Recently, two of the most widely popular fiction series concluded to great fanfare: The Sopranos, with its daring expression of continuation in the lives fictional characters, and Harry Potter, with its avant garde statement vis-à-vis making children happy. There is also the matter of Ragnarok. The Bureau’s Nordic mythology consultant, Caitlin Boersma, has predicted this ‘end of the universe’ scenario for late October or early November.
All of this got us thinking about endings and which ones we like best. Any ending would do, whether from a book, a movie, or a visit to an “Asian massage parlor.” As long as there wasn’t anything after it, we’d put it on our list. Here’s what we came up with.
I often don’t remember the endings of books, movies, conversations–anything really. Sometimes I don’t even remember the beginning or middle. I don’t think it’s due to an infantile memory capacity, but rather things that just aren’t interesting.
That’s why I should introduce everyone to a wonderful lady named Flannery O’Conner. O’Conner was a great southern short story writer, who really pens memorable endings. Her stories meander on about some poor trash who’s caught in a mess—this blather painfully draws on for about 10-15 pages—and then in the last couple of pages there’s some shocking, unspeakably violent event. It makes you stand up and go “Oh God, what the fuck just happened?” because you thought you were reading about something boring.
I have no idea what the rest of the story is about, but I definitely remember when that old hag gets blown away with a shotgun.
As far as films go, the best ending definitely goes to Dude, Where’s My Car? Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott eventually find their car. Epic.
The way the movie Get Carter (the 1971 Michael Caine version, not the 2000 Sylvester Stallone version) ends is quite good. In case you haven’t seen it, I’m going to ruin it for you: he dies. After attempting to avenge his brother’s death throughout the entire movie, Carter finally finds his brother’s killer. Carter mildly tortures him and receives satisfaction from drawing out his death. Once the deed is done, the audience sees Carter walking along the beach resting his shotgun on his shoulder. His face is a picture of relief and contentment. Then a sniper shoots him in the head.
It’s a great ending because it makes Carter’s vengeful mission rather ironic. He killed everyone in his path to find his brother’s murderer, but the moment after Carter becomes content with his work, he is shot down. For what purpose were those murders and was it justified to commit them over his brother’s death? Was it worth it for only those few moments of fulfillment? Even though the audience is on Carter’s side by this point, the viewer knows that he has to die. It couldn’t end any other way.
Album: At the end of Mogwai’s Come On Die Young, after an album full of quiet, moody instrumentals, comes a song called “Christmas Steps.” It starts slow and funereal like all the other songs on the album, but builds to a crescendo that sounds like it was culled from an epic doom metal album. It scares the shit out of me (figuratively, but the song has enough bass to be a catalyst for a non-metaphorical shit-scaring).
Film: At the end of the movie Being There, Peter Sellers’ character, a dullard named Chance, inexplicably walks on water during a funeral service. Maybe the best “What the fuck?” moment in cinema.
Book: At the end of Brave New World, when Bernard hangs himself and the closing image of the book is of his feet dangling towards each of the cardinal directions.
J.K. Rolwing had it easy. From the first book on, everyone knew the climax of her series: Harry vs. Voldemort. Sure, there was some suspense as to whether Harry would die, but ol’ Voldy was toast no matter what. There was little real chance of being surprised by the finale of The Deathly Hallows.
Stephen King was in a much tighter spot when it came time to wrap up his seven-book series, The Dark Tower. In the novel of the same name, King had to answer a question that had been building for thousands of pages and over 20 years. What is the Dark Tower? (If you’re reading the series or have any intention of ever doing so, I beg you, LOOK AWAY NOW.)
Big Fucking Spoilers: The main character of the Lord of the Rings-inspired Dark Tower series is the gunslinger Roland. He begins his journey trudging across the desert in pursuit of a man. The series opens: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.” Roland is on a journey to find the fabled Dark Tower, and it takes him seven books, averaging probably 500 pages each, to get there. King began the series in 1982 and finished in 2004.
Seriously, spoilers: At the very end of the seventh book, after two clever fake-out endings and a severe breach of the fourth wall, Roland enters the tower. He ascends gradually, viewing artifacts from his life in each room along the way. He quickly becomes impatient and begins running up the stairs, up and up for what seems like an eternity until he gets to the door at the top, opens it and…
Don’t read this: He’s back in the desert. He panics for one desperate moment, but soon the feeling is gone. The series ends perfectly, brilliantly with: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.” I don’t care if it’s been done before; reading it was amazing. King’s right: it was the only way to end the series.