The Glory of Leaving It Undone

Written by O'Brian Gunn

Is it ok to stop without finishing?

The Glory of Leaving It Undone

I don’t like loose ends. That’s one reason I like to review finished narratives over at Don’t Wake Me ‘Til It’s Done. Another reason is that I like to see characters and stories reach their full potential, which doesn’t always happen when a series has its legs cut out from under it before the final THE END. That said, there is the occasional satisfaction and sense of peace to be found in an incomplete narrative. Let’s marinate on this idea together, shall we?

It’s Better Than Going Downhill

Your social media feed has probably been set aflame by reactions to a certain popular show involving an iron throne, dragons, and a one-handed kingslayer. Think of what public opinion would be like had that show ended one or two seasons ago. Sure, there would have been a massive gnashing of teeth and angry reactions, much like there is now, but it would have been a different catalyst for the same reaction.

Sometimes, a series builds itself to such great heights that it’s hard to consistently sustain that upward mobility. There could be a behind-the-scenes shake-up that sees the departure of certain actors, writers, or directors, or there may be network politics at play. Either way, future seasons could become a drastic (and widely lambasted) departure from what audiences are used to. But that can’t happen if the series abruptly ends even when it’s doing everything right.

A Shift in Medium

Say that you’re enjoying a TV show when it’s canceled right when the last season ends on a cliffhanger (I’m lookin’ at you Angel). While this feels like a sword through the stomach, there’s a chance the series could be revived by a different medium. Both Buffy and Angel continue on in comic book form, and the same applies to Serenity.

Demons, puppets, and talking dogs from Angel: Smile Time (2008) #2.

The great thing about such medium shifts is that it allows both the creators and the fans to experience the story’s world in a new way. For all the advances we have in technology, some feats are easier to accomplish on the page rather than on the screen.

There’s also the matter of money. Some shows are simply too expensive to keep going long enough for the narrative to wrap up, putting them on the chopping block. It’s often less expensive to switch the show to a different medium, such as a book, graphic novel/comic book, or a combination of both. I’d even love to see a story finished via video game. That may be a barrier for fans who don’t have the console the game is on, but it would still make for an interesting idea. With that Thrones show ending with a season of feature film-length episodes, it could set a precedent for reviving once-canceled/unfinished shows and giving them a proper wrap up without drawing things out too much.

The Story Won’t End in Tears...The Bad Kind

Touching back on behind-the-scenes shake-ups, what if a show you once loved doesn’t just jump the shark, but throws in a coupl'a backflips and twisting somersaults along the way? The show, book series, comic book series, or what have you ends alright, but it ends in tears of anger and regret. In this day and age, no matter how great something is, we have a tendency to focus more on what was done wrong or poorly. Sometimes, we even like to pretend that later, less-than-stellar seasons don’t exist, much like I do with True Blood.

It Can Come Back

Sometimes, the scope of a creator’s vision outpaces the technology available at that time. Rather than try to make do with lackluster visuals or look into shifting mediums, the creator may decide to leave the story unfinished...but not forgotten.

A screenshot from Beyond Good & Evil (2003)

Known as “development hell,” some projects are left in limbo due to a lack of production funds. Video game sequels like Beyond Good and Evil 2, Shenmue III, and Team Fortress 2 took years upon years before seeing the light of day. Just looking at the difference in visuals between the original Beyond Good and Evil and the upcoming sequel shows that an extensive wait isn’t always a bad thing.

I don’t like seeing food or stories go to waste. A lot of passion, time, and hard work usually go into both. That said, sometimes, it’s a pleasure to admire a dish and imagine how divine it will taste rather than consume it and potentially be disappointed. But, on the other hand--

A screenshot from the upcoming Beyond Good & Evil 2…