We walk into the movies with the expectation of seeing something whole, of reaching an end. The end may be heart-breaking or uplifting, painfully ambiguous or painfully obvious, profound or banal, but a movie would be nothing without an end (except some Coen Brothers’ movies, but those guys are not of this universe). We don’t wish the movie would go on for three more hours; we don’t lament the loss of the characters or our departure from the film’s imaginary universe. We feel fulfilled. And this is, in part, because we can revisit them. In fact, we should rewatch them. In the words of Roger Ebert, a great movie “should seem new every time you see it.” Rick always tells Ilsa, “We’ll always have Paris”; Red always finds Andy on the coast of Mexico. So what? That doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch Casablanca and The Shawshank Redemption a dozen more times. Movies are eternal. The great ones (especially Pulp Fiction) are always there for me, whether I’ve been away from them for two years or two days.
But TV series, because of their incredible length, don’t have the same luxury. They have one shot to get it right. I get into a new TV series like Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, and Mad Men like a long-term relationship. I start out passionate, excited, overboard. Then I fall into a routine, always coming back for the same stuff, enjoying whatever that is. But things unravel quickly, and before I know it, the whole thing explodes. And I’m left heartbroken and, for a while, a bit empty.
I know Walter White had to die, so did Nucky Thompson. I know Don Draper had to run off forever (or come back and do Coca-Cola, who knows). But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss them, and I don’t wish I could meet them all over again for the first time.
Still, without fail, I recover and find something new, hopeful that this time I’ve found the one.