Why are some bad endings good, while other bad endings are bad?

Republibot 3.0
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The other day, one of my blogerly aquaintences asked me why I was so worried about the Lost finale before the fact. He said that a show is more than its ending, and even if it sucked, why would that make me feel like an idiot for all the enjoyment it gave me over the previous six years?

That's a valid point, but I don't think it applies universally. For instance, I think the ending of Battlestar Galactica was awful enough to pretty much ruin the entire series for me. Conversely, the ending of Babylon 5 - an anticlimax coming at the end of their weakest season - was merely disappointing, but didn't really detract from all the enjoyment I'd gotten from the previous four years. I can overlook the fairly awful endings to every season of the new Dr. Who becuase it's Dr. Who - it's just endlessly fun and great, and you can dance to it, and if it skips a beat now and again, who cares?

But in some shows, the ending is more important than in others. I think, in general, the more serialized and arc-driven a show is, the less episodic, then the conclusion needs to be a bit more solid then if it's just Star Trek or Captain Scarlet or whatever. If Lost had ended in the second or third season, before it became one big continuing story, it wouldn't have affected me as much as if they have a bad ending now.


That's not to say I was expecting a bad ending, just that I had hopes, and that makes me vulnerable. Hope may not always precede every punch in the mouth that ever was, but every punch in the mouth is preceded by hope, you know? That's awkward. I could draw a Venn diagram if you like.


Anyway: If I were to attempt to quantify it, I think probably it has something to do with a story being based around mysteries. A detective story has to have a logical, solid conclusion in order to be satisfying, you can't just say "A wizard did it." Galactica built itself around a whole bunch of mysteries that they didn't have a clue in their illiterate hads how to resolve, and in the end they did the "Wizard" thing, and it was infuriating. X-files did the same thing, only in their case it was strangled by its own incoherence, so they didn't need a wizard. They brought one in, but his scenes were cut. Lost has likewise been based around a whole bunch of mysteries, and while I'm content not knowing what was up with Mister Eko, or which Quon was a candidate, or how Smokey McLocke appeared to Jack off the island in season 4, I *would* like some broad, logical-ish over-arching resolution to the major mysteries that is satisfying. And I don't really understand my own worry prior to the finale, I mean, I think we've gotten most of that in the last three or four episodes.


Yet my blogbuddy is right: since much of this show was character study, and I like the characters, even if it's the worst ending in the history of television - worse than The Sopranos and Seinfeld combined! - the show would still have more value to me than Galactica left me with.


But then, Lost could hold me down and punch me in the nads for an hour, and it still wouldn't be nearly as bad as that show ended up being, now would it?