Sunday, March 24, 2013

Finales, mitochondrial DNA, and new beginnings

Originally published on the old blog, on 03/04/13

(Warning: the following contains mild spoilers for the endings of the Harry Pottermovies, Friends and the new Battlestar Galactica. Don’t read on if you don’t want hints about what happened at the ends of these series. But, really, they’ve all been out for a bit, so get on it!)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had gotten Arizona hooked on the newBattlestar Galactica, and we were watching all of it back-to-back. Now, I’m a huge fangirl, but the big finale left me cold the first time around. So I was hoping that I would warm up to it this time, thinking that my initial reaction was from saying goodbye to a show that had been something I looked forward to each week, at a time in my life when I needed something to look forward to. Unfortunately, bad science is still bad science, and an unsatisfying ending is still an unsatisfying ending (in my opinion; your mileage may vary).

For those of you who haven’t seen BSG (I realize we can’t all be sci-fi wonks), the show spent four years following the space-going survivors of a near-genocidal attack on humanity as they: a) fought a rearguard action against their enemies, the Cylons; b) tried to find a new planet where they could rebuild the human race; and c) struggled to figure out what their culture and political structure should look like in their new reality. With space battles, religion, romance, intrigue, and a bunch of other stuff.

Okay, so the finale did a very satisfying job of dealing with the Cylons and finding the survivors a new planet to call home—aka Earth 150,000 years ago, where they dispersed, intermingled with the existing natives, and became our long-ago ancestors. However, the show missed on the ‘rebuilding the human race’ front when, in a scene in our present day, it claimed that mitochondrial DNA sequencing had identified an ancient skeleton (belonging to a human-Cylon hybrid, Hera, who had been a pivotal character in the series) as being humanity’s progenitor.

Now, I’m deleting my Ranty McRant tirade on mtDNA and how this means that only females descended from Hera survived to reproduce, and why this totally short-circuits the idea of ‘these forty thousand people are all critical to the survival of the human race.’ I was afraid it got a little boring, and it’s not really the point I want to make. Because, really, the most disappointing thing about the finale for me was that things ended with everyone agreeing to reject technology and the social structure they had spent four seasons hammering out, and scattering across the planet to start small villages. Worse (from my perspective, anyway), most of the main characters I had grown to love were either dead, or headed off into the wilderness alone, grieving for their dead. Now, I don’t mind a good weep-fest, but I’d like there to be some smiles and optimism to balance the angst. I didn’t get any of that from the BSG finale.

See, that’s the thing for me with finales. I’m willing to say goodbye to the characters I’ve grown to love, but I really want to feel that they’re going to be okay when I close the book/power down the Kindle/turn off the TV/etc. I want to believe that their lives are going on without me, that they’re doing new and interesting things, and that there’s some joy in their lives.
Friends did it right for me, in that while I was sad to say goodbye, it felt like they were moving on to new chapters of their lives. They might be living elsewhere, might not spend so much time in Central Perk, might be more focused on being parents, couples, and whatnot, but Joey was still going to have an odd pet or two, Phoebe was still going to be Phoebe, and … well, you get the point.

The end of the Harry Potter finale (the movie; I didn’t read the books) was a miss for me, not just because I didn’t buy the ‘everybody a decade later’ makeup, but because I didn’t want to immediately think of Harry and the others as middle-aged parents; I wanted to imagine them as young wizards and witches coming into their own as full adults and having more (and hopefully less dire) adventures along the way. For me, that ending felt so much smaller than the rest of it, and left me dissatisfied.

I had meant to talk about writing the last Nightkeeper book, Spellfire, and how I really wanted it to feel like both an ending and a new beginning … but this is getting long, I need to get to work, and, really, it feels overweening to put my stories in the same breath with BSGFriends and Harry Potter. So instead I’ll ask you: what do you love/hate about finales? What were some of your favorites?

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