SF Fanatic: Ranking The Spring SciFi TV Finales

Awhile ago we looked at the current state of SF TV and I discussed what I thought of several different SF shows. The U.S. Spring television season has just come to an end (and what a vast wasteland of nothingness we are in right now) and with it, several of those SF shows gave us their last, best shot until next year (or never again).

A quick look at the earlier article shows us several shows that wither haven’t ended their current run yet (Stargate Universe) or haven’t started their ‘summer’ season, thanks to SyFy’s bizarre scheduling (Eureka, Warehouse 13). But all of the big network shows have ended, one way or another, and it’s those we will look at. One quick administrative note: Heroes has been canned and it’s about damn time and about three seasons too late. Still, when you’re NBC, you don’t have much else to fall back on.

Special word of warning: There will be spoilers below so proceed at your own risk.

In reverse order:


V

First up, and in last place, VWhat can you say about V, other than if only one of these shows should have been canceled, it’s this one. The finale displays all the faults of the show: dull characters, uninteresting stories and stupid decisions that are demanded by the plot. The plot turns on the actions of Erica and Chad as they both penetrate deep into highly restricted areas on the V mothership, one to destroy the super soldiers, the other to learn the truth of the Vs. For a race that has conquered interstellar travel, internal security is laughably non-existent. There’s no other reason than the plot demands the interior of the ship to be wide open to our ‘heroes’. I did like the ‘twist’ of Anna becoming overcome with human emotions, even if it is an obvious thing to happen. I watch because there’s not a lot of other SF on TV, but I may just drop this one completely.


Flashforward

After returning for the spring season, Flashforward had one really good episode and a bunch of mediocre ones. The series is heavily plot driven which leads to characters doing things they otherwise wouldn’t (I’m looking at you Dmitri) or to stupid plot devices straight out of soap operas (wait, there’s not one mole, there’s two! And she’s a trusted agent! But wait! She’s really a double operative! Please, just introduce the evil twin and let’s get on with it). There’s some interesting ground to be mined here and they try with the whole fate vs. free will angle, but the problem is they bounce back and forth. We know the future can be changed, but people still seem to think it can’t and in fact, the last episode shows how almost everyone’s flashforward did come true. But does anyone think Mark is really all blowed up with the FBI building? I didn’t think so.The plot may be strained and the characters are lifeless, but the basic idea is still cool. Too bad it got canned and not V.


Chuck

I loves me some Chuck for its irreverent, geeky humor, outrageous action, sympathetic characters and its ability to not take itself seriously. The finale has Chuck and company squaring off against a very much alive Shaw, who is now working with the Ring to take over the CIA. Routh makes a much better bad guy then he ever did as a good guy. Hopefully we’ll see more of him. I like the way Chuck and Sarah have become the Mr. and Mrs. Smith of TV spies and I really like the use of Morgan as part of Chuck’s team. His interactions with Casey are worth it alone and while he may be bumbling, he seems to end up helping out, albeit in two very explosive events. The things I didn’t like here were the apparent death of Chuck’s dad and the ‘of course he won’t quit being a spy’ ending, they shouldn’t even try to go for that. Next season looks to be quite interesting.


Fringe

I’ve discussed the problems I have with Fringe before, but I have to say the big issue I had, Fringe trying to be an X-Files clone, disappeared in the second half of the season. Gone were the ‘monster of the week’ episodes, replaced by investigations into the other side and their incursions into ‘our’ reality. I’ve always thought the inter-dimensional war was a great hook and I’m glad they are exploring that further. In fact, the finale gave us a great twist on that war when we learn that it was Walter’s initial journey to the other side to ‘rescue’ Peter that has lead to the war and the events we’ve seen. Nicely done. Also, Walternate ending up as a highly placed government official was another twist I thought the writers handled very deftly, totally catching me by surprise. Of course he has a big bad plan to destroy our reality, which some how involves Peter. However the other characters still really aren’t all that interesting, certainly compared to Walter and I thought the opening of the finale was a spoof of those cheesy ’80s cop dramas. It felt wrong. And the swapping of Olivia’s was telegraphed from 1880, in Morse code, though it does set up the next season. Continued focus on the mythology, and the observers!, should make Fringe a must watch for me.


LOST

It’s been almost two weeks since the end of LOST and I’ve been going over this one in my head quite a bit. I’ve seen reactions ranging from bitter anger to full on love. If you were expecting hard answers, you’re probably in the former camp. I also suspect the more invested you were in LOST as science fiction the more disappointed you are, but after the finale, I’m deciding to put LOST into the science fantasy camp. Would it have been nice to have answer to all the questions that were raised? You bet! However, as season 6 progressed, we did get some answers and the reaction seemed to be “That’s it? That’s the answer?” so on that level, I’m glad Damon and Carlton didn’t try to answer the big questions. There was no way to please everyone. Instead, the focused on giving us a resolution to the character’s stories, and what a resolution it was. Powerful, emotional and ultimately uplifting, I really liked the finale they gave us. After 6 years of hardships and strife, I felt an optimistic ending was perfect, mostly because there was little foreshadowing it would occur.

