her for at least a decade, who is her nephew. It follows through till the end, and they end up as a couple.
- Robin Hood ended its second season with the murder of Maid Marian at Guy of Gisborne's hands, described enthusiastically by the creators as "a shocking twist" and a chance to "rock the show." Audience reaction ran the gamut from bafflement to disgust, and it became increasingly clear throughout season three that the writers had put little thought into what would happen after removing the show's emotional centre. The show floundered through a range of unconnected plotlines and arbitrary new characters before being cancelled with all the fan-favourite characters dead, the hated Scrappies still standing, and several plot threads dangling. Still, it's quite fun telling non-viewers about Marian's death: they'll invariably pull a face and go: "Huh? Why would they do that?"
- The Saw series. An excellent example of why myth arcs and mainstream-Hollywood-strength Executive Meddling do not mix.
- The show Alias had two fascinating and complex seasons, but then a series of mistakes on the part of the writers, the producers, a dose of Executive Meddling, and a nasty feedback loop from 'shippers in the fan community derailed the series in Season 3. Throughout much S3, the show circled in a holding pattern, then in S4 and S5 the ongoing, overarching storylines collapsed and the writers even began to lampshade their own failures.
- Sliders, thanks to some of the most notorious Executive Meddling, lost the intellectual "what-if" in favor of "movie ripoff of the week" and bridge dropped almost the entirety of the original cast, leaving most fans abandoning ship by the fourth season. A common disclaimer will now say to watch the first two seasons, and pretend the others didn't happen.
- Samurai Jack.
- The creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, originally intended to create a movie to end the series. However, after the less than stellar performance of his Power Puff Girls movie, he shelved the idea and hasn't come back to it since. Interestingly, the series was never officially canceled, so he could theoretically end it at any time.
- Clone High.
- Joan of Arcadia.
- Tru Calling.
- Harsh Realm.
- Alan Moore's run on Supreme.
- Lois and Clark.
- A Modest Destiny.
- Farscape - cut short due to abrupt cancellation at the end of season 4, after they'd already been told they'd get a fifth season, so they didn't plan it as the final season. The show did later get a finale-miniseries which was intended to be the truncated version of the plot developments in what would have been season 5. Surprisingly, this actually provided good explanations and resolution for many of the running plotlines, so ultimately Farscape averted this trope.
- And now it has comics wrapping things up even tighter, including wrapping up the series-long plot point of Rygel wanting to take his throne back from his traitorous cousin (never done on the show because making and operating so many Hynerian puppets would be been impossible).
- Stargate Universe
- Soap which ended on three cliff-hangers
- Mahou Sensei Negima! was given a rushed ending when Akamatsu Ken fought with the editors regarding property rights over the series and decided to End The Franchise Early And Run rather than surrender them.
- The first anime also had a very rushed ending as the creators thought they would have multiple seasons to work with (as was necessary to adapt Negima faithfully) and were disabused of this notion with only 1/3 of the season left to wrap it up.
- FlashForward (2009).
- Caprica. Not as bad as some of the examples in that the writers were given time after the series' cancellation to write an epilogue to wrap the whole thing up, but the entire sequence is just one huge sequence of What Could Have Been.
- Zot, for quite a while. (The final set of print issues, representing Zot's adventures on our Earth, and inevitably described as some of the best work of the series, had not been collected in Trade form until very recently.)
- Mai Hime, for undoing almost all the character deaths and associated traumas, although those critical of the darker tone in later episodes, among others, disagree.
- Inverted by Naruto Veangance Revelaitons; most viewers despised the fic, but enjoyed the postscript chapter the author's stepbrother added, in which the Ensemble Dark Horse returns the canon characters to normal, enabling them to kill the Designated Hero Author Avatar.
- Bionicle was hit by a Kudzu Plot Ending Fatigue which relied too much on Shocking Swerves and was Left Hanging due to a massive Schedule Slip, with only one of the plots wrapped up. Throw The Chris Carter Effect in there somewhere, along with the post-script revelation that almost all the character deaths have been undone or redone off-screen.