From Game of Thrones to Fleabag, alternative endings to shows and films that deserved better conclusions
We provide a wishlist of the could-have-been finales to our favourite shows of the decade including Game of Thrones to How I Met Your Mother
The 2010s defined an age of intelligent viewing, replete with meaningful, often fascinating narratives. Showrunners invested millions to develop earnest series which may well have competed with the 70 mm projects, in terms of detailing and grandeur. Whether it was HBO’s Game of Thrones, Netflix’s The Crown, or India’s very own maiden venture into global markets through Sacred Games – streaming and television became bigger. As Marvel and DC doled out one franchise after the other, television networks and streamers pushed the envelope with decade-changers like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, BoJack Horseman and the like.
The Indian landscape also underwent changes, mostly for the better. Bollywood took a closer look at the hidden gems that lay undiscovered in the banal lives of the middle-class. Band Baaja Baaraat, Vicky donor, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, and many others were made from this sincere need to tell stories that would resonate with the common man/woman.
However, in a sea of goods, there were a few sour ones that left an unsavoury aftertaste, mostly owing to the way the films/series ended. Thus, in no particular order, here’s presenting a series of alternate endings to shows and films that didn't work for a large section of audiences.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)
Karan Johar’s 2016 directorial venture, in a nutshell, was a story of a whiny woman who was being creepily stalked by her close friend. Johar brought in multiple elements such as emotional soliloquies on unrequited love, undying friendship, and even (a very drool-worthy) Fawad Khan (DJ Ali) to justify Ayan (RK)’s psychotic obsessiveness about Alizeh (Anushka). And if that was not enough, the woman had to abruptly die of cancer by the end of the film.
In an alternate universe, Alizeh would most definitely hand over a restraining order to Ayan, especially after he tried to get overtly comfortable with her while she was lying unconscious in a hospital bed. We don’t care if he’s RK, the character was creepy and borderline repulsive (‘Channa Meriya’ or not). ADHM was trying to be relevant and different, maybe an alternate script for the last few pages could have done the trick.
Game of Thrones (2011-19)
HBO’s retelling of George RR Martin’s fantasy novels, Game of Thrones was no less than a phenomenon. As parallel storylines intertwined with each other, favourite character arcs reached their infamous ends — fans gasped, cried and reacted uniformly. But there was a collective sense of sadness when the channel rolled out its eighth and final season in 2019. Huge backlash came in the way of DB Weiss and David Benioff (the showrunners), with some even demanding a redo of the finale.
Here are this writer's thoughts. Firstly, Daenerys Targaryen’s character arc should remain unchanged. Since the showrunners had hinted at her possible mental unravelling by the end of the eight seasons, a series finale could hardly have undone the damage already created through the past five episodes. Samwell Tarly’s suggestion that Westeros actually have a democracy (which was depicted beautifully in the series, when Tyrion and the panel laughed derisively at the idea), should have been taken up seriously. Moreover, Tyrion Lannister could become the incumbent functional head (much like a Prime Minister), till the maesters and other nobles found a suitable candidate – essentially, anyone but Bran holding the position would work.
Jon Snow’s banishment to the northern wall seemed slightly harsh and a little unnecessary. Since everyone knew he murdered his love for the greater good, he could easily have been granted mercy. Jon could accompany his youngest and most favourite cousin Arya Stark to the unknown adventures she ventured out to.
Jaime Lannister ought to have lived on. His character had undergone too much of a transformation to suddenly have disappeared under the rubble of the Red Keep. Everlasting love for Cersei is fine, but he had become his own person by the end of GoT and should have received his due. He could well have served as a general in the new Westerosi army, that too alongside Brienne of Tarth – but not as lovers but as compatriots.
Game of Thrones needed much more than a finale do-over, but what harm has some wishful thinking ever done?
Both director Todd Phillips and actor Joaquin Phoenix have maintained that Joker's narrative would focus on Arthur Fleck’s origin story and give audiences a glimpse into the mad clown’s life before he became Batman’s sworn enemy. Before its release, the film was being touted as a masterpiece and even created Oscar buzz. However, on its release, many felt that the story lacked the gumption that should have accompanied a personality so layered and rich as the Joker’s.
Fleck’s grief should not have become monotonous through the runtime of the film and the end should definitely have climaxed into his complete transformation into the DC supervillain he is most identified by. From bank robberies, prison breaks to even sparking of biochemical wars within countries, Fleck’s arc should have gone full haul by the end of the film.
