A Letter to Robert Kirkman

Dear Mr Kirkman,

Word around town is that your comic series, The Walking Dead, is nearing the finish line.  I imagine you’ve already got plans on how to end it, but I’ve got some friendly advice you should hear-

Don’t pussy out.

So many of your contemporaries in the pantheon of popular storytellers have tarnished the legacies of their series by ending them on overly saccharine, sentimental notes that feel tacked on and not in spirit with the bulk of the work.

What brought this dilemma to my attention was the series finale of Lost.  While things wrapped up quite nicely on the island, the alternate universe that was created this season ended things on the single worst note possible.  (begin spoiler warning)Christian Shepard showed up again.  At first, I assumed that he was really the Man in Black, somehow still kicking after getting shot by Kate and pushed over a cliff.  After all wouldn’t that have made sense?  All season long, he was trying to get everybody together in the same place so he could kill them, and here everybody was-Every person in the show (except Michael and Walt, because I guess they don’t count.)  If he can turn into a smoke monster and assume the form of the dead, is it that implausible that he could also have done this?  Instead, Cuse, Lindeloff, and whoever else was involved with this travesty of an ending decided that the alternate universe was some sort of new-age pseudo-limbo.  Meaning everybody was dead.  You know, the thing they’ve been promising, since the first season, is absolutely NOT going on?  Was the big twist at the end that they lied to us?  “Sure, everything that happens on the island is real and it matters, but these flash-sideways don’t.”  What really burns me about the route they took is that it essentially doesn’t matter.  Every flash-sideways this season was pointless.  It doesn’t connect to anything in the rest of the series.  The producers knew people would hate this ending, I wonder why they did it at all? (end spoilers)

All complaints aside, the sixth season of Lost was probably the worst, but it was still better than everything else on network TV.  I don’t think the finale will do much to tarnish the reputation of the show.  The island is what really mattered, and they finished that side of the story with style and grace.  (more spoilers ahead) It reminded me of Bone.  Both involved dire showdowns in magic caves.  I was a little confused by The Man in Black losing his powers.  At first I assumed Desmond had become the new smoke monster when he uncorked the glowing magic light stuff.  (No, they never really explained what it was, but that’s okay, because it doesn’t matter.)  Oh well, at least Des got to return home to his family.  I didn’t see Jack’s death coming, but it was a slow death, so it wasn’t exactly shocking.  Once he went back to the cave, I assumed it was over.  Leaving Hurley and Ben in charge of the island was a fitting ending.  I loved Ben’s last lines, where he tells Hurley he doesn’t have to do things by Jacob’s rules anymore.  Sly and manipulative to the bitter end!  If there was a season seven and it was just those two going fishing and doing laundry I would watch it. Rose and Bernard would also be stars of season seven now that I think about it.  Nice to see them again, but why the hell didn’t Michael or Walt ever show up?(end spoilers)

All of this finale fallout reminds me of Twin Peaks, the show considered the best of its generation.  Coincidentally, Twin Peaks also had a lackluster finale, but hardly anybody ever talks about that.  The ending of the show was weak, but I can live with it.  It was a fun and engaging ride while it lasted, and I’ve got a new Favorite TV show now, it’s called Breaking Bad, it’s about a cancer stricken chemistry teacher who makes crystal meth and I look forward to catching up with the episode I missed the other day due to the Lost finale.

But I digress, Mr Kirkman.  I apologize for regaling you with details about Lost.  We’re here to focus on you and your work.  However, there’s certainly a lesson or two to be learned from Lost.  One-The pressure is on.  Two-If people are expecting you to screw up, and they are, this is how they expect it to be done.  Lost was not an isolated incident.  Garth Ennis got excessively sappy in the last issue of Preacher.  All of those letters are like the comic book equivalent to the excessive flashbacks that plagued the Lost finale.  The last chapter in Harry Potter almost ruined the entire series for me, it was so cheesy.  Planetary got away with it, but I imagine that’s because I read the trade.  If I had to wait a year between issues I probably would’ve been pissed.  The Walking Dead has never been a comic to pull punches, so it’ll be even worse if you blow the ending on some undeserved sunshine.  If you want to get sappy, save it for the ending of Invincible.

Rarely is the emotional finale done right, but Y The Last Man immediately springs to mind.  I don’t want to oversimplify things and give you the idea that it works because it’s also depressing, but uh, it works because it’s also depressing.  Still, I’d try to avoid something like that because 1) You’d be ripping off BKV, and 2) Heavy speeches aren’t exactly your strong suit.  Y was a great ending, but I’m most partial to the finishes that go out with a bang.  Take a look at Brian Michael Bendis’s and Ed Brubaker’s respective runs on Daredevil.  When the characters get written into a corner, sometimes it’s better to have the floor drop out beneath them than to whip out the dues ex machina.

Damn, I haven’t covered Deus ex Machinas.  Here’s another pitfall you’ll want to avoid.  Not that they can’t work, but I can’t see it working in the context of The Walking Dead.

I’ve got faith in you, Mr Kirkman.  You managed to keep The Irredeemable Ant-Man a pretty despicable guy all the way through his cancellation, so keeping the world of Rick, Carl and company bleak and gory should be no tall order.  You seen like a smart guy.  Don’t make the wrong decision.  Make sure it wasn’t all a dream or everybody was dead, or inside a giant cage being controlled by aliens.

P.S. –Could you make sure Bryan Lee O’Malley gets this too?

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