Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Burn your bridges

Missed opportunity: Murder She Wrote, the last ever episode. As the latest murderer is dragged away, protesting their innocence, Jessica Fletcher goes home, and unlocks her basement. Inside, on one long wall, are photographs of every single victim from every single episode. Newspaper clippings of every single "murderer", that she has framed using her expert knowledge of detective work and forensics. Vials of semen, blood, underwear, hair, saliva, evidence for the planting. Thick files of information on every single case, the result of months spent preparing *before* each casual visit or holiday, knowing every face and every name intimately, pretending to have just met them, interviewing them so she can "solve" the murder. She adds the latest photograph and newspaper clipping to the wall, removes all of her clothing, laughs, and blows her head off with a shotgun.

But of course, they didn't do that. Why not? Seriously. It was the last ever episode, they had nothing left to prove, so why didn't they just say fuck it, let's do it, subvert the entire show, give all the viewers the shock of a lifetime? End it in style. What's the worst that could happen? It's not like you're going to get cancelled - the show's over. Go crazy. Be bold.

Knight Rider, last episode, we finally see it from someone else's perspective, seeing things as they really are: Michael Knight, hopelessly insane, talking to himself, answering in "KITT's" voice, lips moving, sitting in his beat-up Volvo estate car, which has no wheels, engine, or seats, pretending to chat up the ladies, solving imaginary cases, but merely a homeless drunk, still suffering the debilitating effects of the near-fatal shooting in the pilot episode.

The A-Team. Two words: Peckinpah shootout. Years of luck and magically dodging millions of bullets come to an end, as the team go out in style, ripped to pieces by machine gun fire, their smoking helicopter falling from thousands of feet up, crashing and exploding in the mountains. No survivors. Colonel Decker takes off his cap, the music fades down, all we hear is the whumping of helicopter blades, as a single tear makes its way down his face, showing the immense respect he has for his fallen enemies. This is all in the first 5 minutes - the rest of the episode shows Decker trying to cope with what he has done, realising that now he really has nothing left to live for. He ends up framing yet another group of war heroes, letting them "escape", letting the whole cycle begin again, so he can have something to live for.

Sure, they're all downers, but it's better than just fizzling out. There was no final mystery to wrap up, so they'd have been able to experiment and give us a cool surprise. The only TV shows that have come close to burning all their bridges like this are the Incredible Hulk, where Banner finally becomes "free" of the curse, but not in the way you'd hoped for, and the beautiful, infuriating, heartbreaking finale to Quantum Leap, which did everything I wasn't expecting, and left me an inconsolable wreck on the floor. I still go all quiet and wobbly when I think about it. I have no idea how Murder She Wrote ended, and don't even know if Knight Rider or the A-Team had endings at all. But I will remember the Quantum Leap ending forever.