With fans of the Mass Effect series losing all perspective and dedicating their lives to getting a “proper” ending to their game, the subject of “endings” seems more relevant than ever. The conflict between the vision of the artistic minds behind television series, movies and games and their rabbid fan-base can reach boiling point. Those that create need to balance the expectations of the fans with their own ideas about how they can craft an ending. On one hand they can create something that pleases the fans but has little artistic merit, pandering to the demands of fan boys and creating something that is pure fan service. On the other hand they can exclude and anger their fans by creating an ending that fails to answer the fans questions, or challenges them too much. Mass Effect 3’s ending was controversial, but here are 7 endings even more so.
7. Halo 2
Lets start with another game almost as controversial as Mass Effect 3. Halo 2 had a troubled development cycle, and hype for the game was similarly high. It was the sequel to one of the greatest games of all time and every website and magazine was full of rumours, previews and speculation about this huge release. Another similarity to Mass Effect 3 was the theme of taking the fight back to Earth. Sadly, early demos of the game that showed battles on the streets of Earth never made it to the final product. Worst of all, the denouement of the game left the player with a horrible cliffhanger ending, teeing up the third game but offering no closure whatsoever. Until Mass Effect 3, this was by some distance the most controversial game ending of all time.
6. The Soprano’s
Christ allegories abound, from the way that the onion rings are eaten (like communion wafers) to the music. Deliberately obtuse and intentionally ambiguous, there are hints throughout the series about what the ending could mean. The key here is the blank, black screen that the writers wanted to last much longer than they were allowed because studio heads were worried that people would change channel thinking their television had broken. This was a brave and much debated ending, and fans of the series (by and large) hated it.
5. The Matrix Trilogy
Few doubt the quality of the first Matrix movie and there are many still willing to sing the praises of the seconds movies meandering plotline, but few defend the third movie and most especially its ending. Again its an explicit Christ allegory, and a somewhat over-baked one that shy’s away from any the questions the Wachowski’s asked themselves throughout the series. Its hard to top of a trilogy without some element of disappointment, but the Wachowski’s pleased no one with their non-committal conclusion to the series. Even the self referential ending of the videogame The Path of Neo had a stranger, better conclusion that reworked the Wachowski’s original ending.
4. The Dark Tower
What to say, what to say? Despite the ending I still think this series of books is worth reading if only for the ideas Stephen King is still able to come up with. The ending is something that is difficult for anyone who has read all of the series to accept though, especially if they have been reading them over the many, many years that King has been working on them, waiting each time for the next book. I can’t imagine how acute that disappointment must be.
3. Neon Genesis Evangelion
The details of the ending of this series are far too long to go into here. In brief, the original ending to the series seemed rushed, cheap, poorly animated and intentionaly obtuse. Although series director Anno said he was happy with the initial ending he made, the whole thing was redone in a project to complete the final episodes with a bigger budget and more satisfying ending. This ending was still challenging for the audience, and elements within it suggested Anno was mocking the expectations of the series fans. Despite this, the new endings remain intensely complex and left fans debating their meaning for a long time to come. Neon Genesis was an intensely personal project for Anno and although it left many fans feel let down, I think in the end he achieved what he set out to do and it is my personal favourite ending of all the entries on this list.
Two words for the ending of Lost: Fan Service. The writers may have claimed that they cared more about the characters than answering the questions posed by the series, but as a program that seemed to exist purely to generate unanswered questions this was a massive cop out. What was the secret of the Island? Who cares, lets all just meet up in non-denominational heaven for a big group hug that makes no sense, but will make our viewers feel warm and fuzzy. Pure pandering.
1. The Prisoner
The reaction to the rest of the entries on this list pale into insignificance compared to the public outpouring of rage directed at the ending of The Prisoner. Series star and primary driving force Patrick McGoohan asked difficult questions about individuality, free will and rebellion throughout the series, as well as setting up mysteries far more intriguing than those of Lost. In fact Lost was directly influenced by The Prisoner, but McGoohan’s challenging series had fans even more desperate for answers to questions like the location of the island, the secrets that Number 6 refused to give up and the identity of the enigmatic Number 1. McGoohan had a creative vision that he stuck to tenaciously, and while the ending of Lost was pure fan service, the ending to The Prisoner was the opposite. Enigmatic, dream-like and frustratingly vague, when examined closely it was in fact openly confronting the audience about their own expectations. Brechtian in nature, it directly challenged the conformity of the audience who themselves were succumbing to the same implicit manipulation as the prisoners on the island. Suffice it to say the audience were not happy with this and McGoohan experienced threats to his own safety and that of his children before escaping to the safety of mountain isolation until the situation calmed down.