House of Cards (2013-2018)
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright’s American Presidential drama ticked all the right boxes till the series’ very end. The sixth and final season of House of Cards helmed Wright’s Claire Underwood as the one in charge of the Oval Office. Though the season was much anticipated, viewers’ feedback on it was less impressive. Many critics thought that the final episodes were suffering from a ‘Spacey hangover’ wherein unnecessary plot twists were introduced and the script seemed to highlight Francis’ (Spacey’s character) absence. Doug, who was Claire’s chief of staff was also done away with in haste.
Since House of Cards’ USP lay in portraying a cool disregard for politics throughout its six seasons, Claire’s character could drastically change, in order to add shock value. Francis’ widow could end the series on a sinister note, and go down the rabbit hole with her bigotry – much like Donald Trump.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Mike Flanagan’s horror series on Netflix lapped up immense praise on its release. His play with psychological insecurities masked as fear, resonated with the horror nerds and the uninitiated, alike. With beautiful characters and the timeless charm of Hill House, The Haunting of Hill House slowly bumped off its competitors to become one of Netflix’s most widely watched shows. However, many felt that the ending was lackluster.
Instead of the philosophical bend into we-are-all-the-same-with-similar-fears, THHL could have wrapped on a more chilling note. Instead of the father’s death, the makers could have shown Steven’s descent into complete madness, mostly because he was the most-hated character in the series. Since he prided himself for being unaffected by the supernatural elements around him, it would be the perfect flip at the end. From having visions of Nellie to his mother, Steven’s undoing could have been the perfect goodbye.
La La Land (2016)
Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and Sebastian Wilder’s (Ryan Gosling) love story was wonderful on celluloid. Director Damien Chazelle took the bold move of introducing mainstream Hollywood to the musical genre yet again and for the most part, succeeding at it. But the film’s conclusion evoked a major underwhelming sense. The ending, even if it was subversive, wasn't a sucker punch. Many critics have pointed out how the ending diluted the entire dreamscape idea, by giving a realistic conclusion to a fairytale. It shattered, and not very convincingly, the entire parallel world that La La Land had so lovingly created.
How I Met Your Mother (2005-14)
The entire premise of the show, through its nine seasons, was the introduction of Ted Mosby’s wife aka the children’s mother. When the makers finally introduced Cristin Milioti, she was barely given a chance to make an impact on audiences’ minds. If you’re teasing someone’s presence throughout nine seasons, so much so that the show’s title is based on the premise, then killing her off in a jiffy hardly makes any sense.
The makers’ attempt to club Ted and Robin together at the end of the series was the awkward sibling of Joey and Rachel sparking off a romantic track in Friends.
Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012)
Reema Kagti’s psychological thriller was well crafted. The story was gripping and managed to hold viewers’ attention till the very end. But the end itself created a disconnect with the entire plot.
Kareena Kapoor Khan’s character of Rosie should never have been portrayed as a ghost. The twist lessened the merit of the whole film. As per our wishlist, Rosie could look for greener pastures after Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) solves the murder mystery. In fact, she could serve as Surjan’s secret informant for future cases, considering her investigative skills in the film were on point.
Phoebe Waller Bridge’s character resonated with millions across the board. The ruinous female protagonist was not only hilarious, but achingly relatable. Everything about Fleabag was perfect, some would argue, even the ending. Much to their disappointment, Fleabag makes a begrudging entry into this list.
Though perfect, the series finale was too heart-breaking. Just when Fleabag begins to see the world through rose-tinted glasses, the bubble bursts. Mostly because that ending does nothing for our frail hearts and reactive tear glands, The Priest and Fleabag should end up with each other. The scene at the bus top could remain as it is, but Andrew Scott’s character should have had a change of heart after rejecting Fleabag.
Dramatic or not, the two are meant for each other.
Big Little Lies (2017-Present)
As much as the first season created noise, the second was greeted with lukewarm response. Though the creators introduced Hollywood biggie, Meryl Streep, for the second one, the series finale required much more. Storylines were forcefully weaved into a resolution and characters arcs took improbable turns.
Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline Mackenzie could never have ended up happily married to Ed (Adam Scott). The two hardly shared any compatibility and Madeline was clearly done with Ed’s sweet-but-not-so-impactful presence, to the point that she got bored. Though her skills as the perfect mother are questionable, but she would be far happier bringing her children up alone. She could occasionally even date other men than being tied down in a loveless marriage.
Mary Louise’s silent resignation after her Celeste gained full custody of the children was untoward. As was proven during the court proceedings, Mary had indulged in years of mental and physical trauma on her son Perry. So, it is unimaginable that she would take her loss sitting down. Celeste, who proves Mary’s incapability as her mother, would then draw all of Mary’s wrath. If things were to be taken a notch higher, the Monterey Five could well be involved in yet another well-deserved ending to a monstrous character in the show.
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