Two nights ago, and 584 days after its initial airing, I finally finished the series finale of Dexter. I take media more seriously than most, so series finales always hit me a little hard, because I’m trying to process the endings written for all the characters, whether I like where they ended up and regardless, I’m just trying to process the fact that I won’t be with them anymore, nor them with me. It can be difficult to let go of characters you’ve spent so much time with.
It’s even harder for authors. J.K. Rowling has been very open about the challenges of letting her characters go, killing them off, or just writing that last page. Vince Gilligan was actually offered 75 million dollars by Jeffrey Katzenberg for just three more episodes of the habit-forming Breaking Bad. And when I saw the ending of Dexter, regardless of what I felt about the way it ended, there was a small hole inside of me, something that said, “Stay.”
The Fear of Finality
When I’m reading a really good book at breakneck speed because the pace is gorgeous, the language lush, and the conclusion sure to be satisfying, I do the dishes. I read slower or I go and make some popcorn instead, anything to keep me stalling and a little further away from that final page. Because I know what happens next. I know that no matter how beautiful or eloquent, tragic, justified, or well-timed the ending is, the net result is the same.
I submit that one of the most powerful human emotions is the fear of being alone. This is the fear that’s activated at the end of every good TV series. It’s the idea that these characters – with whom you’ve spent so much time, whose foibles you’ve seen and judged, whose flaws you identify with, whose quirks you’ve fallen for – will now be gone. These feelings and lives and personalities that you’ve come to intimately understand mean nothing, because, after all, none of it was even real to begin with. It always starts with “This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to…etc” But you believe it anyway, and the closer you come to the ending it the closer you come to having to relinquish this fantasy.
Christianity: The Never-Ending Story
One of the biggest lines with Christianity is comfort. People will say that even if it’s not true, it gives people comfort, and that makes it ok. It’s nice to think of Grandma being up in heaven relaxing rather than being a maggot meal. And perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s more pleasant to think of a world where we never die, where our loved ones aren’t lost, where we aren’t left here – alone.
But like most things that you want and then think twice about, you don’t actually want this one. Because once you’re done weeping over the character deaths and the plots and you visit the five stages of grief to get you through the ending of Breaking Bad, you reach acceptance. You reach the beautiful (and mostly temporary) feeling of serenity when you realize that this is all there is, that it’s over, and that you’re ok with that, and you survived. And once you quell the enveloping fear of being alone after your friends, real or fictional, have begun, one by one, to make their exits, you can have peace in the finality while you’re still alive.
I did want Dexter to stay. But I’ll be forever glad he didn’t.
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