Saying Farewell: Why We Set High Bars for Finales

Aug 14, 2013

When "The Sopranos" ended -- the screen going black and an 80 percent chance that Tony got whacked and never saw it coming -- you really got the feeling that something new had been attempted. 

This is both true and not true. The arts have a long history, and something close to 100 percent of all narrative works have had to face the question of how to end. Ending on a question mark is nothing new. Consider Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," which ends with the words "Now everybody" followed a dash, breaking the thought off in midstream.  Starting last Sunday night, fans of "Breaking Bad" are watching the final arc, which will somehow bring this story of Dr. Faustus on meth to a close. In an odd way, endings -- at least on television -- have almost been broken off into a separate event. Today on the show, we're talking finales.