What A TV Finale Should Do
Within a period of two weeks, Mad Men and Game of Thrones finished their season. Both of them wrapped up their seasons with finales that weren't universally well received. There were different reasons for the public distaste, but the lukewarm public perception raised a larger question: What is the purpose of a season finale? Given the different ways television shows have gone about it over the years, it's clear there is no consensus answer.
Following a penultimate episode on the level of "Blackwater" was bound to be difficult for Game of Thrones. No one really expected the show to match that level of superiority, but many critics and fans didn't like many of the things in the finale. The episode was definitely sprawling and difficult to follow, but it did an excellent job of tying up loose ends and setting itself up for what should be a far more dramatic third season. Is it right to compare the finale to "Blackwater?" No. Each episode tried to accomplish to separate things. Both of them accomplished what they set out to accomplish and did it in ways that were well-crafted and well-acted. The finale might not have produced the tense action of the previous episode, but it was still well done.
The other "lukewarm" finale was turned in by the gang at Mad Men. Coming off of episodes where Joan used her best "assets" to secure Jaguar and a partnership in the firm, and Lane's suicide, the finale seemed like a bit of letdown. Once again, we had a series that saved their best action for episodes prior to the finale. Just like with Game of Thrones, the finale garnered complaints from the public and television critics alike. Also like Game of Thrones, Matthew Weiner took the finale to service stories that had taken a backseat to other stories the previous two episodes. The episode successfully captured a lot of the story arcs that we had seen throughout the season and brought several of them to a satisfying conclusion. Though the finale brought a depressing end to the season, those that had been paying attention would note that the entire season has been depressing. Therefore, the finale delivered in terms of storytelling and thematic continuity.Continued on the next page