I also liked the reveal of the altverse as being a spiritual creation of the survivors as a meeting place for themselves in the ever after. It’s not purgatory, but something close to the Buddhist idea of the ‘bardo‘, where friends meet up and move on after discovering themselves. If you’re read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt you have a good grasp of this concept. It didn’t bother me at all, affording the writers the ‘optimistic’ ending they gave us, though it did push the show into the fantasy realm. I’m really going to miss LOST, being the only show I had to watch as soon as I possibly could, even if that meant staying up till 1am to finish, so it should be no surprise I think LOST‘s finale was the best of the lot.

Now we have a summer of SyFy series (and the Astros chasing the record for fewest wins in a season) to look forward to before some of these shows come back. Hopefully something new will come along and light up the SF TV world for the fall, but I’m not holding my breath.

3 thoughts on “SF Fanatic: Ranking The Spring SciFi TV Finales”

  1. I also liked the reveal of the altverse as being a spiritual creation of the survivors as a meeting place for themselves in the ever after. It’s not purgatory, but something close to the Buddhist idea of the ‘bardo’, where friends meet up and move on after discovering themselves. If you’re read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt you have a good grasp of this concept. 

     

    That’s *exactly* what I thought.  Of course, I recall a recent list on an SF blog that lists The Years of Rice and Salt one of the greatest SF novels that “nobody has read”…

  2. I thought Chuck took a strange turn this year by removing the tension between Chuck and Sarah.  I agree the Mr & Mrs Smith idea is working so far – we’ll have to see if it can keep going.  I fear not, and we’ll see the inevitable breakup/reconciliation cycle that plagues shows like this (anybody remember Moonlighting?)  I want his Dad to recover because I like Scott Bakula and think he adds something important to the show.  I agree with Superman, er, Routh as an effective bad guy.  I’m hoping he becomes the ‘super villian’ to put a face on the Ring, which today doesn’t work very well. Bond needed Blofeld, not just SPECTRE as his foil.  And finally, it looks like they have Morgan taking on more of the pure geek role with Chuck having to tone it down in order to be a spy.  Works for me.

     

  3. I must admit I was disappointed with the last series of Lost, it got off to a good start answering questions at a rate only matched by the rate it was posing new questions. However about episode 9 they started their closing run and the show just became stale, the only story that was in anyway interesting was the altverse (which I enjoyed) the stories on the island just became worse and worse finishing off with the Jacob/smoke episode that was just insulting because it answered the big questions by ignoring everything that had come before.

    Flashforward got a lot better after it returned, but I feel the damage was already done in the 1st half of the season. They had too many characters and too many poor/atrocious actors in pivotal roles, I also suspect that they hadn’t thought through the consequences of any of the early episodes and didn’t have a narrative idea to tie the show together. For shows like this to work they need to have a strong on going narrative and someone who makes sure that they don’t end up with too many mutually exclusive story elements.

    Fringe has become a lot more interesting and now the have Altiva back in ‘our’ universe its a good opportunity to rehabilitate her character and turn her into someone actually interesting :-)

    V – What a load of garbage, I stopped watching about episode 8 (the one where the bald guy when looking for James May, told him he was an assassin out to kill him and then sat down to supper with May) because I got sick to death of nonsensical character actions, poor plot development, terrible characters and actors who either can’t act or where so offended by the drivel handed to them as a script that they didn’t bother to even try and act. Such a disappointment.

     

    Stargate Universe – I am loving this show more and more as it goes on. I am still puzzled by the lack of likeable characters (Sgt Greer and Dr Rush are the only ones I care about) but I am being won round, its a brave choice (if its on purpose) but it makes for an interesting dynamic in the show. I just hope that they take the coming season end as a chance to tighten up the show and pay more attention to the details (such as some of the gibberish they have spouted about the gates).

    Caprica – I was disappointed in this show, and the end of season didn’t leave me wanting more. This show has a huge amount of potential and the introduction of Vergis is just about the shows only redeeming feature. James Masters was wasted in his role as a terrorist leader who seemed so clichéd he was just a joke. The cyberworlds also became a confusing mess that just didn’t help the story. They need to stop trying to be so arty/thoughtful – pretentious and start developing characters we can care about (or hate) and put a bit more drama into the show…. the scenes with Zoey/Cylon and her father where brilliant but too little.

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