Monday, August 20, 2012

Crappily Ever After: Awful Endings in Dramas

  Do I have to post a spoiler alert? 'Cuz there are spoilers ahead. Major ones.
  After reading the recaps for the finale of Dr. Jin, I feel the need to address something. Seriously, what is the deal with dramas and their craptastic endings? It feels like a recent thing, but maybe it's gone on forever, and I'm just noticing the newest cluster of Terrible Finales. You can use more than one episode to wind down a story, people. You should know how you want things to end at least by episode 10, so you can start to resolve things before the last 15 minutes of the finale. Honest.

  I think the writers need to learn that the most important part of any story is the ending. Characters, plot, background, etc. are all important aspects of storytelling, but the ending makes or breaks it. If all the other elements are awesome, but the story ends terribly, the whole thing is ruined. But, if some of those other things are bad, or even just mediocre, and the ending is fantastic, the audience will generally forgive the bad and remember the awesome (assuming they get to the end. Hopefully the story is decent enough to get there).
  How often do we leave the very best part of a meal for last? We want to end on a high note, and if we have to eat our peas and broccoli to get to dessert, it's all worth it in the end. But some dramas lately haven't been delivering the chocolate goodness, and instead seem to be serving a surprise helping of brussels sprouts in vinegar sauce. That we have to eat before being excused. Or else.
  I'll start with the recent drama that I consider to be the least offensive in this category: Rooftop Prince. I know there are lots of haters of this drama out there. I even understand where most of them are coming from. But I actually enjoyed watching this drama, because I didn't really analyze it. However, the climax of this drama deserved more than just one episode to finish the story. We get this whole beautiful back story which sets up the mystery in the first episode, and then the Prince spends the first two-thirds of the drama searching for the answers to his wife's murder. Then we kind of forget that storyline for a while, and focus on his relationship with Park Ha, and the evil-lite machinations of Se Na and Tae Moo, which don't really go anywhere. 
  Suddenly, we're jolted back to the mystery as the henchmen start disappearing back to their own time. And now we wait for the final explanation. Which they give us in part of one last episode. At least they did a pretty decent (if rushed) job of tying up the loose ends. I'm not saying I liked everything—I especially hated the fact that the Prince was fated to live without his Park Ha/Bu Yong for the rest of his first life, and had to wait 300 years to be with her again. So tragic! But we did get to see the Henchman Restaurant, the tracksuits, the reunion of the OTP, and, most importantly, Bu Yong's death, and how the Prince resolved her murder. Though not all, many loose ends were tied in this drama, and we are able to draw some of our own conclusions with what we've been given. Which is more than I can say for other dramas.
  Like Big. I was loyal to this drama throughout its run. I really thought the Hong Sisters had an end goal, and that they were working towards a beautiful ending that would satisfy me and reward my patience. Silly me. I completely forgot/ignored the Hong Sisters' track record for bad/sudden endings. 
  I know this drama moved along at a pace a snail would scoff at. But I felt that it was necessary to get the full character development that I saw as crucial to the story. And much of that development happened. Gil Da Ran was able to learn to trust her feelings, and came to experience and learn what love truly is, instead of relying on some silly fairytale notion of how love should be. In the process, she allowed herself to become herself, instead of the projection of what she thought someone else wanted her to be. Kang Kyun Joon was able to grow and understand himself, and opened himself up to another person who could support him and lift him up. I appreciated this attention to the characters and the buildup of the story.
  But we were also given many questions throughout this series, and only a few of them were ever addressed. And this is a big deal to me. Why introduce major questions/problems if you aren't going to follow through with them? It's pointless and insulting. And this happens over and over. I'm okay with there being a little mystery at the end, as long as it's just the right amount. It should keep you interested in the drama even after it's over, so that you still feel a connection to it. It should not keep you from having closure or having to grasp at straws to try to make sense of things. 
  To me, the movie Inception is a great example of providing closure while still making you ponder the meaning behind things. You don't get all the answers, but you get enough that you can be satisfied drawing your own conclusions. Big does not manage to pull this off. Instead, we are given fleeting images of characters' lives one year later, but they don't really resolve anything. And then we're shown Kyun Joon and Da Ran meeting in the rain. And while I love the symmetry of closing the drama with a new version of the umbrella scene where the leads met, things were just off. Everything important happened off screen, and most of those things weren't even addressed in Ma Ri's email. So many situations that could have been mined for great story development were introduced with the implication that they would come up later, only to be blatantly ignored as the story went nowhere progressed.
  So instead of feelings of closure and satisfaction, we were left to feel used, confused, and betrayed. All the important and interesting issues that were set up in this drama were pointless by not taking enough time to resolve any of them. And all the patience and emotion I invested in this drama seemed worthless.   The same thing happened with Fashion King. To me the draw of this drama (besides Yoo Ah In) was watching his character Young Gul try again and again to make something of his life, building from the ground up each time, with the expectation that he would eventually succeed and find some kind of success and happiness. Really, that's the only thing that kept me watching, even when I came to despise all the characters in this show. His determination was so compelling, which I really attribute to Yoo Ah In's acting capability. However, that talent was wasted by one of the worst endings of all time. 
  I think I would have been okay with Young Gul's death at the end, as long as there were some answers to go with it. As it was, it was entirely too sudden, like the writers had no idea what to do with any of the characters, or what ending they wanted, so they just offed the lead. That is incredibly poor writing. Who killed him? Why? What did Ga Young know/hear? Honestly, if we even knew the identity of his killer and had a hint of Ga Young's point of view, we would have been able to resolve things for ourselves. But instead of being able to draw our own conclusions, we were left with empty images that led us nowhere.
  Dr. Jin has to be the worst example of craptastic endings ever. Like many, I found this drama to be too silly to watch. However, I found the recaps by HeadsNo2 over at Dramabeans too be hilarious and compelling. So I read them all. And while I don't regret reading them, I would definitely have regretted watching any more of this drama. Especially because there was zero payout in the end. 
  Why a jar fetus? Why did Dr. Jin have to travel to a different dimension? Did he travel to a different dimension? Was it really just a different time? Was it a hallucination caused by his brain baby? Were we supposed to care about Young Rae? How could a surgeon freak out so much every time he saw blood? How do you make a centrifuge out of bamboo? And why did all the interesting characters die and/or finish the show without any personal growth or development? Why give this show an extension when it had absolutely no way of coping with extra time?
You don't mess with the jar fetus. Jar fetus will mess you up.
  From this show's track record, I knew there was no possible way most things would be resolved. Especially with the setup at the end of episode 21, where war was imminent. Only 1 episode for a whole war plus tying up any loose ends? It couldn't be done. And it wasn't even attempted. They didn't even bother using a cop-out, like everything was a dream/hallucination/really bad acid trip. Which would still have been a poor excuse for an ending. Instead, this show opted for a Jintastically terrible ending, instead of a just poor one. At least it's a finale that's true to form. Good job on your consistency in awfulness, show.
  As I mentioned earlier, the ending to a story is what really makes the story. So please, drama writers and directors, give us conclusions that are actual endings. We can even handle bitter chocolate as dessert, as long as it's good chocolate that satisfies us and rewards us for finishing the rest of the meal. You owe it to yourselves. We want to love you, so please stop making it so difficult. 


  1. I know right!?!?!?!?! I have always thought that the whole reason you have tension and confusion is to show character development in the solving/overcoming/coping of their prospective situations. I really don't think you should be hired to write ANYTHING when the only thing you are good at is building up tension and creating fatalistic missed connections without being able to resolve the problems YOU created in the first place.

    If you can't resolve it, don't write it.


    1. Seriously! Don't get started unless you can follow through.