You know, I see a lot of articles, Tweets, nuggets of advice and sometimes entire books devoted to the importance of the opening line. Everyone states that you must have a hook, that you must grab the reader (or player or watcher, in the case of other media) and not let go.
But it seems rather rare to see people talk about the importance of how you leave them. It seems to me that how you leave is just as important as how you arrive; more than once I’ve been left with a bitter taste in my mouth from the final scene (or sometimes, even the final line) that keeps me away from that author, director or game designer in the future. Why does no one focus on the exit as much as they do the entrance or the show itself?
I’m sure I’m not guiltless, here. But I’m a bad judge, since I tend to think everything that comes off my keys is crap. My darling idol, Mr. King, has often been accused of crappy endings (though I personally disagree, and think he’s gotten a lot better. Read 11/22/63 if you doubt me.)
The worst offenders I can think of offhand are Odd Thomas and the game Sleeping Dogs. Odd Thomas left me glaring at the hole in the wall caused by hurling the book; spoiler warnings, his girlfriend dies. They spend the whole book building on their relationship, they put Odd through hell, and his reward is, oh, guess what, your lady’s dead and you have nothing. Admittedly, tragedy may indeed be necessary (and when a similar situation arises in 11/22/63, I didn’t have this same urge, for assorted reasons) but the way it was executed left me cold, and has ensured I haven’t touched a Dean Koontz novel since.
So far as Sleeping Dogs, it’s an amazing open-world Hong Kong cop drama. It’s a trifle glitchy on the technical side, but the presentation, the story and the overall feel of the game makes it incredibly worth it to witness Wei Shen’s descent and return from the triad underworld. (If you’re into GTA type games, you should check it out. Seriously.) The DLC that was added was fun and amusing… to a point. There’s your general zombie apocalypse one – that’s given a proper Chinese cinema feel by having Jiang Shi instead of just zombies or vampires – which is still funny and entertaining, a bad Bruce Lee movie ripoff that was hilariously amusing to someone who used to watch those sorts of things, an upgraded Batmobile-style vehicle with some amusing side missions relating to building, upgrading, and putting it to use… and then you get to the game’s official epilogue, Year of the Snake. Where you get demoted to a traffic cop, disarm a couple bombs, and have the most unsatisfying boss battle (especially compared to the fight/chase against Big Smile Lee in the main game) ever. He says two lines. You walk up, press the button, it’s over. Fireworks.
Yeah, that’s it. Literally. “Hey, you gave us $40 and 50+ hours, here’s your payout!”
Now, to soften it somewhat, and return to the tranquil state my most recent bevy of medications has inspired, I’d like to share with you what may be my favorite ending. It’s from Stephen King (of course, say sorry), from the novella The Body.
“I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?”
That. Right there. It sums up, it leaves you feeling fulfilled, it fits the tone of the tale and it punches you in the feels. That’s how it should be done.
What about you folks out there? What’s your favorite ending, or your most hated? Let us know in the box below!